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Monday, January 17, 2011

Risotto with chicken strips and bell pepper

First of all, please admire the creaminess of the ready risotto. I am out of words on how to convince you that you have to try this, not tommorow and not soon but right away, that you have to have it now, now now... :) Let it touch your lips and tongue and melt away into pure Italian-tasting wine-flavored oozy parmesan creaminess. Not judging other kitchens, but (to us at least) it's way better than the middle eastern pilaf, although that's what we used to eat as kids and growing up and what's therefore packed for us with memories. The rice you choose for this should have round-shaped grains that will stick to eachother when boiled and not come apart like the long-grained rice suitable for salads. Also, the better quality your ingredients are (the wine, parmesan, olive oil etc), the more spectacular and creamy the result. If you want to keep the risotto vegetarian, you can use vegetable stock instead of chicken. 
To me, cooking this dish is like initiation. It takes you into another state of consciousness by requiring a continuum of concentration and good timing without rushing you. Just keeps you out there, in flavorland (you should see how this smells while cooking.... my two tom-cats were almost banging their heads against the kitchen's door!), while the rest of the world goes quiet for some time. I don't know if the saying "the journey is more important than the destination" applies for cooking (given that a not-so-good destination kindof spoils the fun of the ride, too), but this is definetly one of those dishes which, although not very fast, make the cooking experience almost magical. Seriously, the transformations in that frying pan in which the risotto blooms make you feel like you're performing magic tricks after magic tricks. It's quite a performance of visual wonders and tantalising smells. Time to stop the description here and get to the specific instructions already, but you have to try this now or in two hours or as soon as possible. It's risotto, for crying out loud! ;)

Ingredients (serves 6) [suggestion - make more even if you're just 2 people. Trust me, you'll want more :D]:
  •  400 g round-grained rice
  • 1 liter of good quality chicken stock (very warm, if taken out of the fridge, reheat) 
  • 2 medium onions
  • 1 whole garlic 
  • 3 small bell peppers - about 200 g
  • 800 g chicken breast (ours was pre-boiled from making the stock, but you can prepare fresh one in the same way)
  • 500 ml dry white wine
  • some salt salt
  • 2 teaspoons Herbes de Provence (herbal spice mix with thyme, oregano, basil etc) 
  • 30 ml olive oil
  • 2 slices of butter (about 15 g)
  • 150 g grated Parmesan 

First of all, peel and clean the garlic and onions. Then finely mince them (we used a small-sized hand processor):

Then, place them in a large frying pan over a low heat source, in all of the olive oil:

Stir once in a while and fry them slowly, for about 10 minutes. In the meantime, season the chicken breast strips with some salt and the two teaspoons of Herbes de Provence and fry them in a little water (or a little stock) and oil in a separate pan:

After 5 minutes or so, turn the chicken strips on the other side. After they're done, keep them covered until you finish the risotto. When the onions and garlic are fried, take them out of the oil and put them on a plate, draining as much of the oil as possible and pouring it back into the pan:

Now, put the oil pan back on the heat source and add all the rice (don't pre-wash it):

Put the white wine on a heat source to heat it.

It's very important that you stir almost continuously in the rice until the risotto will be done. Gently fry the rice on low heat intensity, for about 7-10 minutes. You'll notice it becomes translucent first and as you continue it'll become more golden. Go on until you notice it becomes slightly browned. Then, add half of the hot white wine:

It will make a lot of fuss in the first seconds, but it will smell GREAT (if that wasn't a magic performace I don't know what is!). Keep stirring until most of the wine evaporates or gets absorbed, then add the rest of the wine:

The same deal: keep stirring until the wine is gone (in about 5-7 minutes). Then, add the fried onions and garlic in the rice:

Stir and start adding the hot chicken stock, 250 ml (one glass) at a time:

Keep stirring until the broth is absorbed, then add the next glass and so on until you finish all the chicken stock. Taste the rice to make sure it's not hard or too crunchy, season with more salt (if necessary) and turn off the heat:

Add the two slices of butter fast, while the rice is still hot:

Mix well and add the Parmesan, just as fast:

Mix very well, then cover the pan with a lid for about two minutes to let the magic creaminess happen :D.
Take the lid off, inspire and taste the magic:

Arrange on plates, cut the bell pepper into long, thin pieces and decorate the risotto with the bell pepper and chicken strips (and other soup vegetables you used for the stock, if you want):

Serve immediatly. Dig in!


  1. Cherie, no disrespect .. but it looks like you overcooked the rice. In theory risotto is made by steaming the rice first and then mixing all the others wonderful things you mentioned. My fridge is packed for the moment but I promise to follow your steps and taste the magic . I love the food processor though

  2. Hmmm it is possible that you're right. Although the recipes I researched before doing it never mentioned steaming instead of frying the rice, but it's true that I only looked in 5 or maybe 6. And the only one that said "don't brown the rice, just make it golden" was Jamie's. I tried to balance between the tow kinds of instructions and make it somewhere between golden and slightly browned.

    Anyway, cherie, it tasted great! Like really really great. So I can't complain about what the internet had to offer as far as recipes and instructions stand.

    But I'll try the steaming you talked about some other time. I'm sure I'll end up with something good as well :)


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