There is no more useful thing to have on hand at all times than good homemade stock. Witness this meal, a hurried response to lingering sickness and general wintry malaise that no cardigan can allay. I have written a lot about risotto, because I make it pretty often, though not because I love it particularly more than other things. I make it often because it is so easy; all it requires is rice, stock, and a condimento: an herb, a flavor, a vegetable or three for color, depth, and direction.
Because of that ease, and thus frequency, it has assumed a slightly pejorative connotation, smacking as it does to me of hurry and punting. But that doesn’t diminish its effectiveness, nor the pleasure when a particularly good one comes together, nor the usefulness of the leftovers for making maki or arancini or refried cakes the next day.
This version was reverse-engineered from chicken soup made a couple of days earlier when the kid was sick. Super simple, super good: chicken, carrots, celery, onion. Nice chunks of meat. There wasn’t enough for us each to have a bowl, so that’s where the rice came in. I made more mirepoix, both for color and to double down on the taste and nutrition of the vegetables, and I shredded five or six big red kale leaves for extra greenery since this would be a one-pot wonder.
I did beat in a little bit of goat butter at the end, and throw a handful of chopped parsley at it, but that was it. Reverse chicken soup with rice.
Best of all, as I mentioned before, for another quick and easy meal tonight I took the leftover risotto and made little cakes. When the rice has lumpy things in it, I tend to go for this shape; when it’s more homogenous it’s well suited for thinner, crispier pancakes, called risotto al salto by the people who know this stuff best. A duck breast, quickly seared, and its rendered fat used to cook collard greens with onion and also split a little pan sauce of duck juices, blackcurrant vinegar, and maple syrup completed the meal.
The stock made the soup possible, the soup made the risotto possible, and the risotto made this a notch easier and a notch better than it otherwise would have been. Some of you seem to enjoy my preachy leftover advocacy, so here’s more of it. Never let it be said that I do not give the people what they want.