This dish can be either very average or very good. If you use free – range chicken breasts, homemade chicken stock, cook the risotto with a bit of love and care and if you do not overcook the chicken breasts but still manage to get a good colour on them, then this can be a very good dish. However if you don’t do this, then this may very well be a very average dinner. In my opinion, the risotto is really transformed by the snails. The snails I used for this recipe come from Co. Carlow from Ireland’s only snail farm breeding edible free range snails, called Gaelic Escargot. Irish free range snails are in my opinion one of our very best Irish ingredients that we have and I feel very proud and it really is a pleasure to get to cook with such a great Irish product. Snails are just another one of the amazing ingredients we have here in Ireland.
Chicken Juices: Heat a splash of olive oil in a in a small saucepan, add 4 chicken wings, each one cut in two, and cook until golden. Pour out any excess oil from the pan, turn up the heat and add 100 ml white wine, scraping any bits that stuck on the bottom of the pan. Reduce the wine right down and then add 1 litre of chicken stock (preferably brown chicken stock) into the pan and boil until reduced to 200 ml. Strain the juices into a small pan ready to reheat before serving.
Risotto: Very finely chop 1 small onion and 1 celery stick and place in a wide shallow pan and very gently sweat with some olive oil for about 10 minutes. Turn up the heat and add about 300 g of risotto rice (arborio or carnaroli), keep stirring and cook for 2 – 3 minutes. Add 100 ml of white wine and keep stirring until it has evaporated. Add three ladles of chicken stock into the pan to start off* and stir continuously. When it has been absorbed, add another ladleful. Continue stirring and adding stock in this way until the rice is al dente. This should take about 20 minutes. At the very end stir in a couple knobs of butter and a handful of grated parmesan. Stir in a load of snails that have been boiled, removed from their shells and then quickly sauteed in loads of butter and garlic and finished with parsley and lemon juice. Don’t forget to stir all of the garlic butter from the pan on the risotto.
* According to Heston Blumenthal there is no difference between starting the risotto with a good amount of stock (up to half the stock used) and starting it ladle by ladle and that it is not until a certain point that the stock needs to be absorbed bit by bit by the rice.
Chicken Breast: Place a frying pan over a medium – high heat and add a drop of oil. Place the chicken breast skin side down in the pan and cook until it’s golden brown in colour. Flip the breast over and cook for a few more minutes on the flesh side. Depending on the thickness of the breast, the chicken may need to go into the oven. Just place into a 180°C until cooked through. If you don’t have an oven thermometer place a small sharp knife or metal skewer into the chicken and leave for 5 – 10 seconds. touch it off your top lip, it should be very hot like a cup of tea. If it is not place back in the oven for a few more minutes.
To Serve: Reheat the chicken juices and whisk in around 25 g cold butter, bit by bit. Place a mound of snail risotto in the middle of the plate, top with the sliced chicken breast and spoon the chicken juices over.
Good: Tasty plate of food with bags of flavour. The key to this dish lies in the cooking of the risotto and the chicken breast.
Bad: Not much really, a simple but very tasty plate of food.