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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Preserved Lemon Risotto and Arancini

Well, it’s been 30 days. This is the official, first use of the lemons I preserved last month. To be honest, having never had a preserved lemon, I really wasn’t sure what would come of allowing Meyer lemons to soak unrefrigerated, in a salty brine for a month. I think I anticipated something akin to a pickle. Instead what I got was exactly what the name implies: lemons still fresh as the day I preserved them. Certainly, the flesh is quite salty (and as such, often discarded), but if you peel this away and give the skin a quick rinse, you are left with the same brightly flavored rind from the outset. From a historical perspective, I can understand how this might be invaluable to your cooking repertoire if fresh lemons were not available year-round. I also see the value if you are one (such as me) who prefers to obtain your food according to what’s apropos of the seasons.

Now the fun comes with thinking of ways to incorporate lemon rind in my cooking. Risotto seemed a natural fit. In the recipe I present below, the bright flavor of the lemon pairs really nicely with some unusual additions (cinnamon and allspice) to a standard, homemade chicken stock. What may seem like an odd combination of mulled flavors for a rice dish, results in a classic Moor-inspired savoriness. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: I highly recommend making a chicken stock from scratch! The fundamental flavor is incomparable to anything you’ll ever pour from a can or reconstitute from a cube. Yes, it involves a bit more of a time commitment, but the tasks are simple, and the payoff is beyond.
In the spirit of full disclosure, a dear, kind friend made the stock for this recipe. I’m still seeking courage to handle meat for undertakings such as these. Although, currently I'm reading a book that just may entice me to get over this hurdle.

Inspired by a blog post from Not So Humble Pie, with the leftover risotto I made arancini. This was accomplished by stuffing a cube of smoked mozzarella into a clump of cold risotto, rolling it into a ball, then dredging it in egg followed by panko bread crumbs, and deep frying to a golden crisp. The full recipe can be found here. Apparently, I seem to have no fear of deep frying. Isn’t that peculiar?!

The 2010 March Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Eleanor of MelbournefoodGeek and Jess of Jessthebaker. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make risotto. The various components of their challenge recipe are based on input from the Australian Masterchef cookbook and the cookbook Moorish by Greg Malouf.

Chicken Stock
Makes about 2 quarts

1 large chicken, 2-3 pounds
2 onions, roughly diced
1 medium leek - white part only, roughly diced
2 stalks celery, roughly diced
2 cloves garlic, halved
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp white peppercorns
2 bay leaves
peel of ½ lemon
¼ tsp allspice

Wash the chicken and bones and places in a large stock pot, cover completely with water and bring to a boil. Skim away any scum as it comes to the surface. Add the vegetables and bring back to a boil. Add the rest remaining ingredients and simmer very gently, uncovered for 1½ hours.

Carefully lift out the chicken, set aside. The chicken meat can be removed from the chicken, shredded off and used for other things like soup! Simmer the stock gently for another hour to concentrate the flavor. You will end up with about 2 quarts of stock. Carefully ladle the liquid into a fine sieve, the less the bones and vegetables are disturbed in this process the clearer the stock will be. The stock is now ready for use. Freeze what you don't need for later use.

Preserved Lemon Risotto
Serves 4

4 TBS olive oil
1 large shallot, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1¾ cups arborio rice
4 TBS white wine
5 cups or more chicken stock, simmering
the peel from 1 preserved lemon, rinsed, patted dry and finely diced.
1 TBS parsley leaves, finely chopped
4 TBS unsalted butter,chilled and cut into small cubes
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Simmer the stock in a large sauce pan. In a dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. When shimmering, add shallots and sautee for several minutes until lightly golden. Add the rice and stir for a few minutes to coat each grain of rice with oil and toast slightly. Add the wine to the rice mixture, cooking until wine is nearly absorbed.

Add a ladle or two of stock, enough to cover the rice. Cook at a steady simmer, stirring from time to time, until most of the stock has been absorbed. Gradually repeat the process of adding stock, a ladle full at a time, until the rice is creamy and firm. This will take at least 20 minutes depending on your desired level of al dente.

Stir in the preserved lemon. Add an additional ladle full of stock and the butter, and stir until both are completely absorbed. Stir in the Parmesan, cover with a lid and let stand for a few minutes before serving.

1 comment:

Audax said...

Your lemon risotto looks so delicious BUT the fried rice balls are outstanding well done on this challenge. Wonderful photos they are make the food look so good. Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.