Spring Time Risotto

Rice is one of my favourite ingredients, despite the fact that it is not in my native culture of the Basque Country.

Rice in Spain, against foreign preconceptions, can be found in the Valencia area, where the Arabs planted it during their stay.

You do eat paella, but in my experience as regularly as you would Cuban rice (rice with tomato sauce and plantain)… Rare. Now though, I am married to a Japanese and in Japan rice is pretty much the star of each meal and living in London too you are exposed to so many rices and ways to cook it that you cannot avoid getting into it.

Risotto was a lovely discovery. It was my friend Bea (French) who introduced the arborio rice to me. Her parents were visiting, when we were students, and she decided to cook it for them to taste. I was very impressed and have cooked it often since.

Cooking time: 40 minutes
Quantities: 4 portions

Ingredients:

50 gr of butter
1 spoon of olive oil
1 medium onion finely chopped
300 gr risotto rice
150 ml wine
750 ml of chicken stock
2 spoons of vegetable oil
350 gr small chicken breast diced
350 gr asparagus spears quartered
Fresh grounded black pepper
Parmesan cheese

Tips:

1. The recipes of risotto generally suggest the use of white wine, so you might want to chose a white wine, but i actually like the flavor that red wine leaves on the risotto.

2. In general, thighs or drums are the best cuts of chicken for a risotto as they keep juicy; but you have to de-bone them and I am not very good at it hence the small chicken breasts. This cut is cheaper than the chicken breast and i think it tastes better and does not dries.

Just to clarify, it is not breast from small chickens but the part of the chicken attached to the breast which is normally removed to unnecessarily beautify the chicken breasts you buy.

3. Try to buy a piece of parmesan cheese and grind it each time. It tastes much nicer.

4. We are in spring and asparagus are arriving to the shops but do consider using other veggies if out of season.

Also, in order to quarter the asparagus, first snap the ends off. Do not force it, hold the long end with one had and snap the end with the other. I you do it like this, the cut will be at the right level, if you do it with a knife, you might cut through a dry end.

Cooking instructions:

Add two spoons of oil to the pan and seal the diced chicken. Set aside.

Place half of the butter and 1 spoon of oil in the pan and heat up on a medium heat. When dissolved, add the onion and cook for two minutes until softened. Add the risotto and coat them with the mix then cook for two minutes.

Add the wine and cook until the alcohol has evaporated, then add the chicken stock , one ladle at the time. Resist adding more liquid until the rice absolves the one you just added.

When the rice has already absorbed half of the liquid add the chicken and continue the process.

I generally add the quartered asparagus just before the final ladle of liquid as they cook quite easily and you want them to have a bit of a crunch.

After the last ladle, you can add the second half of the butter , the cheese and freshly ground pepper.

What i normally do is as soon as the mix has absorbed the liquid, i stop the heat, cover it and set it aside for a couple of minutes for the dish to come together.

Photograph by Cristina Lanz-Azcarate
Recipe by Cristina Lanz-Azcarate

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