A tasty traditional cretan dish, gluten and dairy free.
This recipe is similar to a traditional one served at weddings in Crete (sorry guys, lately it seems that I talk a lot about Crete… I did it on my lemon coconut olive oil cake and cuttlefish stew posts and I plan to do it again with these fantastic sweet Cretan cheese tarts).
Have you ever been at a traditional Cretan wedding? I was a while ago, and it was pretty fun! The bride wears a white wedding dress (of course) and when she leaves her parent’s house she’s escorted to the church by local musicians playing and singing traditional songs. The groom, awaits for her at the church, all dressed up in a nice suit. Along the way, but also during the ceremony, all the guests throw handfuls of rice and rose petals onto the happy couple, a symbolic gesture for a marriage with strong foundation and a life full of happiness!
But the thing that struck me the most was the number of guests. OMG! Usually the guests end up being between two hundred and five hundred people (yes, I said 500). And of course, after the ceremony someone must feed all of these people…
At the wedding reception a lot of traditional appetizers are served. Fried meatballs, ntolmadakia ( vine leaves stuffed with minced meat and rice), eggplant rolls stuffed with cheese in tomato sauce, salads, cheese plates and more. The mains usually include some kind of roast meat (pork or lamb) with baked potatoes and a risotto that is made with meat broth from goat, chicken or both. Again, here the rice has the symbolic meaning of longevity and abundance. After the mains follows the wedding cake, fruits and other traditional sweets such as sweet Cretan bread, kserotigana (honey-drizzled nut-sprinkled fried dough), white almond cookies and other…
As I said, this risotto can be made with chicken broth only, and that’s also the way my mom makes it. She uses a whole chicken cut in pieces for a stronger broth- you can do it this way also if you want. I, for better presentation, decided to use only chicken drumsticks and intensify the broth with chicken bones or a bouillon. After the drumsticks have been cooked through you can clean the end of the bone with a towel for a cleaner look. The stock and the lemon zest give this risotto a splendid taste. Just don’t overdo it with the zest because it may get a little bitter. If it does, just add an additional teaspoon of sugar.
This dish may seem a little complicated and with a lot of steps, but when you get the hang of it, it’s really simple: you just make some chicken soup, cook the rice with the liquid, sauté the meat for extra flavor and color and you’re done. Pat yourself on the back and start eating!
- For the chicken:
- 4 chicken legs
- 8 cups water
- 1 chicken boullon or some chicken bones
- 1 carrot cut in big pieces
- 1 onion cut in half
- 5-6 sprigs of parsley
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 all spice berries
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons oil for sauteing the chicken
- For the risotto:
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Half onion finely diced
- 2 cups risotto rice (arborio, carolina, sant Andrea)
- 2 tablespoons grated parmesan (skip this for dairy free)
- The zest of half a small lemon (about 1 tsp)
- 7-8 cups chicken stock
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Red pepper flakes, sea salt flakes, lemon slices, fresh oregano leaves for decoration (optional).
- Place chicken and bones (or boullon) in a pot with the water. Open the heat on high and when it starts to boil reduce to low. In the meantime, some foam will appear on the surface of the water. Skim the foam with a slotted spatula.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer gently until tender.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Remove chicken legs from the pot and when cool to handle, remove and discard skin (this step is optional, you can keep the skin if you like).
- Pass the stock through a sieve and keep it warm in the pot.
- In a deep skillet heat 2 tablespoons oil and sauté the chicken on high heat until golden brown. Transfer into a dish, cover with foil and keep warm (you can do that inside a warm oven).
- In the same skillet, on medium heat, add 2 tablespoons butter and sauté the onion until translucent.
- Add the rice and stir for two minutes (or less if the onion starts to brown quickly).
- Add 1 cup of the warm stock and reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Continue adding the stock, half a cup at a time, stirring quite often.
- After you have added about 6 cups of stock, add the parmesan, lemon zest and salt and pepper to taste.
- The risotto should start to look creamy. Taste it, and if you feel you want it more cooked, keep adding stock, a little bit at a time. If you run out of stock, add water. This is the time to add more salt and pepper if you think it’s necessary. Keep in mind that the final result should be creamy and the rice cooked through but not mushy. Also, the risotto will continue to cook a bit more after you remove it from heat.
- Serve on plates, add on top a chicken leg and sprinkle with red pepper flakes, sea salt flakes, some fresh oregano and a slice of lemon.