Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Roast Chicken, Lemon Risotto and Grilled Frisee


A beautiful, slightly brisk day, had me wandering through the market on my lunch hour. As much as I have recently accused the humble chicken of being boring, I have to qualify that with the notion that one's chicken experience is largely dependent on the individual bird. Today I picked up a King Capon hen from Sanagan's Meat locker. This bird was never frozen, never set in water, slaughtered humanely, eviscerated, plucked and simply hung to dry in the early summer air. This is how chickens were meant to be processed, that is, not processed at all.

I arrived home, expecting to steam and drench in butter, a fine red chard I had waiting for me in the refrigerator. However, this lovely vegetable had rotted away, neglected for too long. A small tragedy.

Today, Kensington market had provided me with some bulbous, flowering spring onions, and some of the freshest frisee I have ever found. Thus went my supper: Spring onion and lemon risotto, and frisee, halved, oiled and and grilled on the cast iron grates of my barbecue. A culinary risk with a wonderful pay off. The natural bitterness of frisee is barely there when it's this fresh; the grill further enhanced those hard-to-find sugars. I considered finishing with balsamic vinegar to counter the bitterness, but after a taste or two, realized that the natural new sugars did the job. Damn, I love proper fresh veg. Why do we not all demand it? 

I have discussed risotto at length on this blog, and tonight's version was my so-called 'clean' risotto. That is, no Parmesan, no butter, just a tiny drizzle of oil to start the process, a little Noily Prat to deglaze and nothing but the natural starches of the rice to create an unctuous and creamy finish; clean, natural and perfectly paired with white meat or fish. The stock that flavoured it: the chicken's back bone, a few dried morels, an onion (peel on) and two torn bay leaves  - simmered in well-salted water for about 20 minutes. Finish with the juice and zest of a lemon with some fine slices of those spring onions: an astringent freshness that was pure bliss to eat.

To serve, fill a large serving bowl with your lovely, lemony risotto. Top it with glistening quarters of your roast chicken. Tip the brown and sticky pan drippings into the hollows between chicken and rice and then add the grilled frisee. The salty drippings will mix with the creamy pearls of rice to produce an elixir that surely is curative to one's spirit.

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