CHEFFED-UP

FORGET The Lemonade

When life gives you lemons, cook something delicious

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Lemons, lemons, lemons. I have so many stinkin' lemons, I'm starting to feel like the old woman who lived in a shoe. I have so many lemons, I don't know what to do. I can't even recall how many Mondays in a row I've spent processing lemons. Whether preserving them for citron confit, which I sell in my store, or making limóncello, which I consume or allow a few lucky souls to sample, I'm getting tired of seeing the darn things. Yet I never tire of tasting these little jewels or looking for different ways to include them in my cuisines.

A perfect example is lemon risotto. As I happened to have a bag of Congaree and Penn's middlins stashed in my pantry, I knew something delicious was on the horizon. The big question was what to serve with the rice, so hi ho, hi ho, off to the grocery store I go (or went). There, chicken thighs inspired me. After a little pondering, it struck me that stew would pair really well with risotto. I now had a new nagging question: What kind of chicken stew would be appropriate for my culinary mood?

Because the middlins are locally grown, I narrowed my dinner choices down to American Southern cuisine. Next, I began to think of traditional Southern stews that showcased the humble chicken. My first thought? Country Captain, a Charleston, South Carolina stew that's essentially an Indian-style chicken curry highlighting sweet, spicy and aromatic flavor profiles. I opted to save that one for another day, though.

Next, chicken and dumplings crossed my mind but ... naah. How about chicken pot pie? Ya ... but not with risotto. There's Brunswick stew, a seasonal dish with fresh corn and field peas, but that's not happening in February.
Finally it came to me: a bog! Yes, a chicken bog was just right for that lovely, lemony, middlins risotto. I began preparing white risotto in the usual way, then cut a whole lemon into several small pieces (removing and throwing away as many seeds as I could) and stirred the pieces into the rice with the first batch of stock.
The result was pretty damn special. I promise to educate you on a Cheffed Up Chicken Bog in the future. Why? Because I'm a giver. Meanwhile, enjoy using local lemons in this week's recipe!

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Chef Bill’s Lemon Risotto
Ingredients:

  • 1/4 Medium onion, fine brunoise
  • 2 Cups Congaree and Penn middlins
  • 3 Oz. dry vermouth
  • 8 Cups or more chicken broth
  • 1 3-inch piece of Parmesan rind
  • 1 Large-size or two regular-size lemons, cut into 8 pieces, seeds removed
  • 1/4 Cup chopped mixed herbs, your choice
  • Whole butter in cubes
  • Lots of Parmesan cheese
  • Truffle salt, black pepper to taste

 

Directions:

  1. Slowly sweat the onions until soft and translucent. Do not brown.
  2. Bring chicken broth to a slight boil.
  3. Add the rice and toast.
  4. Add the white wine to just the top of rice. Add lemon pieces. Simmer to absorb.
  5. Begin seasoning with salt and pepper.
  6. Add enough stock to the rice to cover it by 2 inches. Do not lose the simmer. Stir occasionally; do not allow to dry out or stick. Add a second addition of stock to cover by 2 inches. Stir. Continue to season.
  7. When stock is absorbed, check the rice for doneness; it should be al dente. If too hard, add more stock.
  8. Remove from heat and beat in the butter, cheese and herbs.
  9. Taste; adjust seasoning if needed.

Until we cook again,
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Contact Chef Bill Thompson, owner of Amelia Island Culinary Academy in Fernandina Beach, at cheffedup@folioweekly.com to find inspiration and get you Cheffed Up!

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