An easy dinner to make at home
By Ari Weinzweig
Risotto has long been one of my favorite dishes to make. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s far easier to make than it might sound the first time you hear someone explain it. If you can figure out how to use a cell phone, you can make risotto (which means pretty much anyone who’s interested can master the dish if they’re willing to work at it a bit in the beginning). Of late, I’ve taken to making a simple and super tasty risotto with radicchio and smoked chicken. My friend Rolando Beramendi has a nice, more formally written, recipe for a similar radicchio risotto in his wonderful book Autentico, though his version leaves out the chicken. I love the contrast between the bitterness of the radicchio, the creamy gentle sweetness of the Parmigiano Reggiano, and the smoky meatiness of the poultry.
Because Tammie and I are regular consumers of those amazing whole smoked chickens at the Roadhouse, we regularly turn the bones—along with some carrot, celery, parsley, and fennel—into broth. The broth couldn’t be easier to make, and it’s terrific! And, of course, we always have the housemade chicken stock on hand at the Deli!
How to make the risotto and smoked chicken.
To make the dish, get a couple of quarts of stock simmering in a medium pot. Then chop a bit of onion and fresh fennel. In a large skillet, sauté the fennel and onion gently in extra virgin olive oil. While they’re cooking, add a pinch of salt, stir, and let cook until soft, but not brown. Add the rice—roughly two handfuls per person and one more “for the pot”—and stir. I recommend Carnaroli rice, although the better-known Arborio will work well too. The key is to use good short-grain Italian rice—other varieties of rice won’t work well for this dish! Add a cup of white wine and stir—the pot should be hot so that the wine “whooshes” when you add it. When the wine is absorbed, start adding the simmering stock, a ladleful or two at a time. Keep the heat moderate, so the rice-liquid is bubbling gently, but too not rapidly. Stir regularly so it doesn’t stick. After a few minutes, add small pieces of chopped smoked chicken (roasted chicken will work fine too if that’s what you have on hand). Keep cooking, adding broth and stirring gently every few minutes, until the rice is almost, but not yet, al dente. Taste for salt. Cut the radicchio into shreds, like you would cabbage for coleslaw, and add it to the pot. Add more broth and stir. Cook for a few minutes until the radicchio softens. Add more broth and cook, gently, until the rice is al dente. When it’s done, add some grated Parmigiano Reggiano, preferably that very lovely Valserena cheese, and a good bit of freshly ground black pepper. Check for salt. Then add a bit more liquid, stir once, turn off the heat, and let it sit for a minute or two before you serve.
Spoon the risotto in warm bowls, and serve with a bit more grated cheese and ground pepper on top. If you want to gild the already really good risotto lily, you can also put a drop or two of that Aceto Balsamico (or the amazing Apple Balsamela) on top as well—the sweetness of the vinegar is a beautiful counterpoint to the bitterness of the radicchio.