Though risotto is typically served during colder months (probably due to the copious amounts of stock, butter and wine that go into it), I decided that a riff on the Italian stand-by – full of green, Spring vegetables – would be perfectly suited for a March dinner. I served it alongside Ina Garten’s baked lemon chicken breasts, which couldn’t be easier and don’t actually require all that much hands-on work.
This risotto (which was inspired by one in a cookbook I own called eat. drink. live.) is likely much lighter than the ones you’re used to. One Christmas, years ago, I made a red wine risotto with swordfish milanese that was delicious – but very heavy. A few months ago, on a very cold night, we made a tomato risotto that was out of this world (but would have been better, I think, with the addition of fresh lump crab meat.) I have also cooked a mushroom risotto to go underneath seared scallops. The point is, you can put whatever you’d like in risotto. For this version, I chose chopped haricot vert, fresh parsley, frozen peas and chopped spinach thrown in at the very in – so that it just wilted.
Lemon Chicken Breast
adapted from Ina Garten’s How Easy Is That?
1/4 cup good olive oil
3 tablespoons minced garlic (9 cloves)
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (Ina calls for bone out, skin on…which they must only sell in the Hamptons, because I have never in my life seen that in a grocery store so, you know what? I went for boneless, skinless.)
1. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
2. Warm the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, add the garlic, and cook for just one minute — but don’t allow the garlic to turn brown. Off the heat, add the white wine, lemon zest, lemon juice, oregano, thyme and 1 teaspoon salt, and pour into a 9-by-12-inch baking dish.
3. Pat the chicken breasts dry and place them skin side up over the sauce. Brush the chicken breasts with olive oil and sprinkle them liberally with salt and pepper. Cut the lemon in eight wedges and tuck it among the pieces of chicken.
4. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken breasts, until the chicken is done and the skin is lightly browned. If the chicken isn’t browned enough, put it under the broiler for two minutes. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and serve hot with the pan juices (which, incidentally, taste delicious poured over the risotto.)
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 stick butter (I know, that’s a lot – but this makes a lot of risotto)
1 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced (Don’t tell my boyfriend this had onions in it or he’ll decide he didn’t like it)
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 1/4 cups arborio rice
1 1/4 lb mixed green vegetables (spinach, peas, green beans, etc.)
1/3 cup white wine
a bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 1/4 cups grated parmesan cheese
salt & pepper
1. Put the stock into a small saucepan and heat to a simmering point.
2. In a large saucepan, melt the butter with the olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook over a low heat for 5 minutes until softened and translucent.
3. Add the rice, stirring with a wooden spoon to coat the grains thoroughly with butter and oil (this helps to make the risotto creamy.)
4. Add a a ladle of stock to the rice, mix well, and let simmer. When the liquid has almost evaporated, add another ladle of stock to the saucepan and stir thoroughly until it bubbles away. Continue, stirring the risotto as often as possible and adding more stock as needed.
5. After the risotto has been cooking for about 12 minutes, add all the vegetables and mix well. Add the remaining stock, white win, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, for another 5 minutes then, just before serving, mix in the chopped parsley and grated Parmesan cheese.