Monday, April 29, 2013

Spring Supper: Garlic-Braised Chicken and Leek, Morel, and Pancetta Risotto

This recipe is courtesy of both leeks and morels being in season and the rediscovery of my cast-iron cookbook. Happy facts!

My previous experience with leeks consists of a 48-hour cleanse I've completed twice, in which you boil the leeks and reserve the broth. For your meals, you eat a cup of diced leeks tossed in olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Broth is to be imbibed a few times a day. I imagine people have been through more trying experiences, but from the thirtieth hour onward, the repetition and the somewhat bandage-like texture of boiled leeks wore on a girl.

So I wanted to surround the leeks with good flavors, while not totally drowning them out. The French love leeks, and on some of my days (not sure if they're better or worse), I am a Francophile.

I chose a morel, leek, and pancetta risotto. Risotto is so much fun to make, pouring and stirring (and sipping on the remaining wine while you do so.)

It wasn't the easiest to cook this along with the garlic-braised chicken, but I managed.

I first prepared my mise en place.

I could only find dried morels, even though they're supposedly in season! I'm not sure where you'd find them completely fresh, but it was simple enough to reconstitute them, soaking the morels in a bowl of white wine and chicken stock for thirty minutes. I then drained them (reserving the liquid) and diced them up.

Then I seasoned my chicken and browned it in the Dutch oven. I placed the browned pieces on a plate which I covered with foil.

At this point, I added the garlic cloves for the braised chicken and the butter and oil for the risotto.

I was able to brown the onions, leeks, and morels at the same time that the garlic was turning a rich dark brown color. At this point, I added back in the chicken, along with vermouth, stock, cognac and sprigs of oregano (though thyme might have been better!)

While the chicken simmered, I turned my attention back to the much needier risotto, adding the Arborio rice and beginning the process of hydrating and stirring. Here was the perfect occasion to use some of the reserved liquid from the morels! So flavorful.

Once the rice was al dente, I stirred in heavy cream, then took it off heat to add the grated Parmesan. As my luck--or careful/panicky assessment of both recipes--would have it, the chicken was done too! I simply had to remove it from the pot and keep it warm while I let the sauce reduce for a few minutes.

A floral garnish was used for a much-needed pop of color.

Garlic-Braised Chicken
Serves 4 - 6.

2 lbs. chicken breasts
2 tablespoons herbes de Provence
3 tablespoons olive oil
20 cloves garlic
1/2 cup dry vermouth
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/8 cup cognac
2 sprigs oregano (or thyme)

1. Slice chicken into pieces about 3 - 4 inches in length. Season with salt, pepper, and herbes de Provence.
2. Heat up olive oil over medium-high in Dutch oven. Cook chicken in batches, browning on all sides. Reserve on plate and cover with foil to keep warm.
3. Lower heat to medium and add garlic cloves. Saute for 7 - 8 minutes, until hue is a rich dark-brown.
4. Return chicken to pot, along with vermouth, stock, cognac, and fresh herbs. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to medium-low. Let simmer for 30 minutes.
5. Remove chicken from pot and keep warm. Let sauce reduce for 5 minutes. Pour over chicken. Serve!

Leek, Morel, and Pancetta Risotto
Serves 3  - 4.

1 large leek, dark green leaves and root removed, light green section halved and then thinly sliced
3 oz. dried morels, reconstituted (with liquid reserved), then diced
2 oz. pancetta, diced
1/2 cup diced white onion
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
2/3 cup dry white wine
3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan

1. Heat butter and oil in a large saucepan over medium-high. In another saucepan, bring chicken stock to a boil and then lower to simmer.
2. Add pancetta and cook for about 3 - 4 minutes. Add onions and cook for another 4 minutes. Then add leeks and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Finally, add in diced morels and cook for 4 minutes.
3. Add rice, stirring to coat well with mixture. After a couple of minutes, add in white wine. Once the liquid has been absorbed, pour in two ladles of simmering stock.
4. Cook rice, stirring often, until liquid is absorbed again. Then add more, including 1/4 cup of the reserved morel liquid. Continue the process, adding 1/2 cup of liquid each time, until the rice is al dente.
5. Stir in heavy cream, then remove risotto from heat and stir in Parmesan cheese.
6. Enjoy!

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