Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Lately I've been thinking a lot about the old adage, "she's no spring chicken". It's strange, because I generally feel pretty sassy and chic for being a chick over thirty, but I go through periods of feeling a bit fwumpy and old. This is probably not coincidental to shopping for clothing at Forever 21 at the mall.
And there it is. See that? I just psychoanalyzed myself in front of all of you and am already cutting myself some fucking slack and enjoying a nice cocktail and some delicious, white carbs.
I made this springtime dish to celebrate spring's arrival and to engage in battle for some Tupperware over at Ben's joint. "What's Cooking?", his blog asks. Oh I'll tell you what the fuck is cookin': well, I guess I already told you in the title of this post.
Spring makes me thing of so many things - the fecundity of rough-skinned newts; the deafening aroma of daphne blossoms across the street; and fresh chicken, skin painted with rich, butter-yellow fat. But what greater harbinger of spring is there, you wonder, than asparagus? (Well I thought of morels, too, but they weren't at New Seasons yet and I didn't have time to drive 6 hours to the Rogue National Forest to pick some.) Its little lily shoots, so tender-crisp and verdant, just perfect with snap peas for a springtime risotto. And how about some nice spring chicken, with good crunchy salt and pepper and paper-thin lemon slices under the skin? You can already smell the warm hyacinth and mossy underbrush, can't you?
Lemony spring chicken: For two people, get a double breast with the bone out but skin on. Flatten it out and lazily pound it into a half-assed paillard with the side of your fist. Give a good pinch of coarse sea salt and fresh-ground pepper to the skin-side, then slide your fingers between the skin and flesh and ease a few slices of lemon in. Skin-side down onto a rippin' hot grill pan (if it's hot enough, the chicken will literally squeal when you place it on the pan), and S&P the (non-skin) flesh side. When you get some good grill marks on the skin, flip it, turn off heat, and pop it in a 350-degree oven while your risotto is cooking. When it's done to the touch- test (learn this trick), rest for five minutes and then slice on the bias, taking care not to tear the skin too much while you slice through the lemon.
Asparagus-pea risotto with mint: YOU MUST USE HOMEMADE CHICKEN STOCK. That's just how it goes, sorry. I squoze in an hour to do this, during which time I read funny shit on the internets. You can make time, too, or you will just hafta wait until Saturday to make this. (If you're very clever, you already have some in your freezer.)
You know how to make risotto. If you don't, just go ahead and flip open Joy of Cooking to the How To Cook Risotto page. S'cool, I'll wait. Okay, back? Good. Cut off the woody ends of like 4 or 5 asparagus spears, then dice up the good parts (reserving the tenderest tips). Similarly dice up a handful of snap peas (fresh-shelled peas would also work, but wouldn't need to be chopped). In your pan, melt a pat of butter and a drizzle of olive oil, and sweat some shallots. When things are smelling pretty good, get going on the rest of it (toss in the arborio rice, stir until the "white dot" appears, splash of chardonnay, ladlesful of stock while tirelessly stirring, stirring, coaxing every molecule of starch out of each motherfucking grain until your hands bleed, etc.). About midway through, add the diced asparagus stems (not the tips, though! these are tender and don't need that long). Add a few scratches of nutmeg and a fat pinch of lemon zest. After like 5 more minutes (or two ladles) add some fresh thyme, too. Then toss in the asparagus tips and the peas with the last ladle of stock. Salt to taste (my homemade stock is never salted). Top with lots of parm and a chiffonade of mint.
Serve with a chilled Prosecco, which will enhance the citrus notes in the chicken and risotto, and get you buzzed if you polish off two bottles.