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  • Writer's pictureRhonda Morrison

Take it easy with European rice one-pot recipes

Risotto with Parmesan and Peas recipe and Chicken Paella recipe

I was born and raised on rice dishes. By the age of ten, I knew how to make the perfect pot of Louisiana rice. I had no idea that there were more varieties than brown or white until I began my culinary journey outside of my Cajun heritage.

Different rice varieties are best served with different cooking techniques. Short grain rice that is thick in the middle is ideal for paellas and risottos. Both dishes start out very similarly to jambalaya. You begin by sautéing meats and vegetables then toasting the raw rice in the pot before adding stock. Here is where the technique differs.

For short-grain European rice, the stock is heated and slowly incorporated into the toasted rice. The key to successfully cooking the rice to perfection is in gently stirring the dish while ensuring nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan. The stock absorbs into the rice with each addition. A gravy forms between the starches and stock. This brings creaminess to the dish that is unavailable by steaming rice.

To keep the dish from becoming gummy, rinse the rice thoroughly before cooking. This will also ensure that the individual grains remain whole and intact. Otherwise, the end result is delicious rice porridge.

What I love about this style of cooking is the constant slow and gentle stirring. Paellas and risottos are probably the most relaxing dishes I have made. Simply folding the dish into itself and watching it absorb the stock is nothing less than therapeutic and soothing.

A large pan is essential in having the perfect risotto or paella. The larger the surface area, the better contact the rice and stock have with the heat. This speeds up cooking time and prevents the rice from overcooking. I recommend a fourteen-inch pan with curved sides. These dishes are so versatile yet simple. I have taught both of these recipes and techniques to kids at cooking camps and they love them both.

Try either of these one-pan meals for a relaxing evening at home with the family. Both recipes are perfect for beginners and scrumptious enough for seasoned foodies. Who knew that rice could be the highlight at the end of a busy day?

Risotto with Parmesan and Peas 2 cups Arborio or Carnaroli rice 1 tbsp. olive oil, plus more if needed 1 tbsp. butter 1 medium shallot, minced 6 to 8 cups chicken or vegetable stock 2 cups frozen peas, thawed ¾ cup shredded parmesan cheese, separated Salt and pepper to taste 4 oz. crisp cooked bacon or prosciutto, optional

Rinse rice in a fine-mesh strainer until the water runs clear and set aside. Bring stock to a simmer in a pot at the rear of the stove. Turn the heat under the stock off. Heat oil and butter over medium heat in a large pan until the butter is melted and foaming subsides. Sauté shallot in the butter and oil until shallot is no longer purple. Add rice to the pan. Cook stirring until rice is toasted, approximately 3 minutes. If the rice begins to stick, add more butter or oil. Begin adding heated stock to the pan with a 3 to 4-ounce ladle. Add two ladles full of stock for the first addition. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cook stirring until the stock is mostly absorbed and a thick gravy is produced on the bottom of the pan. Begin adding the stock one ladle at a time stirring between each addition until the gravy forms before the next addition of stock. Keep adding stock and stirring until all of the stock is added. Taste for salt and pepper and texture. If rice is still hard in the middle, begin adding hot water until rice is tender stirring between each addition. Add salt and pepper to taste and peas. Remove from heat and allow the risotto to sit for 5 minutes. Stir in ½ cup parmesan. Place risotto in serving dish. Top with remaining parmesan and crumbled bacon or prosciutto if desired.

Chicken Paella 2 tbsp. olive oil 8 boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into 2” pieces Salt and pepper 1 medium yellow onion, diced 1 small red bell pepper, diced 2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed 1 tsp. sweet Spanish paprika 14.5 oz. can diced tomato 1 ½ cups paella or Bomba rice 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock 1 pinch Spanish saffron 1 cup frozen green peas Flat-leaf parsley leaves, torn for garnish 1 lemon, cut into wedges for garnish

Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat broth to a simmer and set aside. Heat oil in a paella pan or large skillet over medium heat. Brown the chicken in the pan. Remove chicken reserving the juices at the bottom of the pan. Set chicken to the side. Add onion and red pepper. Cook until tender. Stir in garlic, paprika, and tomatoes. Cook stirring until the liquid has reduced. Stir in the rice and saffron. Cook stirring until the rice becomes lightly toasted. Add half of the stock and the browned chicken to the pan. Cook stirring until most of the liquid is absorbed. Add the rest of the stock one cup at a time until the rest of the stock is absorbed. Continue stirring between each addition. Stir in peas and cook until warmed through. Continue stirring and cook until the rice begins to make a crackle sound and sticks to the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and cover for 5 minutes. Serve and garnish with parsley and lemon wedges.

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