14 March 2010

Daring Cooks Challenge: Risotto

The Daring Kitchen popped up on my radar about six months ago, and I've been watching it closely, trying to decide if I were up to the challenge.  In February, I caved and joined.  I was initially worried that the challenges would be a bit too far out there for Jason (hence my hesitance to join).  But I threw caution to the wind and today you get to see my first challenge. 

Mandatory taglines: 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.

I did breathe a sigh of relief when I read risotto.  I have attempted it once before, and while it turned out a bit to gluggy, Hubby liked it and willing to eat it again.  Then I set about trying to figure out how to make it tasty... Helen came along with a wonderful idea (not knowing it was for my Daring Cooks challenge of course): spring vegetables.  However, spring veggies are not yet in season, but I still had my heart set on asparagus.  Alas, asparagus isn't available here until MAY!  And posting date was March 14!  

So I wandered around the produce section trying to figure out what would look and taste good... and then I saw it: white asparagus.  I've never cooked with white asparagus before, so it would also work for my "new fruit or vegetable every month" personal challenge (January was kohlrabi, February was blood clementines).  But white asparagus with white rice?  Visually boring.  So I look some more and came across "feldsalat," and this carton actually had an English translation: lamb's lettuce.  So I grabbed it and some chicken medallions.  Hollandaise goes well with asparagus, so I wanted to give the risotto an essence of lemon, but in my hurry to get it to the table, I forgot to add a pinch of cayenne as well.  

I have made chicken stock over a dozen times since we moved here, but the recipe offered by the hosts looked intriguing too, so I gave it a try.  

Chicken Stock
1 large chicken 2-3 pounds about 1 kg
chicken bones 2-3 pounds 1 kg
2 onions, roughly diced
1 medium leek - white part only, roughly diced
2 sticks celery, roughly diced
2 cloves garlic, halved
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp. white peppercorns ( Any type of whole peppercorn will do)
2 bay leaves (fresh or dried, it doesn't matter.)
peel of 1/2 lemon
1/4 tsp. allspice
1.  Wash the chicken and bones and places in a 5 Litre pot, cover completely with water and bring to a boil
2.  Skim away any scum as it comes to the surface.
3.  Add the vegetables and bring back to a boil.
4.  Add the rest remaining ingredients and simmer very gently, uncovered for 1.5 hours.
5.  Carefully lift out the chicken, set aside. The chicken meat can be removed from the chicken, shredded off and used for other things like soup!*
6.  Simmer the stock gently for another hour. At , at the end you should have around 2 liters.
7.  Carefully ladle the liquid into a fine sieve, the less the bones and vegetables are disturbed in this process the clearer the stock will be. The stock is now ready for use. Freeze what you don't need for later use.

* I always use mine for chicken pie, but this time I added it to Food Blogga's Heaven Sent Mac and Cheese.  I know chicken is not listed as an ingredient, but I wanted to add a meat to it.

The smell of the cinnamon was so pervasive that I was hesitant to use it for the risotto.  So I made my chicken stock too.   My stock ready, it was time to make the risotto:

olive oil 2 fluid oz 60 ml
1 small onion, quatered
rice 14 oz 400g (any type of risotto rice will do)
white wine 2 fl oz 60 ml
chicken or vegetable stock , simmering 2 pints/ 1 L
1.  Heat oil in a pan and add onion. Fry for a few minutes to flavour the oil then discard. (We diced ours and left it in as we like onion).
2.  Add the rice and stir for a few minutes to coat each grain of rice with oil and toast slightly.
3.  Add the wine and let it bubble away until evaporated.
4.  Add enough stock to cover the rice by a finger’s width (about an inch or two). Don't actually stick your finger in, it will be hot. Just eye it off.
5.  Cook on medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon from time to time, until most of the stock has been absorbed.
6.  Repeat Step 5 making sure to leave aside approximately 100 ml. of stock for the final step. .
7.  Repeat, save 100ml for the final stage.
8.  Once you are at this point, the base is made. You now get to add your own variation:  Here I added the zest of one lemon. 
9.  Add the final 100ml of stock and butter and stir until both are completely absorbed. Stir through the parmesan, stick the lid on and let it sit for a few minutes.

Once I prepared my risotto for pictures, Jason came in and looked at it.  He complained that I hadn't added any peas to rice, so I took a chance.  I added frozen peas directly from the freezer, and to prevent it from getting too gluggy while it reheated, I added more chicken stock (this time the one with cinnamon).   And would you believe the results?  Jason's risotto was better than mine!  The cinnamon in the stock added a nice warmth to the risotto that I wasn't expecting.  I'm glad I didn't use it as the base stock, but it was a nice addition.  Also, the extra stock loosened the risotto a bit, which made it even better.  I was afraid that adding that many changes at the end would ruin the risotto, but I was wrong!  :)

When I started the rice, I seasoned my chicken medallions using Italian Dressing Mix from Allrecipes and tossed them on the grill pan.  When they were done, I removed them and added the white asparagus** to the grill pan with a tiny amount of olive oil.  The results: I love white asparagus.  However, I did learn the smell-effects from asparagus have nothing to do with the color!

**Shock of all shocks, I peeled the asparagus before cooking it.  Peeled asparagus is big here, so I thought I'd give it a try.


  1. Your dish looks really yummy! Beautiful presentation. I knew it would be good since you put some lemon in it ;) Did peeling the asparagus make a difference? How was the lamb's lettuce?

  2. What a beautiful dish! It looks like it could be served in a really upscale resturant! What is lamb's lettuce? In the picture it looks like watercress.

  3. Maurits LOVES white asparagus; it is apparently a favorite in Northern Europe. When we are fortunate enough to run into it at a grocery store or farmer's market here, he always peels it before cooking. It does seem to have a tough skin... I wonder if it is something specific to that variety. Anyway, your dish looks wonderful. Great job!

  4. Congrats on your first challenge and hello and welcome to the Daring Kitchen.

    White asparagus is highly desirable here in Australia and costs a lot. I love the description of Jason's version strange how things work out is it not. Wonderful photos and the final risotto looks so luscious. Superb effort on this challenge. Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.


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