Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Lemon-Lime Risotto

Source: Adapted from the Southern Living cookbook (Lemon-Lime Risotto)
Prep time: About 45 minutes of fairly dedicated cooking (come on, it's risotto!)

I've read so many accounts of people first trying risotto and having an essentially transcendent experience. It changes their lives, they remember that moment with perfect clarity, yaddah yaddah. I've made risotto a few times in the past, using different recipes, and honestly, every time Mahon and I were extremely underwhelmed. It wasn't bad, but it was kind of... blah. Bland. Far from transcendent.

Most risotto recipes call for a cup of white wine early in the cooking process. Well, although cooking with alcohol is not usually regarded as being against the Mormon word of wisdom (health and living code), white wine is obviously not something we typically have on hand—and since I typically have a fairly strict policy of not buying ingredients that are only called for in one or two recipes, I've never bought any. (Plus, I'm pretty sure it would make my husband uncomfortable! ;) ) However, I long suspected that the lack of wine was what made my risotto so underwhelming. I'd tried substitutes, like apple juice and more chicken stock, but neither added the twist of flavor that I felt like risotto needed.

Enter this Southern Living recipe, slightly adapted by me (it didn't call for garlic, which seemed sinful!). I've nicknamed it my "Mormon" risotto, because instead of white wine, it uses a dash of lemon juice and a dash of lime juice to add flavor. And guys? This was our transcendent risotto experience. It was even worth half an hour determinedly stirring at a hot stove while my 11-month-old whined at my feet.

6 cups chicken broth (I used my homemade stock; I would definitely recommend using real stock or broth for this recipe since that's where most of the flavor and richness comes from)
The zest and juice of one lemon OR 1 1/2 T bottled lemon juice
The zest and juice of one lime OR 1 1/2 T bottled lime juice
1 large onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 t sea salt
2 T EVOO for sautéeing
2 cups uncooked Arborio rice
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup fresh-grated Parmesan cheese

Bring broth, zest, and lemon/lime juices to a boil in a medium saucepan. In a large saucepan or large skillet with tall sides, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and salt and sautée about five minutes, until onions are softening and beginning to be translucent and sweet-smelling. Add garlic and continue to sautée for another two or three minutes, until garlic is just barely beginning to brown and is very aromatic. Add Arborio rice and cook, stirring constantly, for about two minutes, until the rice is turning translucent and looking plumper. Add about 1/2 cup (I used a ladle and just did one ladleful at a time) of the hot stock/juice mixture and stir until all the liquid is absorbed. Continue to add liquid 1/2 cup at a time, stirring until it's absorbed. The first two or three ladlefuls absorb/evaporate very quickly; as the cooking time goes on it will take longer and longer to absorb. I also found that after the first ten or so minutes of near-constant stirring, it was okay for me to leave the risotto without stirring for a minute or two while I did other things around the kitchen as long as I was still stirring very frequently. The frequent stirring is what releases the starches in the Arborio rice to create a delectably creamy sauce—you'll find it hard to believe that there's no milk or cream in it!

When all the liquid has been added and the rice is "al dente" and plump, remove from heat and stir in butter and Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately, garnished with more Parmesan and veggies if desired. 

An Updated Stock Recipe

Several years ago, I started using store-bought rotisserie chickens to make a quick and easy chicken stock recipe. We were so enamored of that stock (so much better than powdered bullion, people, even if my mom doesn't agree!) that I've kept making it at least once a month so that our freezer is always filled with ready-to-use, deliciously rich and nutritious chicken stock.

In the intervening years, though, my recipe has changed a bit to take full advantage of the health benefits of stock-making. In looking over the original post I realized that it's changed enough to consider it an essentially different recipe now, so rather than update that post, I thought I'd share my new method. The other one is still great if you want stock that's done in just a few hours!

To begin with, I don't buy the store rotisserie chickens anymore. I typically buy whole small chickens (depending on where I get them from, they're either the same price as the rotisserie ones or a dollar or two pricier, but much better-quality meat) and roast them (our favorite roast chicken recipe is here), or cook them "fauxtisserie style" (courtesy of Our Best Bites) by placing them on tinfoil balls in a large crockpot on low for 6-8 hours until done. We'll eat off that chicken for dinner the night I make it, and then after we're done I remove all the meat and put it in the fridge for meals later in the week. 

That night, I put the chicken carcass in a large stock pot with either a few veggies (garlic cloves, onions, and celery greens are a must; sometimes I also add carrots and potatoes), or the vegetable mirepoix with which I originally stuffed the chicken (because I'm lazy like that). Sometimes I add herbs and sometimes I don't, depending on my mood. (If I do, my favorites are parsley, rosemary, thyme, and black pepper. Sometimes a bay leaf.)

Along with the chicken carcass I add a good amount of kosher salt and about a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. I then fill the stock pot with cold water, cover it, and let it sit for an hour. After the hour is up—usually when I'm heading up to bed—I'll turn the stove on, bring the stock to a quick boil, and then reduce all the way to low and let it simmer overnight. I keep it at a very low simmer the rest of the next day, adding more water if it's decreasing a lot, and then strain and package it that evening after dinner. The result is an incredibly rich and delicious stock that adds a fantastic flavor to all kinds of recipes and is jam-packed with protein, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. It's also rich enough to dilute with water for most recipes and still have a great-tasting soup or sauce.