But inspiration came easily this month. April may have rained on my parade, but May flowers will save it.
In spirit of that popular saying, I intend to spend my weekends foraging for my food. I recently attended a presentation at which I learned about local plant life that people on the land here have eaten for hundreds of years.
I’m likely to kill myself picking the wrong plant, so l’m definitely getting an app to help me identify the plants I learned about. Luckily, myriad plants were available for tasting during the presentation and I was able to nab some to bring home.
And luckily, it was a plant not too far outside my knowledge base. Say hello to my little friend: the wild leek.
Also known as ramps, wild leeks taste much like onions but without as much bite. You can substitute them in any recipe that calls for onions or shallots.
With that in mind, I just had to incorporate them into this risotto recipe I tried awhile back. The caramelized wild leeks create pockets of sweetness that complement the savory bacon and cheese. Topped with panko-crusted chicken, ramp leaves and crispy chicken skin, this dish has all the right flavors and textures.
Caramelized wild leek and bacon risotto with panko-crusted chicken and crispy skin
1/2 pound bacon or pancetta
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped wild leeks/ramps
1/2 cup chopped shallots or onion
2 quarts chicken stock or low-sodium broth
6 cloves roasted garlic
2 cups arborio rice
1 teaspoon coarsely chopped ramp leaves
1/2-3/4 cup shredded Italian cheese-colby jack blend
1/2 cup white cooking wine (or your favorite dry)
Panko-crusted chicken with crispy skin
2 chicken thighs, with skin removed and bone out
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs
A forewarning: This recipe takes a bit of time to make, maybe an hour, most of it hands on.
Pull off the skin and debone the chicken thighs. Set the skin to the side. You can save the bones to make broth for another dish or throw them away. Once the chicken is deboned, cut the thighs into fairly even pieces or pound them flat.
In a small bowl, beat the egg. Dip the chicken into the egg then into the panko, coating each piece completely. You can set these aside for now and fry in skillet when the risotto is close to being done or you can pop them in the oven. Cook until golden brown.
You also can bake or fry the chicken skin until it is golden brown.
Cut the bacon, the bulbs of the wild leeks, onion and roasted garlic into small pieces. Chop the leaves of the leeks into small ribbons and set aside.
Cook the bacon on medium heat until crisp, then transfer to paper towels to get rid of the excess grease.
Drain off almost all the bacon grease, leaving about a tablespoon in the skillet. Add in the wild leeks and onion. Cook on medium high heat until lightly browned. Reduce the heat to low and cook until they are soft and browned. Set the leeks/onions aside in a bowl.
Using the same pan, now start your rice and garlic. Cook for a couple of minutes, then add the white cooking wine and enough chicken stock (I used a garlic variety) to cover the rice. Cook on high until boiling, then reduce to medium. From here on out, you’ll need to constantly stir, adding in about a 1/2 cup of chicken stock every time the rice absorbs the liquid.
This will take about 20 minutes. Regardless of time, you will need to taste your rice. It’s done when the grains are tender and the sauce is creamy.
Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the onions, bacon and cheese. (I like to use a mix, but risotto is traditionally made with Parmesan.) Season with pepper. (You can add salt, too, but the bacon is enough, I think.) Spoon the risotto into bowls, then top with the ramp ribbons, chicken and skin.