Thursday, 22 November 2012

Chicken with wild mushroom risotto

Given that we've still got roughly a month until winter officially sets in, I thought it would be fitting to post a recipe for a most autumnal dish - chicken with wild mushroom risotto and braised lettuce.

'Boring!' I hear some of you exclaim; after all, there is nothing original about the combination or the cooking techniques involved. However, though this may seem a relatively simple meal to prepare, there are a few pitfalls to be avoided.

Risotto, as John Campbell believes, should 'just hold its own weight and [be] free from an excess of butter or stock'. I tend to agree with him. I'm in favour of a risotto where the rice can still be distinguished as an ingredient rather than some glutinous slop. Be careful not to overcook the rice or to add too much liquid.

There are also two schools of thought when it comes to risotto making - the add-the-stock-gradually and the bung-it-all-in-at-once. The former inevitably gives you more control but requires a little more attention - it has always worked well for me so I can't fault it.

Nevertheless, if you want to ease the culinary strain, this is a great method: sweat the onions and rice then add the wine (reduce) then the stock; cook the rice until it is just underdone, with a slight chalkiness to the bite; then, remove from the pan and spread in a thin layer on a silicone mat/parchment paper on a baking tray. (Place the baking tray in the freezer beforehand to facilitate cooling.) This prevents the rice cooking further and you can keep it like this in the fridge for up to 8 hours until you're ready to finish the dish.

How risotto should look (ie. not like rice pudding)
I now use this method for cooking risotto almost exclusively as it then takes only a few minutes to finish off the risotto when you're ready to eat - and you can keep the other elements of your dish warm while you concentrate on the final stage.

As an aside, Anna and I rarely buy chicken breasts as they are so incredibly expensive. I prefer to buy a whole free-range chicken and butcher it reserving the wings for stock and the legs for slow-cooking. Good free-range chicken has an earthiness to it (completely absent in the supermarket produce) which works brilliantly with the wild mushrooms.

Chicken with wild mushroom risotto and braised lettuce

Serves 2


100g carnaroli or arborio rice
700ml chicken stock
1 shallot, finely diced
100g fresh or dried wild mushrooms (soaked), thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, bashed with the back of a knife
Tbsp butter
Tbsp parmesan, grated
Dash of truffle oil (optional)

Chives, to garnish


2 Chicken breats, skin on 
200ml chicken stock

1 little gem lettuce, separated into leaves
50ml water
50g unsalted butter 

- For the risotto, sweat the shallot and garlic clove over a medium heat until translucent then add the rice and cook for a few minutes without colouring.
 - Add the wine and reduce to a glaze, then begin adding the stock in small increments, allowing the rice to absorb the liquid before adding more and stirring constantly (or add about 400ml of stock at once).
- Repeat until the rice is nearly cooked then remove from the pan and spread in a thin layer on a baking tray and allow to cool.
- Place in the fridge for up to 8 hours.

- Meanwhile, season the chicken breasts with salt and heat a frying pan over a medium heat until hot.
- Place the chicken breasts in the pan skin side down and cook until the skin is golden brown and most of the fat has rendered out.
- Turn over and colour the skinless side then add the chicken stock and baste the chicken with the stock until cooked (approximately 10-15 minutes). 
- Let rest.

- To braise the lettuce, add the lettuce, butter and water to a saucepan, cover with a lid and place over a medium heat. It is done when the leaves have wilted but the core retains a slight crunch (this will not take long).

-To finish, add the cooled rice, some of the remaining warm stock and the butter to a frying pan and cook over a high heat until the rice is done and there is a smooth emulsion of stock and butter
- Add the mushrooms, parmesan, chives, and truffle oil if using and remove from the heat. Taste and adjust for seasoning.

- To plate up, start with a base of braised lettuce leaves, top with risotto then the sliced chicken breats.

- Accompany with the rest of the wine you opened to make the risotto and enjoy.