Despite the chicken pictures you may see below, this entry is only going to have a little bit of chicken content. Mostly what I’d like to talk about is risotto. I don’t have a picture of risotto, however, because even though I get up well after what you might consider The Crack of Dawn (which always makes me think of graag gedaan, or "You’re welcome" in Dutch. Just thought I’d mention that.), it’s so darn dark in the morning that I have no presentable photographs of the delicious risotto that I made for my bento box today. Which is really no great loss, because risotto isn’t the prettiest of dishes, but it sure is delicious! So, you’re just going to have to imagine what my risotto-filled bento box looked like. Anyway, it’s the flavor that matters, much more than the appearance.
I’ve been craving risotto for over a week, which is a common occurance for me as the nights get cold and frosty. I finally made the time to make some this morning. I do have to add a disclaimer: I am not Italian, not in the least, not even a drop. I’ve been to Italy only once, for a weekend trip. I don’t know if my short visit can really be used to gauge fairly, but every single thing I ate during those 48 hours (and there was quite a bit of eating going on) was perfectly delicious. Also part of the disclaimer: I’ve not seen many Italian food cooking shows. Molto Mario? I just know he wears brightly colored clogs. Is Emeril Italian? I have no idea. But the point is, I am not an Italian food expert. So this risotto recipe may or may not be authentic, I just thought I’d share anyway, because it is darn good risotto, so try it yourself and see, and let me know what you think:
Risotto a la Lucy
First, heat up some chicken stock in a saucepan to simmering. A big can or carton will do. If you are ambitious enough to have homemade, kudos to you. I don’t have time for that kind of stuff. In another saucepan, drizzle enough olive oil to generously coat the bottom, and turn the heat up to medium-high. Once the oil is hot, add about a cup of arborio rice and a minced clove of garlic (I like to use my garlic press, then I don’t have to smell garlic on my fingers all day). Stir it around so that all the bits of rice are coated with oil, about 2 minutes. Lower the heat to about medium. Add a ladle-full of the stock and stir it in. The rice will absorb it in a minute or two. Add another ladle-full and stir it in. Keep repeating this process for 15-20 minutes. Keep stirring. You can step away for a moment at a time to wash some vegetables or get some parmesan cheese out of the refrigerator, but don’t leave it for more than a moment. Some people might consider this a little high maintenence, but really, it’s only 15-20 minutes of your life, and the result is more than worth it. You’ll notice that the rice absorbs the stock really quickly at first, but then slows down a bit. This is how you know its getting closer to being done. That’s when you want to get to grating a nice sized chunk of parmesan (2 or 3 inches, I’d say). I use my microplane for this, and I grate until I’m just tired of grating, which means I usually end up with a mound of parmesan that looks like a cup to a cup and a half. Test a grain of rice. When it’s nearly soft (you don’t want it totally soft, there should be a little bit of bite in the center) add a couple tablespoons of heavy cream (this is my secret ingredient, don’t tell anyone. It makes it super extra creamy). Stir that in well and then blend in the parmesan. You may want to reduce the heat to low at this point. Now taste it. Between the chicken stock and the parmesan, you probably won’t need salt, but if you think it does, go ahead and add it now. Grind in a whole lot of black pepper, and serve mounded in the center of pasta bowls with some parmesan shavings and another grind of pepper on top. Yum!
I love it just plain like this, but you can add all kinds of things in at the end. Some combinations that I have tried: Prosciutto and peas (pancetta or bacon would work well too), asparagus, sautéed wild mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes and rosemary. Any other ideas? I’m always willing to experiment. Let me know if you try my recipe, and how it works out for you.
Now for the brief bit of chicken content. I moved the chicks out to their coop this weekend:
Action shots! I think they like all the space. I built the roost in the first picture. I’m still patting myself on the back for that accomplishment. I don’t have a lot of high-tech tools, and I discovered that my little handsaw? Not so great for cutting anything bigger than the bars on the roost. The 2x4s for the frame? Those were just a little too big for it, but I struggled through, and made it work. Also, it’s hinged on the top, so when I want to clean the floor below, all I have to do is lift it up! Nifty!
I was pretty worried about them getting through the night, but they seem to have made it just fine for two nights now. I left the light on all night so they’d be warm, and it seems to be tightly enough constructed that no bad critters can get in to get at them. Bear is having fits though. He knows I don’t want him near them, but when he sees them he starts foaming at the mouth. He was like that with the cats at first too, but he knew not to hurt them or someone would have his neck. Okay, not really, but he naturally has a guilty conscience, so we do tend to use that against him a little bit. All we have to do is so NO slightly firmly and he puts his head down and looks guilty. So that’s his big punishment, just a NO and he is completely chastised.