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!
Chef Bill’s Lemon Risotto
- 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
- Slowly sweat the onions until soft and translucent. Do not brown.
- Bring chicken broth to a slight boil.
- Add the rice and toast.
- Add the white wine to just the top of rice. Add lemon pieces. Simmer to absorb.
- Begin seasoning with salt and pepper.
- 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.
- When stock is absorbed, check the rice for doneness; it should be al dente. If too hard, add more stock.
- Remove from heat and beat in the butter, cheese and herbs.
- Taste; adjust seasoning if needed.
Until we cook again,
Contact Chef Bill Thompson, owner of Amelia Island Culinary Academy in Fernandina Beach, at [email protected] to find inspiration and get you Cheffed Up!