Naturally gluten and dairy free, this healthy and creamy chicken and leek risotto is packed with flavour as well as nourishing. What's more, it's topped with nutty sauteed mushrooms for that extra bursts of flavour and texture!
On cold days like we're currently experiencing in Sydney right now, a bowl of steaming, creamy risotto is the perfect warm hug that is much needed!
- Chicken thighs are preferred over chicken breasts as they're just juicier and way more forgiving. Nonetheless, chicken breasts are good to use too.
- Stock is key to flavour-packed risotto! I love using Massel chicken stock powder as they're pantry convenient (not sponsored). Substitute: any kind of stock (fresh or powdered) or broth you have on hand will create amazing results!
- Arborio rice is a starchy medium-grain rice that is widely available and perfect for making risotto. If you've access to carnaroli rice (what chefs use to make risotto), even better! Substitute: other medium or short grain rice although they won't achieve the same level of creaminess as arborio and carnaroli would. Steer away from long-grain rice such as basmati or jasmine. They don't have enough starchy goodness that we're after.
- Parmesan cheese freshly grated is best. It's more economical and melts perfectly into the risotto than the store-bought grated counterpart.
Step by step instructions
Not even going to sugar coat it, you will need to stand at the stove stirring for quite a while. Sounds like a bit of an effort? Yep. But is it worth it? Hell yes (if you want a truly creamy risotto)!
Give this dish the love it deserves and you'll be rewarded with soft and creamy risotto!
Aside from the creaminess, a good risotto is all about packing and building layers of flavour. In comes the help of stock/broth, veggies and whatever else you want to add to it. In our case, stock, chicken, mushrooms and leeks.
First, brown the chicken to maximise its flavour by adding a good golden colour on the outside.
Then sautee mushrooms so that they're caramelised, nutty, juicy and delicious. Just like the ones at your favourite brunch spot.
Now, you'll want to soften the leeks on low heat for about 5 minutes (before adding rice) so they pretty much melt into the risotto once the dish is ready.
Here is how to make creamy risotto
Time to introduce the rice and stock. But first, I like to stir the rice in the dry pan, for about 1 minute before adding the stock and start stirring. Lightly toasting the rice will create a slightly nutty flavour which adds depth to this chicken and leek risotto.
Add hot stock into the pan just 1 cup (or 1 large ladle) at a time. Allow the rice to fully absorb the stock before adding the next cup/ladle. Your cue is when the rice is getting all sticky and about to start sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Repeat until all of the stock (about 7 cups) have been absorbed or until the risotto is soft and creamy. Stirring constantly throughout.
Finally, add browned chicken back into the pan, stir until chicken is fully cooked.
The textbook ideal texture of risotto rice is that it's soft with a slight bite in the centre. Think of it like pasta. You want the pasta to be cooked to al dente for that perfect chew. In comparison, the risotto's texture should be also al dente but on the soft side.
Having said this, I personally prefer the risotto to be soft with no bite. But that's just me. Perhaps it has something to do with growing up eating congee (rice porridge).
Anyway, to tell if the risotto is done, taste it every 2 minutes, about 15 minutes in the stock-stir-absorb-and-repeat process. It's done once you've reached the consistency that you desire.
Serve with sauteed mushrooms and lots of parmesan cheese!
Tips for making a great chicken and leek risotto
- Use hot stock for a consistent, continued cooking process. Adding cold stock into the pan will delay the cooking of the risotto. I've not tried it, but I imagine it'll add about 10 extra minutes to the cooking time. Not willing to risk it either.
- Taste the risotto along the way. Not only to see how done the rice is, it'll also give you an indication of whether more seasoning (salt) is required whilst the rice is cooking. Ensuring the risotto is properly seasoned throughout its cooking process will ensure its tasty through and through. Just like cooking pasta, adding salt at the end will be too late!
- Add browned chicken back into the pan about 5 minutes before the risotto is done. This will ensure the chicken stay juicy and never dry! Particularly important if using chicken breasts instead of chicken thighs.
- Consistently stir the risotto throughout the cooking process. This is the key to creaminess in risotto, by helping the starch release into the stock. Oh, and this will also prevent any bits sticking to the bottom of the pan. The last we want is the taste of burnt rice.
- Never rinse the rice beforehand! Rinsing or washing the rice before cooking is great if you want to make rice for sushi or this flavour powerhouse Chinese Sausage Fried Rice. Not when you want to make a creamy risotto. Washing will get rid of the starch.
- Use a heavy-based, wide pan (or a dutch oven) to ensure even simmering and allow plenty of room for the rice to move around in the pan. This will help maximum release of starch and thus creaminess.
Good to know (FAQs)
To reheat on the stove; mix in extra water or stock to help loosen it up. If reheating in the microwave, make sure to cover before turning it on. High risk of spitting.
Yes, however, reheating risotto will inevitably change the texture of the rice. If you're like me and prefer soft centred risotto, no problem here!
Either way, freshly cooked is always best!
Made this recipe? Let me know your thoughts or questions by dropping a note in the comments section below! I'd love to hear from you 🙂
Happy cooking and eating! - Gen
Chicken and Leek Risotto
- 1½ cup arborio rice or other short or medium grains (note 1)
- 400 g /14oz boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into 2.5cm/1inch cubes
- 1 leek quartered lengthways then finely sliced
- 7 cups hot chicken stock (note 2)
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper
- freshly grated parmesan cheese (note 3)
- 400 g /14oz mushrooms button, portobello, all okay
- 1 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper
- In a large, heavy-based pan, saute chicken with 1 tbsp of olive oil on high heat. Season with salt and pepper. Remove chicken into a bowl once browned and almost cooked through.
- To make the sauteed mushrooms, add olive oil, garlic and mushrooms in the same pan. Saute on medium-high heat until mushrooms caramelised and nutty. Remove mushrooms and set aside.
- Again, in the same pan (note 4), sweat leeks with the remaining tbsp of olive oil, a minced clove of garlic. Cook on low heat, stirring constantly until leeks are soft. About 5 minutes.
- Add arborio rice, lightly toast the rice by constantly stirring on medium heat for 1 minute.
- Now, reduce heat to low. Add 1 cup of hot stock into the pan, stir constantly until the stock has been fully absorbed before adding the next cup of stock. (note 5) Repeat until all of the stock has been absorbed. This will take about 18 minutes.
- By now, the risotto should be creamy and soft on the outside yet slightly firm on the inside. Stir browned chicken into the risotto, including its juices (flavour!)
- Continue to stir the risotto until chicken is cooked through, taste and adjust for seasoning. This will take about 3 minutes. If the risotto is a little too thick, add a little water to loosen.
- To serve, top with sauteed mushrooms and lots of parmesan cheese!