Smoky Risotto

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You know that phrase “Your eyes are bigger than your stomach”? That basically describes me in a single sentence. I’d like to argue that this can be extrapolated to group pot luck settings. You know what I’m talking about… Eight friends are each bringing a contributing dish for the meal/party. No one wants to be that person who doesn’t contribute enough/as much as everyone else. But in reality, everyone is bringing a dish (or two, or five) that feeds many people, and everyone wants to taste some of everything. So at the end of the shindig, for better or worse, you’re always left with a smorgasbord of leftovers.

This raving does have a point. We were predictably victims of the too big potluck eyes for Friendsgiving. Our friend Brandon smoked our Friendsgiving turkey in his Big Green Egg. Based on the size of the egg, the boys were a little worried that the size turkey that would fit in the egg, might not be large enough to feed everyone. So we brought some chicken quarters over in the morning and smoked them after the turkey was done. [Side note: smoked Thanksgiving turkey is amaaaazing!] Shockingly, we didn’t finished the turkey, and Selim and I found ourselves in possession of an absurd amount of chicken.

Hence, we have smoked chicken in abundance for this dish. I personally would not go out and smoke a chicken just to make this recipe. Save it for a time when you have leftover smoked chicken, or snag a rotisserie chicken at the store for a substitute. Please note though, the way this is prepared, raw chicken will not be sufficiently cooked. Pre-cooked chicken is needed.

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Smoky Risotto

Ingredients:
  • 2 tsp neutral oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
  • 3-4+ cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp chipotle powder
  • 10 oz fresh green beans, snapped in half
  • 1 cup green peas
  • 1 1/2 cups smoked chicken, chopped
Instructions: 
  1. Using a large pan, heat the oil over medium heat.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, warm the stock.
  3. Add the onions and garlic. Cook for 6-8 minutes. They should be soft and fragrant.
  4. Lower heat to just a bit. Add the arborio rice. Stir a few times to coat the rice in any remaining oil.
  5. Begin adding stock to the pan by the ladleful. Stir frequently until all of the liquid has been absorbed by the rice.
  6. Add spices and stir to coat well.
  7. Repeat step 5 over and over, until the rice has softened, but is still a bit al dente for eating. It took me ~30 minutes to get to this point.
  8. At this point, add the vegetables and chicken. Stir in a double ladleful of stock and cover. Leave covered for 3 minutes.
  9. Return to your previous routine of adding stock by the ladleful and stirring until rice is soft and creamy. (Your stirring may be a bit more difficult now that there’s other stuff in the pan.)
  10. Once the texture has softened to your liking, add the cheese. Stir to combine.
  11. Taste for and add salt & pepper as desired.
  12. Serve topped with an extra pinch of cheese on top.
Serves 5-6.

Post-dinner notes: I think next time I’d add more chicken. It kind of got lost amid the rice and vegetables. I also meant to use this fancy Smoked Olive Oil, but forgot. Next time!

Bay Scallop Risotto

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Dinner tonight was basically fate. The universe aligned and all of that. I, unlike every other human being I’ve ever met, greatly prefer bay scallops to their larger, more popular big brother, the sea scallop. Neither are cheap, and we really just don’t think about buying them a lot on our grad student budget. But just the other day, I was reading these articles about how Rappahannock River Oyster is trying to reestablish the bay oyster population my beloved Chesapeake Bay, prompting me to think about those sweet, delicious little guys. And then when we were in the grocery store earlier, there were ridiculously marked down [read: probably about to go bad] bay scallops just begging to be bought! Which brings us back to our fated dinner 🙂

Back before Selim & I started dating, we were coworkers and friends. Have you ever tried to make the shift from co-worker/friend to more than that? It’s hard! The entire time you’re going back and forth between, “I mean, I definitely think we like each other…” and “OMG if I’m wrong, I’m going to have to quit my job…” Luckily, we successfully made the transition! I made this dinner for Selim the first night that I was fairly sure we were having a “date” instead of a night of friends hanging out and having dinner. I was clearly trying to impress him, and this was the fanciest dish I could think of that also didn’t give away that I was trying to be fancy. (Related note, I’m glad I’m past that stage in our relationship… over-analyzing things is tiring!) I don’t necessarily think my risotto sealed the deal for me, but it’s a special dish in my head no matter what.

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Bay Scallop Risotto

(The recipe originates with Michael Symon, but I personally first found it at Stirring the Pot. My recipe is adapted from what I found there.)
Ingredients: 
  • 2 strips of bacon
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 4+ cups chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2 lb bay scallops
  • 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

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Instructions: 
  1. Slice the bacon into small lardons. Place in a large pan over medium heat, top with 2 turns of pepper, and cook for just 1-2 minutes, until the bacon begins to release its fat.
  2. Now add the diced onions. Cover the pan and sweat for 3 minutes. Remove lid, add the minced garlic, and cook for another 3 minutes.
  3. Pour the arborio rice in with the bacon, onions, and garlic. Toast for just 1-2 minutes, stirring occasionally so the rice doesn’t burn.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the stock. You can either keep the stock in a small pot on low on an adjacent burner or microwave it.
  5. Now add the wine. Lower heat of the burner to just under medium. Cook stirring almost continuously*, until all of the wine has been absorbed by the rice.
  6. Add the bay leaf.
  7. Now add the warm stock, one ladle-full at a time. Continue stirring until all is absorbed. Repeat this pattern until the rice is softened, but still slightly al dente. [This will take at least 30-45 minutes.]
  8. Toss the scallops into the pan, along with a double ladle-full of stock. Cover and cook for 3 minutes.
  9. Stir, add another double ladle-full of stock, recover, and cook another 3 minutes.
  10. Turn heat down to low. Remove the bay leaf. Add the butter, cheese, and another 3 turns of black pepper. Stir a few more times until the butter and cheese are well-incorporated.
  11. Serve with a bit more cheese on top, plus additional salt and/or pepper to taste.
*You may have heard or read that to make a good risotto, you have to stir without taking a second of a break, until you have a perfect risotto or your arm falls off. I’ve found that toning it down a bit works just fine. This is what I do: put a ladle-full of stock in the pan, stir for 20ish seconds, turn around and wash a dish, or shred some cheese, or throw some trash away, or something else that takes <45 seconds (I never leave the kitchen), turn back around, stir until its ready for the next ladle of stock. Nonna may disagree with my technique, but it’s worked for me thus far.
Serves 4.