As butchers, we have advantages that other don’t. We get to take our work home; bits and pieces that often act as cooking hacks. The get-out-of-jail card. Open my fridge and you’ll see them. A log of Nduja that I slice into discs and add to pasta sauces. A jar of lard that can be put in a pan to fry bread, before smearing on some peanut butter. Cold-smoked pork chops that I can cook in minutes. But guess what? These aren’t the ingredients I value most. That honour goes to the humble plastic tubs of chicken and/or beef stock that you’ll find in my fridge EVERY WEEK OF THE YEAR.
Proper stock is a shortcut to flavour town. Any decent butcher knows this which means all you have to do is find said butcher. Sure, you could buy bones and make the stuff at home but…honestly…why would you? Get some tubs and keep them on hand. They can be added to sauces, they can be the base for braised dishes, they can be the backbone of pretty much any soup or you can just season with turmeric and black pepper for an alternative to your morning coffee.
The recipe below uses chicken stock to build a basic risotto. It also uses crispy chicken skin because…well because it’s crispy chicken skin. Risotto freaks a lot of people out but, honestly, it’s all about the ingredients. Get the best rice you can and get the best stock you can. The rest is easy. Once you get the base right, feel free to add anything. It could be as simple as a handful of frozen peas, or as extravagant as roast duck, shredded off the bone. Roasted beetroot works as well as braised oxtail. Honestly, go to town.
What you’ll need: (serves 6)
- 2 x cups risotto rice
- 1l x FFMM chicken stock
- Enough oil to cover the base of a deep, wide pan
- 1 decent knob of butter
- 1 x white onion, peeled and very finely chopped
- 2 x cups vermouth (or dry white wine)
- 1 x clove garlic, finely sliced
- 2 x tbsp fresh thyme
- Sea salt, to taste
- Cracked black pepper, to taste
- Zest of one lemon, to serve
- Extra thyme, to serve
- Butter, to serve
- 2 x handfuls grated parmesan, plus extra, to serve
What you’ll do:
To make the skin, firstly ask your friendly butcher for some chicken skin. They should have some lying around and will be happy to offer it up. Season it aggressively with sea salt and then place a piece of parchment paper on a baking tray. Lay your skin on it, flesh side down, and then place another sheet of parchment paper on top. Place another baking sheet or anything flat and heavy over the skin. This will prevent it from curling. Cook in an oven, pre-heated to 200 Degrees Celsius, for 40 minutes. Remove and carefully take away top layer and paper. Allow to cool and then break into shards.
1. Over a low heat, pour your stock into a pot and keep warm.
2. In the separate pan, add olive oil and butter.
3. Add onion and cook for 2 - 3 minutes over low heat. Add garlic and continue to cook over low heat. You don’t want any colour.
4. When the vegetables have softened slightly add thyme, along with the rice. Increase the heat.
5. Cook for one minute, stirring to avoid rice from sticking. Add additional oil if necessary.
6. Add the vermouth and keep stirring. The liquid will begin to evaporate.
7. Once the liquid is almost entirely gone, add a ladle of the warm stock and a hit of sea salt. Reduce heat back to a simmer.
8. Continue to add ladles of stock, adding one every time the liquid disappears. Stir the rice continuously but not aggressively. You want to massage the starch out of the rice gently.
9. After 20 - 25 minutes, the rice should be cooked. You want it to have a slight bite - do not overcook to the point that is a mushy texture. Season as you work, tasting along the process. (If at any point you run out of stock, add some boiling water.)
10. To finish, remove pan from heat and add a smack of butter and the parmesan. Cover with lid and allow to rest for 1 - 2 minutes.
11. To serve, spoon risotto onto plates and gently tap/knock the bottom of the plate with your palm. This will spread the risotto out evenly.
12. To garnish, add lemon zest, parmesan, thyme and chicken skin (if using).