Cajun Chicken with Risotto
I had: boneless-skinless chicken breasts, celery, onion, roasted red bell peppers (in a jar), a single egg, olive oil, butter, one large potato, risotto rice, homemade chicken stock, half a bottle of sparkling wine, sour cream, some key limes left over from the pompano, and a lot of spices.
The original plan was a cajun chicken over a crisped potato pancake, but I tried to be healthy and used egg white instead of a whole egg to bind the potato, and it just fell into a mess trying to fry it up in a pan. I've had potato pancakes most of my life (Polish/German background not to mention I was raised Catholic -- good meatless Lent dish), and I've made them zillions of times, but things were just not binding last night. So, instead of salvaging a soupy mess of scorched pan/liquid potato-oil for something that was just going to be dressed with the main course, I changed tack and decided to make a semi-instant risotto thing I do.
The basis of most Cajun food is a "trinity", similar to a French mirepoix. I once heard that the French Acadians substituted bell pepper for carrots after settling in Louisiana because it was tough to grow carrots in the warm, swampy soil. I don't know how true that is, but trinity is onion, celery, and bell pepper, diced or chopped. I like using roasted red bells instead of green because they're sweeter, and they look prettier.
A little olive oil:
Sweat with some cajun seasoning
Sometimes, I like to slice the chicken breast sushi-style (not just against the grain, but at an angle). It looks pretty, and it cooks quickly, and stays pretty tender.
Seasoned with cajun seasoning:
Insta-risotto is fake risotto, but it's quicker and tastes pretty close. For 1/2 cup of uncooked rice, I do 1/2 cup of chicken stock, 1/3 cup champagne (or white wine), then top with water until it's a bit over a cup.
Arborio rice (very much worth the cost)
Flash cook the grains in a little sizzling butter until transparent around the edges. Add the stock/wine. Start to simmer, then cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Then beat the hell out of it with a whisk or fork for 15 seconds or so and let it rest a bit. Not as creamy or starchy as gently stirring and adding stock every 5 minutes for most of an hour, but it's still good enough for a Monday dinner.
Chicken cut this thin will cook quickly, so here's a quick sear
Add chicken broth and just barely simmer
Add the previously cooked trinity and some more sparkling wine
Whip up a quick blond roux and add that to the simmering stock
Stir it in and the sauce will thicken up. Then stir in some sour cream
I like a little citrus for acid, and I had the key limes left over, but some white wine vinegar would have worked, or some lemon juice. (Christey and I are both surprised at that cool lime shot!)
Then, rice in the center of a flat and wide soup bowl, chicken stacked around, sauce over the chicken, a bit drizzled on the rice, a lime for garnish, and some cajun spice sprinkled around the rim of the plate.
-Photography by Christey Krause, Food by Peter Krause