Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Daring Cooks’ Challenges 03/10: Risotto

The 2010 March Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Eleanor of MelbournefoodGeek and Jess of Jessthebaker. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make risotto. The various components of their challenge recipe are based on input from the Australian Masterchef cookbook and the cookbook Moorish by Greg Malouf.

Yes!!! After giving it considerable thought (ok, it pertains to food so maybe not that much thought! I signed up at the daring kitchen to be part of their daring cook and daring baker challenges. This is my first challenge with the daring cooks challenge and it happened to be one of the foods I favor.... risotto.

You can find Eleanor and Jess, otherwise known as MelbournefoodGeek and Jessthebaker at their websites... I'm sure they would love a visit from you!

The requirements for this month were, and I quote, “You MUST make your own stock and the risotto base. The base consists of wine, rice, oil, stock cheese and butter. Omit the cheese if using seafood or doing something sweet. You can flavour the risotto however you like. Once you have the basic recipe down, you can flavour it in numerous ways. Of course if you can't eat chicken stock, make a stock you can eat. "

Their recipe options, though quite good I imagine, was not what I desired. I decided to make this a true challenge and start from the very beginning with first making a roasted chicken recipe I've been dying to try (to use the carcass for the stock) I made Julia Child's roasted chicken and let me tell you this, hands down it was the best chicken I have ever had. Take a look... doesn't it just scream moist and yummy???? The picture doesnot give it justice, believe me it was everything you could hope a roasted chicken would be!

Next step was making the stock. I used Alton Brown's recipe as the primary base and it was far better than other stock recipes I've tried. So good, in fact, that I can no longer imagine using the stuff from the store! Yes indeed, this will be a regular staple in my freezer.

Chicken Stock

4 pounds chicken carcasses, including necks and backs
1 large onion, quartered
4 carrots, peeled and cut in 1/2
4 ribs celery, cut in 1/2
1 leek, white part only, cut in 1/2 lengthwise
10 sprigs fresh thyme
10 sprigs fresh parsley with stems
2 bay leaves
8 to 10 peppercorns
2 whole cloves garlic, peeled
2 gallons cold water


Place chicken, vegetables, and herbs and spices in 12-quart stockpot. Set opened steamer basket directly on ingredients in pot and pour over water. Cook on high heat until you begin to see bubbles break through the surface of the liquid. Turn heat down to medium low so that stock maintains low, gentle simmer. Skim the scum from the stock with a spoon or fine mesh strainer every 10 to 15 minutes for the first hour of cooking and twice each hour for the next 2 hours. Add hot water as needed to keep bones and vegetables submerged. Simmer uncovered for 6 to 8 hours.

Strain stock through a fine mesh strainer into another large stockpot or heatproof container discarding the solids. Cool immediately in large cooler of ice or a sink full of ice water to below 40 degrees. Place in refrigerator overnight. Remove solidified fat from surface of liquid and store in container with lid in refrigerator for 2 to 3 days or in freezer for up to 3 months. Prior to use, bring to boil for 2 minutes. Use as a base for soups and sauces.


That was the base recipe I used. I did not have 4 pounds of carcasses so I threw in some chicken thighs and legs, with the skins removed, to equal three pounds. I'll use the chicken meat in a future recipe and I will also remember to save any chicken bones we have in the freezer to use for making more stock!

Julia Child's roasted chicken recipe has you making a "sauce" to go over the meat. It’s pretty basic with chicken stock, fresh thyme and just a bit of the chicken's drippings. This ended up being brown in color and not that impressive as sauces go... The addition of the sauce added nothing to the chicken itself in flavor. I had almost a cup of this sauce remaining so I set it aside to use in with my stock recipe. This tiny bit of sauce made my stock richer in color, which I really liked. I neglected to take a picture of my completed stock and now it’s just a block of stock ice. I'll add a picture the next time I use the stock. These are the delicious ingredients:

and finally...... The Risotto!

Ina Garten has some of the best recipes! I still had one lone butternut squash that I had bought at the farmer's market last fall and face it, the poor thing needed to be eaten before it became overly ripe. Ina Garten's recipe also gave me the opportunity to use the saffron I purchased when I was in Turkey this past September. I've never used pancetta or shallots (not something I generally will keep on hand for budgeting reasons) so for me it was a win, win situation! Oh my, it was yummy! I must confess that the first bite was a bit of a texture difference for me... I can't quite place it, but that first bite just seemed a bit off. The second bite was much tastier and that third bite... well, it was a bit of heaven. The more you ate of it the better the dish tasted!

 Ina Garten's Butternut Squash Risotto                           
 1 butternut squash (2 pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
2 ounces pancetta, diced
1/2 cup minced shallots (2 large)
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (10 ounces)
1/2 cup dry white wine ( I substituted with stock)
1 teaspoon saffron threads
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Peel the butternut squash, remove the seeds, and cut it into 3/4-inch cubes. You should have about 6 cups. Place the squash on a sheet pan and toss it with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, tossing once, until very tender. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock in a small covered saucepan. Leave it on low heat to simmer.

In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the pancetta and shallots on medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until the shallots are translucent but not browned. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with butter. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add 2 full ladles of stock to the rice plus the saffron, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir, and simmer until the stock is absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes. Continue to add the stock, 2 ladles at a time, stirring every few minutes. Each time, cook until the mixture seems a little dry, then add more stock. Continue until the rice is cooked through, but still al dente, about 30 minutes total. Off the heat, add the roasted squash cubes and Parmesan. Mix well and serve.

I served the risotto with some pan fried chicken breasts.

There are so many versions of risotto to try from savory to sweet.  While I have always found my timing for risotto to be off from what each recipe says (this one took almost an hour and I'm not sure why!) it is an easier dish to make than one would think.  Honestly, I don't know why the chef's on Hell's Kitchen always have so much problem with it :-)

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