bacon, chicken, kale & onion risotto

This is a soul-satisfying type of meal. It tastes and smells like you’ve been cooking all day, but it can go from the pan to table in 45 minutes. It’s the kind of meal to sit down to after a long day of work. The beauty of this risotto is that it’s rather easy. Just two dishes: a roasting pan and a pot.  As a parent, I want to feed my kids food that’s relatively healthy and fresh.  I like cooking meals that they can enjoy from the very early days of solid food eating onward throughout childhood.  Risotto has a great texture for babies starting to eat the food that the rest of the family is enjoying.  And this dish can be easily thrown into the food processor to break it down even a bit further for the littlest eaters.  As a grown-up, I just want food that tastes good.

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The bacon, onion, chicken breasts and kale all are roasted on a single tray.  To help everything cook evenly, use thinly sliced boneless skinless chicken breasts.  I cook the onion, chicken, and bacon for about 10 minutes before adding the kale to the pan.  Or start everything together and take the kale out of the onion once it’s finished cooking.

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Once all of your add-ins are roasting away nicely, get moving on the main risotto.  This is where things get happy.  I pour myself a glass of wine.  Add in the arborio rice.  Let it toast a bit, turning opaque.  Share the love and dump in a bit of the wine.  Stir intermittently, adding chicken broth and wine.  Risotto is not nearly so demanding as some might have you think.  Yes, it does require attention, a little stir and addition of liquid every 5 minutes or so.  But really, that’s enough time for me to unload the dishwasher, or start a load of laundry, or play a game of memory.  It all works out.  It’s like a lovely built-in opportunity for multi-tasking. And besides, you have that glass of wine.

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After the addition of your chicken broth and wine, your risotto is going to get creamy and tender.  And with that kale roasting away, your kitchen will smell like grandma’s house on a Sunday.

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Serve up your risotto with pine nuts and some freshly grated parmesan or asiago cheese.   If you don’t love chicken or kale, that’s perfectly fine.  Substitute in whichever vegetable you prefer.  Roasted shrimp and peas with lemon zest.  Champagne and lobster with saffron.  Butternut squash and prosciutto.  You can completely customize this method of risotto making to your tastes, but I highly recommend serving with a glass of wine.

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risotto with bacon, chicken, onion, and kale

adapted from Start Fresh, by Tyler Florence

3 boneless skinless thinly sliced chicken breasts
4 large kale leaves, ribs removed
olive oil
coarse kosher salt and fresh pepper
2 small (or 1 large) yellow onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
3-5 slices thick-cut bacon
3 tablespoons pine nuts
5 cups chicken stock or broth
2 cups white wine
1 ½ cups arborio rice
parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  Arrange chicken, bacon, onion, garlic and kale onto baking sheet.  Drizzle everything except for bacon with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, until chicken is cooked through and bacon has crisped.  (Kale may be done cooking after ~15 minutes.  It will be crispy.  If so, remove it from oven while the remaining ingredients continue to bake.)

Meanwhile, pour yourself a glass of wine.  Toast the pine nuts over medium heat in a large saucepan or Dutch oven.  Remove from the pan once they’ve browned a bit.  Add the rice and cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, until it appears more opaque.  Add about ½ cup of white wine, and allow to absorb.  Turn down heat slightly to medium low.  Add a mix of chicken stock / wine in ~½ cup increments.  Stir occasionally.  (Really, you do not have to stir constantly.  It’s going to be just fine.)  After ~30 minutes, the rice should be creamy and tender.  At this point, add the remaining ½ cup of chicken stock / wine, turn off the heat, add a generous amount of grated parmesan cheese, and cover with a lid.  Walk away.  Do something else for 5 minutes.  Don’t touch that risotto!

After those 5 minutes, open up that lid and your risotto should be perfectly cooked and ready for the addition of the chicken, onion, bacon & kale.  Top with the pine nuts and a few grates of cheese.

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