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Sunday, December 12, 2010

White Wine Parmesan Risotto with Basil Cream Chicken

There are few things that make my husband happier than Parmesan cheese, so I decided to design a low calorie meal around it.  The good thing about Parmesan is that it's low fat (that's why it's a harder cheese), and it packs a flavor punch even when you use a small amount.  I think that these two components go well together (the risotto and the chicken), so I'll explain how to make them together.  I know that timing things in the kitchen can be kind of tricky, so here's how I did it:

For the chicken:
One chicken breast per person
1 t. olive oil
Salt and pepper

For the Basil Cream Sauce:
3 T. all purpose flour
1 1/4 C. skim milk
Pinch salt
Pinch pepper
2 T. shredded, fresh Parmesan cheese
1 t. dried basil

For the White Wine Parmesan Risotto:
1 C. onion, chopped finely
1 t. olive oil
4 C. chicken broth
3 C. water
2 C. Arborio rice
1 C. dry white wine
1 C. shredded, fresh Parmesan
1 T. unsalted butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

First, trim the chicken of all visible fat.  Heat 1 t. olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  When the oil is hot and shimmery, add the chicken breasts to the pan and brown on both sides.  While the chicken browns, chop the onion for the risotto.  Once, the chicken is golden, remove it from the skillet and transfer it to an 8 x 8 glass baking dish.  Season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Combine the chicken broth and the water for the risotto in a large pot (like a dutch oven).  Cover it, and bring it to a boil over high heat.  When it reaches a boil, turn the heat down to the lowest setting on your stove and replace the lid.  Meanwhile, in another large sauce pot, combine the chopped onion, the olive oil, and a pinch of salt.  Cover it, and place it over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened (about 10 minutes). In between stirrings, heat your oven to 400 degrees for the chicken.  Remember, we only browned the outside and we'll need to finish cooking it.

Once the onion is soft, add the rice to the onion mixture and stir until the edges of the rice turn translucent.  You'll know it when you see it.  Add in the white wine and keep stirring until the rice absorbs all of the moisture.  Then, add 3 C. of the hot broth mixture to the rice.  Stir frequently, but not constantly.  When you can pull your spoon through the rice and see the bottom of the pan, you need to add more broth, about 1 C. at a time.  Between each addition of broth, stir and allow the liquid to be absorbed, using the spoon trick to time each addition.  I easily used 6 C. total broth tonight, but it's okay if you have some left over at the end.   

After about your 2nd broth addition, pop the chicken into the oven.  It'll need to bake for 20 minutes, or until it reaches an internal temp of 170.

When the rice is soft but still al dente, take it off the heat.  Different rices need different amounts of broth to soften to the right consistency, so you'll have to play it by...tongue?  Stir in the Parmesan and butter and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Cover it, and set it aside.

Now that you have a burner free, use a small sauce pot to whisk together the flour and the milk for the cream sauce.  When there are no more lumps, season with pinches of salt and pepper.  The sauce will thicken in about 3-4 minutes, and after it does, remove it from the heat and stir in the Parmesan and the basil.  When your chicken breasts are ready, spoon the sauce over the chicken on the plates.  Plate your risotto next to it. 

This dinner sounds complex and tastes divine, but it's truly easy and low calorie.  My calorie calculation came out to 490.  Not bad for something that would easily break 1,000 at a restaurant.  :-D

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