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I was following a recipe for a chicken risotto, which said to brown the chicken (breast meat, cut into small pieces, maybe 3/4 of an inch or so) in the pan after browning the onions, and then add the rice and stock to the same pan afterwards (so the chicken was in the pan the entire cooking period of the rice). However, when the dish was complete, many of the chicken pieces had unfortunately dried out.

What can I do to prevent this next time?

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5 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Brown the chicken in the pan where you will cook the risotto. This will give your risotto some nice flavor if you make sure to scoop up the browned bits during cooking. Then remove it. Let it rest on a plate, tented with foil, throughout the whole time you are making the risotto. Towards the last few minutes, put the chicken and any accumulated drippings from the plate back in. This will warm the chicken and add the flavor from the drippings. I use this technique whenever I am doing any sort of single skillet dish with meat, starch, and veggies.

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How long would the browned meat need to cook once put back into the pan? It seems to me like it'd be a tricky balance between getting the chicken back in with enough time to finish cooking (as once the rice is done it'll need to be removed from the heat or else it'll turn to mush) and not having it back in too early and ending up with the same dried out meat. –  Daniel Vandersluis Jan 5 '11 at 17:23
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@Daniel - given that it's smallish cubes, by the time it is browned it should be cooked through (check pieces with a thermometer to verify). That means all you need to do is warm it, which should only take a little while. Given that you are putting it into a fairly moist environment (nearly-done risotto), I think the timing shouldn't be too hard. Something like with the last liquid addition. –  justkt Jan 5 '11 at 17:32
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Cook the chicken separately, and add it to the risotto towards the end. Whenever I make risotto, I usually cook everything but the rice and some aromatic vegetables separately and add it towards the end of cooking.

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+1. In addition to keeping your meat/fish moist, this method will allow all the ingredients to keep their distinctive characters. When cooking everything together the ingredients tend to take on flavour from each other and in the end they all taste the same. Well, maybe not entirely the same, but you get the idea. –  Henrik Söderlund Jan 5 '11 at 10:37
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just an opinion.. Wouldn't cooking the chicken together with the risotto add extra favour to the risotto?

Also, which part of chicken did you use? Have you tried to use chicken thigh which is harder to get dried out?

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I find that I prefer thigh meat for this sort of application. It doesn't dry out as much, and it has a slightly more robust flavor. –  RolandTumble Jan 6 '11 at 22:03
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Brown the chicken in the risotto pan on both sides. Put in an ovenproof dish/casserole and add chicken stock approximately 1/2" (1cm) up the side of the dish. Roast for around 20-25 minutes @ 395F (200C). When done, pour the remaining stock into the risotto stock for extra chickeny flavour. Slice/chop the chicken and add to the risotto just before serving (though this depends on how long you've left the chicken sitting).

Roasting the chicken beforehand removes any worries about the chicken not being cooked, providing of course you cook it through (and believe me, undercooked chicken is not good). Adding the stock to the dish helps keep the meat moist and imbues it with extra flavour (breast meat especially is often quite bland).

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Restaurants often cook this way.
Cook ingredients separately, to carefully control each cooking time/ process.

If you want to meld flavones use chicken stock for the risotto, or a vegetable stock for deglazing chicken.

Add it all together at the end.

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Hi Chef. I see that you've contributed some great answers and earned some reputation of your own; now that you're able to do so, please consider upvoting answers you agree with as opposed to adding similar answers. Answers are sorted from highest- to lowest-voted, so if there's an existing answer you can upvote then it's to everyone's benefit to push that one up higher rather than starting again from zero. You can also leave comments on an answer if you have a minor correction/clarification, and eventually you'll actually be able to edit the answers. Oh, and welcome to Seasoned Advice! –  Aaronut Jan 10 '11 at 15:27
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