Risotto goes really well with grilled meat, and even in the heat of summer. When you make it in the Breville risotto cooker, it’s pretty seamless and easy, and if you barbecue outside, the kitchen stays cool. If you have an outdoor plug somewhere and a way to cook it there, you could even make the risotto on your patio! Then you’d have zero heat in the kitchen!
Recently my friend Cherrie and I combined our efforts and did dinner in their backyard. Our friend Joe was here too, so the 4 of us had a lovely meal on their cool Eucalyptus-shaded back deck. Part of the plan was that I was going to teach Bud how to do boneless, skinless chicken breasts on the barbecue without cooking them to dry leather. Bud has been a master barbecuer for decades, and he was very, very skeptical, but he was willing to try. Cherrie basically doesn’t buy chicken breasts to grill because she was convinced you can’t grill them and have them moist. I showed them how!
I do have to laugh – you’ve read it here before in recent weeks – I really don’t know how to do the actual act of barbecuing. Dave always barbecued. I did tell him HOW to do it, but I’d never done it myself. I did grill a steak a few weeks ago with success, but for the last month my barbecue has been out of commission until my outdoor kitchen countertop is completed. So I still have some lessons to learn about the heating-up and temperature controlling of the barbecue. The cooking technique, though, I know, because I used to tell Dave how to do it. So with Bud to control the barbecue temp, I felt pretty sure we could do it.
I defrosted 2 packages of Costco’s plump boneless, skinless chicken breasts and made the same recipe I posted a week or so ago – the Cha Cha Cha Jerk Chicken. I had the spice mix already prepared (I’d made double when I did it before), so I just marinated them in the pineapple juice and orange juice mixture with the spices added. They marinated for 24 hours. I drained the breasts, patted them dry with paper towels and Bud grilled them for a couple of minutes on each side (to get pretty grill marks) then I had him bring them back into the kitchen. He was a bit perplexed about this part. I said “trust me.” I sliced each breast into wide strips, put them back into the marinade briefly, then put them back on the platter and out to the barbecue they went. I told Bud to just grill them for about 1-2 minutes on the cut sides (where you you certainly see that on the inside the chicken wasn’t done). He wasn’t so sure, but he did as I asked, and sure enough, they were perfect. The only different thing we did was to pour the marinade into a small saucepan and simmer it until it reduced down and we served that on the side. It was pretty hot (spicy heat) so it didn’t take much on each portion. And yes, the chicken was almost dripping in juices. Cherrie couldn’t believe it. A week later they had a big 5th of July party and used boneless, skinless thighs, and Bud was so proud of himself – he used the same technique and the chicken was SO moist. A different recipe/marinade, but grilling for grill marks, back in the marinade, then cut into a couple of long strips and back on the grill for 2-3 minutes, maybe a few more for thighs and they were done. Delicious.
So, now, back to risotto. Cherrie had yet to try to adapt her Breville BRC600XL The Risotto Plus Sauteing Slow Rice Cooker and Steamer to one of her own, existing risotto recipes. There are numerous recipes in the cook-booklet that comes with the cooker, but she wanted to branch out. So I showed her how to do it. The recipe below is made (and written up) in the traditional way, but it was quite simple to adapt it. Everything was cooked in the risotto cooker. I sautéed the shallot in oil and butter, then added the rice to harden it a bit before we moved to the next steps. I added in the mushrooms and let them cook for maybe 2-3 minutes. We used a LOT more mushrooms than the original recipe called for. Then I just poured in 3-4 cups of the broth. I left a little bit out, and did end up adding more at the end, and even a bit of water to get it loose enough to suit both Cherrie and me. Cognac and cream gets added in, plus some Parm and Italian parsley.
The recipe comes from the 1987 risotto bible – Risotto: More than 100 Recipes for the Classic Rice Dish of Northern Italy. I guess it’s still in print – probably because it’s just so classic and filled with great recipes. My poor old, spine-cracked copy has seen a lot of use over the years, and this recipe is one I’ve made many times over the years. Just not recently.
What’s GOOD: I don’t think I’ve ever met a risotto I haven’t liked, unless it’s been overcooked (like they often are in mediocre restaurants who don’t understand how it’s supposed to be). This one is a winner. The cognac adds a lovely undertone, a rich flavor. The mushrooms (ample) provided some veggie with our dinner (although the photo doesn’t show many of them). Altogether wonderful recipe. This makes a beautiful company side dish.
What’s NOT: nothing except the making of it if you use the traditional stir-stir-stir method. That part’s a bit tedious. Enlist help from your family or guests. Children might not like this with the cognac – the alcohol surely cooks out – but it does add a flavor that kids might not like. If so, leave it out, but substitute more broth or water.
* Exported from MasterCook *
Risotto with Fresh Mushrooms, Cognac, and Cream
Recipe By: Adapted from Risotto, by Barrett and Wasserman, 1987
Serving Size: 7 (side dish – and maybe would serve more than that)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 cups shiitake mushrooms — stems removed and sliced or coarsely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup Cognac — or brandy
1/2 cup half and half — or heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup shallots — finely minced
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon Italian parsley — chopped fresh
5 cups broth — half chicken and half beef
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1. MUSHROOMS: Heat the butter and oil in a skillet over moderate heat. When it starts to foam, add the mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 to 5 minutes, until the mushrooms are soft. Add salt and pepper to taste. Turn the heat to high, add the Cognac, and cook until it is reduced by half. Lower the heat, add the cream, and continue cooking until the cream has reduced slightly and thickened (about 5 minutes). Turn off the heat and set aside.
2. BROTH: Bring the broth to a steady simmer in a saucepan on the top of the stove.
3. SOFFRITO: Heat the butter and oil in a heavy 4-quart casserole over moderate heat. Add the shallot and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes, until it begins to soften, being careful not to brown it.
4. RICE: Add the rice to the soffritto; using a wooden spoon, stir for 1 minute, making sure all the grains are well coated. Begin to add the simmering broth, 1/2 cup at a time. Wait until each addition is almost completely absorbed before adding the next 1/2 cup. Stir frequently to prevent sticking.
5. After approximately 18-20 minutes, when the rice is tender but still firm, add the mushrooms, Cognac, cream mixture, Parmesan, and parsley – and stir vigorously to combine with the rice. Cook until the rice still has a hint of chew to the grain. Add water if the mixture gets too firm. Serve immediately. You may add more parsley and Parm on top if you’d like.
Per Serving: 590 Calories; 11g Fat (16.2% calories from fat); 15g Protein; 111g Carbohydrate; 12g Dietary Fiber; 23mg Cholesterol; 101mg Sodium.