Friday, April 9, 2010

birthday present chicken stock and some risotto

I had a lovely birthday surprise when Penny arrived at my door last night with a warm juicy organic roast chicken fresh from her home rotisserie, a bottle of sancerre and her very useful husband who, not only fixed my falling-off-the-wall-socket, also rendered the brakes on my bike capable of actually stopping me.
In all, a most thoughtful and brilliant birthday present.
Safe in the knowledge that I have one less domestic electrical problem and that I would cycle safely the next day, I tucked into the delicious chicken for my tea.
The remaining chicken I removed from the carcass and put in the fridge.

With the carcass, I very diligently made a stock which, although I actively had to do nothing, it kept me up until the wee hours so that I could turn off the gas. It was a fight between sleep and flavour - the more flavour I wanted, the less sleep I was going to get. Technically I could have added a little extra liquid and gone to bed, but I do not think that my sleep would have been too sound with the knowledge that the gas ring was on upstairs while my family slept soundly below.

Home meade stock is one of the things that I treat with utmost respect, takin ggreat lengths not to waste any of it. It is easy to make and tastes really good – infinitely better than the bought cube, no matter what caliber or breed the cube claims to be.

You will need:
1 chicken carcass, chopped into bits where possible
1 onion, sliced
2 shallots, sliced
1 carrot, quartered
2 sticks of celery, the thicker outside pieces, quartered
8 black pepper corns
Parsley stalks, fresh thyme, fresh marjoram – a little of each

Put everything into a large saucepan and fill with about 2.5 litres of cold water.

Bring to the boil. Skim off any fat which floats to the surface.
Turn down the heat and simmer gentle for anything between 2 and 6 hours (simmered mine for 3).
The longer the better, hence the sleep-flavour tug-of-war.
Strain through a sieve and taste your results.

You can add salt at this point if you like, I do not add it at the beginning as you are reducing the cooking liquid and therefore it can become over-salted.
Now you have this delicious base for making almost anything.

I am going out for my birthday dinner this evening with some girl friends, but with my chicken stock and the leftover roast chicken, I made a roast chicken and butternut squash risotto for my boys tea.

For 2 hungry boys + 1 dad, you will need:

150g risotto rice, carnaroli/arborio
3 shallots, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tblsp olive oil
1 knob of butter
1 glass of dry white wine
Roast chicken pulled off the bird and torn in pieces
50g butternut squash and 5 sage leaves, torn (optional extra that I had in the fridge)
Parmesan cheese, a handful of grated

In a small saucepan, heat the chicken stock, either homemade or a cube/powder if you must. Keep it just at simmering point on the hob beside you.
In a wide open pan, melt the butter and oil until hot. Fry the shallots for 3 minutes until soft. Add the chopped garlic and fry for another minute or so, stirring occasionally.
Add the risotto rice and stir around in the shallot and garlic mixture until each grain is coated. Add the wine and let it bubble until the liquid has disappeared.
Then add the stock a cupful at a time to the risotto, stirring occassionally to ensure it does not stick to the bottom. When the rice has absorbed the liquid, add another cup and repeat until all the stock has become absorbed or until the rice is done.

While the rice is cooking, boil the squash in another saucepan for ten minutes until soft to the tip of the knife. About a minute before the end of cooking the risotto, add the squash pieces along with the torn sage leaves and a handful of parmesan cheese. Turn off the heat and stir gently and leave to sit for a few mnutes before serving. Take care not to overcook the risotto, so towards the end of cooking taste continually until you get it just right, with a slight bite.
oh and a little birdie told me that the weather is to be nice for a few have a nice weekend!

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