Roni and I got really hooked on MasterChef, specifically season 6. I love cooking shows, but for some reason this competitive cooking shows were never my cup of tea. I generally go for shows like Pepin's Essentials. In the competitive shows,zz drama out-shadows the essence of the show- the cooking itself. It should be about food and preparing interesting dishes and not about how a contestant passes out during cooking and another one cries her heart out because she's being sent home.
Drama aside, I started watching it and turned Roni into a MasterChef junkie for a week. I found inspiration for a couple of new recipes and overall it was really entertaining up until the Final Five. That is when Roni decided that she needed to find out if a contestant had a food blog or not. Needless to say that when she Googled the name, the first search result was about that person winning the competition.
Her reaction spoiled it for me too, so from then on we just pretended to be thrilled when that cook was in the elimination challenges. After this incident I'm thinking about introducing a house rule where neither of us is allowed to google anything while watching this type of show.
The inspiration to cook risotto came from the show. One contestant cooked a green apple risotto, and when I saw it I was immediately intrigued. I mean seriously? How did that idea even crossed her mind?
I was set on making risotto but since we didn't have green apples at home I started to think about alternatives. Whenever we go to the grocery store Roni has a funny habit of putting a cauliflower in the cart regardless of if the plan is to cook cauliflower or not. And that's how a great recipe was born! (Roni says, "You're welcome.")
I have cooked risotto several times before, but never with cauliflower. I started searching for recipes and oddly enough not too many of them popped up. The top one was Jamie Oliver's, so I looked there for inspiration and found his idea of using pangrattato (flavored, toasted breadcrumbs) to sprinkle over the risotto to be really smart and creative. For the breadcrumbs, instead of going the spicy route with red chili, I chose to make it more Italian by using basil, oregano, lemon zest and Parmesan cheese.
Schnitzel on the other hand, didn't require much research for this Eastern European. It may not be the healthiest food, but it's definitely one of the tastiest. Who doesn't like meat fried in a crispy and flavorful crust? When cooking chicken breast, I learned from my mom to season the flour with paprika and black pepper to add that extra flavor to the otherwise bland and boring meat. In the breadcrumbs, I like to mix in a bit of crushed nuts--almonds, walnuts or even hazelnuts--and some parmesan for an extra nutty aroma.
Cauliflower Risotto with Chicken Schnitzel and Pangrattato
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 60 minutes
- 1 small cauliflower
- 5 cups stock (vegetarian or chicken)
- 4 TBS olive oil
- 2 shallots, finely chopped
- 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 5 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup parmesan, freshly grated
- 4 TBS unsalted butter
- 1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
- salt, to taste
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs
- 5 anchovy fillets and 1 TBS anchovy oil
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 2-3 fresh basil leaves, chopped
- 5 fresh oregano leaves, chopped
- 1 TBS parmesan, freshly grated
- 1/2 black pepper, freshly ground
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast
- 1/2 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
- 1 TBS paprika
- 2 large eggs, pasture raised
- 3 TBS whole milk or heavy cream
- 1/4 cup parmesan, freshly grated
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup almonds, crushed
- salt, to taste
- 1 cup oil, sunflower seed or peanut
- Add all the ingredients to a food processor and pulse until the breadcrumbs are evenly coated. Heat olive oil in a frying pan and toast the breadcrumbs until they become golden brown, about 5-7 minuets. Stir and toss often so they don't burn.
- Trim the leaves off the cauliflower and remove the stalk. The cauliflower will naturally fall apart into large florets. Cut these into small florets and save the tender stems. Finely chop the stems into small pieces.
- Bring stock to a boil in a medium pot over medium-high heat. Add the florets and continue boiling for about 5 minutes. Remove pot from the heat. Do not discard the stock.
- In a large saucepan sauté the shallots with olive oil over medium heat for about 3-4 minutes and then add the chopped cauliflower stems and continue to sauté for another 10 minutes, stirring frequently until soft. The vegetables should become translucent, not browned.
- Add rice and turn up the heat to high. Cook for a minute or two until the rice becomes translucent. Add white wine and cook until absorbed, stirring frequently.
- Reduce the heat to low. Using the stock in which you boiled the cauliflower, add stock to the rice one ladle at a time. Stir until the stock is absorbed to make sure the rice releases the creamy starch. Allow each ladle of stock to be absorbed before adding another one.
- When the rice is al dente add cauliflower florets with each ladle of stock crushing them into the risotto. Continue until rice is cooked. Taste as you go and adjust seasoning to your preference, but be careful with the salt. You will add parmesan next which will make it saltier.
- When the risotto is done, remove from the pan from the heat and stir in the parsley, basil, parmesan cheese and butter. Mix well, taste again and adjust the seasoning.
- Cover with a lid and let it rest until you finish the schnitzel.
- Cut the chicken breast into 1/4 inch thick cutlets. Place them between two strips of plastic wrap. Pound the breasts with a meat tenderizer until the breasts become slightly thinner. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
- Mix flour, pepper and paprika and place mixture on a plate. Beat eggs and add milk or heavy cream in a shallow and wide bowl. On a third plate mix the breadcrumbs, almond crumbs and parmesan.
- Working with one chicken breast at a time, dredge meat in flour, shaking off excess, then dip into egg mixture, turning to coat evenly and then carefully coat with breadcrumb mixture. Transfer the breaded chicken to a plate.
- Pour oil into a large skillet and heat over medium flame. When the oil is shimmering- the temperature should be around 400F (200C) if using sunflower seed oil- add the coated chicken breast and fry in a single layer. 2 or 3 breasts should fit into your skillet depending on the size of the schnitzel and skillet.
- Fry for about 5-6 minutes on each side until the breading becomes golden brown. If you used thicker breasts make sure that the inside temperature is over 155F (65C), but not more than 160F (70C).
- Remove schnitzel from the skillet and place them over a paper towel patting off the excess grease.
- Serve with risotto sprinkled with pangrattato and a lemon wedge.