Today is one of those spring days that makes me want to stay in bed: cool, wet…blah. Of course, it is also a day when the kiddo wakes up early at 6 am (and cranky with a low fever, as it turns out) and for once doesn’t want to snuggle under the covers for “just a little bit longer, pleeeease?” No, this morning it’s all, “Where’s Daddy (who is up and getting ready for work)? “I don’t WANT to brush my teeth (belly crawls to the bathroom)…WAAAAHHH!” It is a day when everyone moves a little… sloooowwwwer, our bodies confused about whether it is time to go back into hibernation and NOT lose those 5 pounds of winter fat after all. It is a day for a meal that bids farewell to winter’s blahs and throws open the door to the fresh and bright energy and produce of the season: Spring Risotto with Peas and Lemon Chicken.
My dish is an adaptation of Jacques Pepin’s Soupy Rice with Peas, with my addition of turkey bacon, carrots, Italian parsley and wine for color and flavor and topped by slices of roasted Lemon Chicken.
2-3 slices of turkey or pork bacon, chopped (see my passion plea below on turkey bacon)
3 Tbsp olive oil (omit if using pork bacon)
1 C onion, finely chopped (about 1 medium)
1/2 C carrots, minced (about 2 small carrots)
2 garlic gloves, minced
1 1/2 C Arborio rice
Salt and Pepper
5 C homemade chicken stock (low-salt, if canned/boxed).
Dry hard apple cider/white wine or vermouth (optional)
1 lb fresh peas (shelled) or 1 1/2 C frozen baby peas
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 grated Parmesan cheese (freshly grated is best)
2 Tbsp fresh chopped Italian parsley
Lemon Chicken – Prepare first, if desired as an accompaniment, as the risotto should be eaten immediately after prep.
Risotto – Heat the olive oil in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat and add the turkey bacon (omit oil if using pork bacon, which will render its own fat). Cook through for about 5 minutes, until mostly done or crispy. Add the onion, garlic, and carrot and reduce heat to medium. Cook for 2-3 minutes over medium heat until slightly softened. Add the rice and stir well, then sprinkle in some salt and pepper. Add 3 cups of stock, cover, and cook for about 8 minutes (Note: You can also substitute in 1/2 – 1 C of a dry hard apple cider, white wine or vermouth, which I didn’t think of at the time I made mine. Add the cider/wine/vermouth alone to the rice and stir until the liquid is absorbed and then add the remaining 2 – 2 1/2 C stock and follow the remaining directions). Stir well with a wooden spoon. The stock should be mostly absorbed.
Next, add 1 C of stock and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until stock is mostly absorbed. Add 1/2 C stock and again stir until mostly absorbed.
Add the remaining 1/2 C stock and the peas and cook gently over medium until the rice is soft, tender, yet still firm. Per Chef Pepin’s recipe, you may leave a bit of liquid if you want more of a soup texture. I liked mine with the liquid almost completely absorbed. Stir in the butter and the Parmesan. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Divide among four bowls or soup plates. Add slices of Lemon Chicken and sprinkle with parsley, chopped just before plating. Serve immediately with a fresh salad or steam- sautéed greens (collards, Swiss chard or kale), drizzled with a good olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
This dish goes great with a dry hard apple cider.
Happy Eating. Happy Spring.
NOTE – Since I don’t eat red meat or pork, I use Koch’s or Applegate Farms turkey bacon, made out of real turkey thighs. DO NOT use that cheapo turkey bacon – that chemical-laden, cardboard-style, over-salted pressed parts (of what?) stuff – you find next to the bologna. If you can’t find the good stuff, omit the turkey bacon because the processed stuff will compromise (I.e. ruin) the flavor.