This Greek chicken risotto is a tasty Cretan rice dish offered at weddings. It's usually made with goat but chicken is also very tasty!
This dish is like a basic chicken soup turned into a risotto.
This recipe is similar to Cretan traditional wedding rice, also known as pilafi or gamopilafo in Greece, but most of the times this dish is made with boiled goat meat or a mix of meats such as goat, lamp, veal, chicken.
To make this chicken and rice dish you will need the following simple ingredients:
- Chicken legs
- Chicken bouillon
- Fresh parsley
- Lemon juice and lemon zest
- Bay leaf
- Olive oil
- Risotto rice (arborio, carolina, san Andrea)
- Grated parmesan
- Salt and pepper to taste
How to make it
Follow these basic steps to make this traditional chicken risotto (pilafi):
- Make the chicken stock: Boil the chicken with the rest of the ingredients for the stock, until tender.
- Sauté the chicken (optionally): Add a few tablespoons of olive oil to a saucepan and sauté the chicken legs until browned in the surface.
- Make the risotto: Pass the stock through a sieve to get rid of any small bones. Add the rice to the saucepan and start adding the stock, 1 cup at a time, until the rice is done.
- Serve the rice on plates with a piece of chicken on each plate.
This Greek chicken pilafi can be made with chicken broth only, or you can use a whole chicken cut in 8 pieces. This is the way my mom makes it.
I decided to use only chicken drumsticks (for better presentation) and intensify the broth with 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!
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, Horiatiki salad, cheese plates and more.
The main dishes 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), almond snow cookies and lots more!
Do you have leftover risotto? Make some Italian fried rice balls (risotto arancini).
Greek chicken risotto (Cretan wedding rice)
For the chicken:
- 4 chicken legs
- 8 cups water
- 1 chicken bouillon
- 1 carrot cut in chunks
- 1 onion cut in half
- 5-6 sprigs of parsley
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 bay leaf
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons olive oil oil for sauteing the chicken
For the risotto:
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ½ onion, finely diced
- 2 cups risotto rice (arborio, carolina, sant Andrea)
- 2 tablespoons grated parmesan
- The zest of half a small lemon (about 1 tsp)
- 7-8 cups of the chicken stock
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Boil the chicken: Place chicken and bouillon in a pot with the water and bring to a boil. As the water warms up, some foam will appear on the surface. Skim that foam with a slotted spatula.When it starts to boil reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer gently until tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Remove the chicken legs from the pot and when cool to handle, remove and discard the skin (this step is optional).
- Pass the stock through a sieve and keep it warm in the pot.
- Sauté the chicken: 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).
- Make the risotto (pilafi): 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.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 keep adding stock, a little bit at a time until al dente. The rice should be creamy and cooked through but not mushy (keep in mind that the risotto will continue to cook after you remove it from the heat).
- Serve on plates, add a chicken leg on each plate and sprinkle with red pepper flakes or some fresh oregano (optional) and a slice of lemon.