Friday, January 16, 2009

Saffron Marsala risotto with herbed chicken, braised kale, and caramelized onions.

Have I mentioned how much we love risotto? Considering I've made it three times in the last 50 days it may not seem like it. But oh, we do. Risotto is just one of those things that you make when you feel fancy. Or at least that's how I feel-- but I realized... it doesn't have to be that way. Risotto isn't really difficult, it's especially easy if you have leftovers you just want to throw in. I didn't, not this time, so it turned out 'fancy'. But really, you're just making rice and giving it a little extra love and a lot of flavour.

I like taking risotto and making it 'different'. Risotto is typically made by cooking the rice (sometimes with onions) in oil to soften the outer hull of it's short grain deliciousness so as to allow it's glutens to enter and leave more easily. Then wine is added, white, to give it a boost of bright flavour, and it is cooked in stock, stirred frequently, so the gluten responds and give sit a creamy texture and the stock of course, gives it flavour. Then cheese is added, because cheese is amazing (and also creamy, and salty) and a bit of butter to make it shiney (oh, and delicious).
But I don't think risotto needs to be with white wine always. Even when I was making the cabernet risotto, the original recipe called for white wine then cabernet in the end. But why do that? Cabernet will soak into the rice. Whenever I make my lamb risotto (which I haven't made for Foodival yet, but I will), I always use red wine (a merlot I think) and lamb stock. It boosts the flavours and gives it a heartier feel, much less like the tang and bite of original risotto (which pairs well with mushrooms, chicken, shrimp, fish, though mushrooms would be good with a red too, a burgandy?). But I had marsala leftover from Thanksgiving, and I hardly cook with it. So I decided to use it. What goes with marsala? Well, chicken, that does, that's a good protein... and I had kale leftover still, and that's a good italian style vegetable. Yeah, that would do the trick. Oh! And some caramelized onions... that sweetness will pair very well.

So I used a bit of regular white wine to not overpower the rice with sweetness, and the rest marsala. I added some in the end too. I also added saffron-- a spice with a lot of mild (to me) flavour that goes a long way. I wanted it to pop the colour and give something else. Saffron seems to be paired with lobster a lot, which to me is slightly sweet. It goes well with sweet or savory things, and (like cinnamon, and cardamom) it's a spice from more easterny/persian origins that I really really like to use. I cooked the chicken with just some generic spices and a bit of marsala and braised the kale. I added it all in at the end and topped with caramelized onions.

The saffron gave it a pop of flavour, which was very apparent to me. I don't know how to describe the taste of saffron, I just... know what it's like. The wine was sweet, but not overpowering (like in the cabernet risotto), and it all melded together very well. I probably could've emphasized the flavour of the chicken more, gave it more umph, like a glaze. But hey, I'm sick and didn't feel like doing much of anything, so this was an achievement.

Anyway, we love risotto. I think everyone should make risotto at least once a month, and experiment with it. Experiment with all flavours, that's what makes cooking fun. :)

Saffron Marsala risotto with herved chicken, braised kale, and caramelized onions

5 large leaves of kale
1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon savory
1/4 cup of the chicken stock (taken from the quart listed below)
1/8 cup water
salt to taste

1 chicken breast
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1 tablespoon Marsala wine
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

1 quart chicken stock
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon garlic
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon butter
1 cup arborio rice
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup Marsala wine
1/2 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon Marsala wine
1/4 cup, approx, of flaked Parmesan cheese
a small pinch of saffron threads
caramelized onions

In a medium sized pan, heat the extra virgin olive oil. Tear the kale into smaller bits and add into the olive oil with the savory and salt. Stir for just a few moments, and add the chicken stock, water, and lemon juice. Cover with a lid and braise until tender and wilted. Remove from heat and set aside.

In the same skillet, drain the liquid and add the 1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil for the chicken.
Cut the chicken breast into slivers. Rub the chicken breast with half the spices for each side. Place into the pan and cook until no longer pink and juices run clear. Towards the end, add the Marsala wine and shake around some to loosen and deglaze. When chicken is finish, set aside and use the pan to caramelize some onions.

Place the chicken stock in a small pot or sauce pan and warm over low heat.

In a larger pot or sauce pan warm olive oil and butter over medium-high/medium heat (depending on the range). Stir in onions and sautee until translucent and fragrant, add garlic and cook for one minute. Add the arborio rice and stir, cooking until outer portion of the grains are translucent. Use a rubber spatula and stir in the wines, stirring occasionally and allowing to cook until completely absorbed. Stir in the warmed chicken stock, 1/2 cup at a time, until each portion is absorbed and the rice can pull away from each other. Continue this process until the rice is tender and cream. Stir in remaining Marsala wine, saffron, cheese, and butter. Season with minor amounts of salt, and mix in the kale and chicken.
Serve topped with caramelized onions.


SoCal Pastry Chef said...

Why did I come to this page, in the middle of the night.. ON AN EMPTY STOMACH?
This looks so good.

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