This is a really fabulous Chicken Risotto. It’s worth taking the effort to cook a whole chicken and use the stock and meat to make the risotto. It’s not really that much work and depending on the number of portions you need you might have a left-over poached chicken breast for a fabulous sandwich on the following day.
In my opinion, you want to avoid strong partner flavours for this Chicken Risotto to allow the chicken flavour to shine through. Some folks think there is cream in the risotto but this would be a crime. It’s the mantecatura that makes the difference.
The texture and wetness of the Chicken Risotto is important. There is nothing worse then claggy, stodgy risotto. Equally, you don’t want it too soupy. If, when it has rested it seems too “dry” then adding a ladle of the remaining stock can loosen it up just before serving. Risotto really must be made and served as soon as it has rested for 5 minutes. If you keep it hanging around the rice will overcook, and absorb more liquid, and “dry up”, becoming a fairly unpleasant sticky, claggy, mess. Likewise, it’s not much good for leftovers that can be reheated.
- A small to medium chicken
- Some carrot, celery and onion to add to the chicken stock
- Bay leaf
- 1-2 tbsp Olive oil, I just use plain olive oil, again to keep the flavour simple
- 1 medium onion very finely chopped
- Risotto rice, 80-100g per person
- A glass of white wine or white vermouth, I generally use Noilly Prat
- The chicken stock, there should be enough, but start using boiling water if you run short.
- 100g frozen peas (optional)
- 100g Parmesan, finely grated, adjust to taste
- A decent bunch of flat leaf parsley, chopped just before you use it
- 25-40g cold butter, cubed
- The cold chicken meat, torn by hand into decent sized chunks. The chicken pieces need to be small enough to eat in one bite but should be as large as can be managed. Small shreds will just get lost and also be a bit fibrous to eat,
- First, cook the chicken. Do this on the morning of the day you will have the risotto if you can, or the previous day if you chill the chicken and the stock in the fridge after cooking. Put the chicken in a pot or casserole suitable for the stove top. It should be tight fitting. You should add some carrot, celery and onion, a bay leaf, and some sprigs of thyme (a few peppercorns won’t go wrong.) Then top it up with water to just cover the chicken. Do not season at this stage. Bring it to the boil and poach at a very gentle simmer for between 60-75 minutes to cook the chicken.
- Cool the chicken, till it can be handled, in the stock to keep it moist
- Remove the chicken to a work board to pick the meat off the chicken, storing the cooked chicken in the fridge. Keep the breasts whole, you can tear them apart later when you put in the risotto.
- Drain the stock through a sieve into a pot. You will use the stock to cook the risotto, giving the chicken flavour to the cooked risotto.
- To make the risotto start by softening the onion gently till it is soft. This can take 10-20 minutes. You don’t want colour, no golden onions here. I don’t add celery to this risotto to keep the flavour simpler.
- Put the stock pot beside the risotto pot and warm it up till it’s at the gentlest simmer, put a ladle in the pot.
- Add the rice and stir until the grains are properly hot and well coated in the oil. You don’t want to brown them, but this tostada stage is important. They will begin to feel like they are sticking to the base of the pan and it’s essential to keep them moving. Once they are nicely hot then move on.
- Add the vermouth or wine and let it simmer down, the alcohol will burn off
- Add some salt, probably about a teaspoon, you can adjust at the end. Remember the butter might be salted.
- Now ladle stock, a couple of ladlefuls at a time, into the rice. Stir the rice more or less continuously until the stock is mainly absorbed, then add some more of the stock, and continue. The stirring brings out the starch and creates the creaminess of texture.
- You have to test the grains to see if it is ready. Cooking will take 15-20 minutes. When the rice grains are just losing their dry firmness in the centre they are ready.
- If using frozen peas add them now and stir for a minute or so till they are heated
- Now for the “mantecatura”, which is simply making it creamy. Add the half the parmesan, the parsley and the cold butter cubes. Beat these in with a wooden spoon for a minute or so till all is incorporated and creamy. Remember that you don’t want to overpower the flavour with parmesan, too little is better than too much.
- Stir in the chicken and set the pot somewhere warm to keep hot for about 5 minutes.
- Serve in bowls with a sprinkle of parmesan, parsley and freshly ground pepper.
Some folks add finely chopped celery at the onion cooking stage. I prefer a slightly less intense flavour to allow the chicken flavour to shine. If I was making Porcini Risotto I would probably add finely chopped celery alongside the onion. You can add more chopped thyme with the rice if you like a more herby flavour. The peas are fine because they maintain their shape and are lightly cooked so become little pea flavour pods in the finished Chicken Risotto.
For a nice textured Chicken Risotto with lumps of chicken, stir the chicken in last to avoid breaking it up by the mantecatura stage.