When I think of the values I want to pass on to my children, somewhere near the top of the list is the ability to see what we have in common with others, more easily than we see our differences. Perhaps that is why I love the book Everybody Cooks Rice by Norah Dooley. In this book, a young girl visits her neighbors in a close-knit, multicultural neighborhood and discovers something they all have in common – they are all eating rice for dinner. As she tastes the different rice dishes at her neighbors homes, she also hears stories about their lives in other times and places. This is a wonderful book for talking about both diversity and commonality within our communities. We looked at a children’s atlas, as we read the story, to pinpoint where each of the families came from and talked about how amazing it is that people cook and eat rice in such a wide variety of locations in the world. From the Caribbean, to Asia, to Italy, everyone really does cook rice!
To go along with this book, I chose to make a recipe for risotto using a method that I’ve just recently been introduced to. I know the thought of risotto conjures up images of constant stirring over a hot stove, but I recently made this recipe for baked risotto from The Clever Carrot and found it to be so easy and delicious! Instead of slowly adding broth and stirring the rice on the stove, you basically dump all the ingredients in an oven-safe pot and bake it until the liquid is absorbed. This version of risotto is a little less creamy than traditional, stove-top risotto, but the convenience makes up for the difference in texture and it still has a wonderful flavor. My kids don’t love tomatoes or sausage, so I changed up the flavors and ingredients a bit here and added some spring veggies for good measure. I hope you enjoy this easy family dinner and the book that inspired it!
Baked Lemon Chicken Risotto
Time: 1 hour
Adapted from The Clever Carrot
For the chicken:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
For the Risotto:
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
3/4 cup Arborio rice
3 1/2 cups chicken stock or broth
1 cup asparagus stalks, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup frozen or fresh peas
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
Fresh thyme, lemon zest and extra parmesan for garnish, if desired
- Preheat oven to 350ºF. Place the chicken breast halves on a sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle the salt, pepper and dried thyme over the chicken and toss to coat. Cook in preheated oven for 20 to 30 minutes, turning halfway through, until lightly browed and no longer pink in the middle. Remove from the oven and chop chicken into bite-sized chunks.
- Meanwhile for the risotto: Heat the olive oil in an oven-safe pot or dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the onion and garlic and season with the salt, pepper and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened and translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Add the rice to the pot, stirring to coat it well with oil. Pour in the chicken broth and stir to combine well. Bring rice mixture to a boil then remove from heat, put the lid on the pan, and place it in the oven. Cook rice for 30 minutes, or until almost all the liquid is absorbed.
- Once the rice has cooked and most of the broth is absorbed, add the chopped chicken, asparagus and peas to the pan, stirring well to combine. Return to the oven and continue to cook another 10 minutes, until chicken and veggies are warmed and all the broth has been absorbed.
- Remove the rice from the oven and stir in the lemon juice and parmesan. Serve topped with fresh thyme, lemon zest and extra parmesan, if desired.