I don’t have to tell ya’ll its hot as a pepper sprout out there. It’s uncomfortably warm and unattractively hot – unattractive sweating mind you – yet in exchange for the persistent perspiration and heat, we get summer produce. Fair enough… fair enough.
Since it is literally roasting outdoors, I thought I’d use the same technique in the kitchen. I roast everything. Fruit, vegetables, meats… there is something so fabulous about charring and caramelizing the sugars and serving up these dishes that are easy, pretty, and sometimes, unexpectedly divine (namely roasted cauliflower… you’ll be enthralled with the goodness!)
We eat chicken and rice in some form or fashion often. I’m always trying to interject seasonal savoir faire into the dish and this time of year is perfect for my Vidalia Onion Risotto with Braised Basil Chicken. Basically, follow the directions for risotto (I love the Rice Select products) and be sure to use good chicken stock for the liquid. Water and bouillon cubes makes a quick stock and throw in some thyme and basil for summer flair.
Brown the onions first… this is the start of nearly every savory dish this Farmer makes. Mimi does and Mrs. Mary does… need I reinvent the wheel? If you have never fallen for a TV infomercial gimmick, I’m sorry; for there is one that is great! The Vidalia Chop Wizard and its counterparts – it really makes chopping onions a less tearful event. Yet, try slicing the onions super thin with a mandolin and voila! You’ll have the perfectly thin browned onions for your risotto, squash, corn, succotash, gumbo, jambalaya, soup, peas, beans, salads, etc etc etc… this is a fun tool! Brown your onions for your risotto and your braised chicken and you’ll have a flavor base full of depth and richness.
Braising is another fabulous cooking method and by utilizing this method with chicken, wine, seasoning, and fresh herbs, you’ll surely have happy campers at your table. If you have very thin chicken cutlets, just brown them with the onions and add some wine. So easy and delicious! The sweetness of thyme and basil infiltrate into the dish and liven up the bolder flavors with summer herbal zest.
We’ve had a mess of squash this summer and though cooking it down in browned onion in the iron skillet is bar none Southern fabulousness, a twist is to roast thinly sliced rounds of squash. Olive oil, salt and pepper… that is all you need for roasting veggies. A hot oven (400-450) will roast your squash or what have you until golden greatness and desired crispiness. I like a bit of char – the beauty of roasting is that crisp and tenderness combo. YUM!
With distinct flavors abounding in this meal, something lighter and clean to gully down was completely apropos. My cucumber salad with the same herbs I had used in the other dishes carried the flavor and made for the perfect garden to table pairing. Again, my mandolin came into action, for these cucumbers were delicately thin and decadently delicious. Dissolving a bit of sugar in the vinegar in the microwave with the herbs too infuses other flavor accoutrements into this salad’s dressing. Ice down the dish and the textural delight of warm and cold dishes is simply divine.
Though it is so hot, match the heat with your kitchen’s own firepower! From this Farmer’s garden and kitchen – roast on this summer!