Baked Chicken Risotto

Ham and porcini mushrooms combine to give this updated chicken casserole a wonderful smoky flavor. Arborio rice, typically used to make risotto, works best here; it becomes creamy as it absorbs liquid without becoming mushy.

3/4 oz. dried porcini mushrooms, cut into 1-inch pieces (1/2 cup)
1 cup hot water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 red bell peppers, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
4 oz. ham, diced
1 medium tomato, seeded, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 teaspoon smoked or regular paprika*
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice**
3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1. Place mushrooms in small bowl; add hot water. Let stand 20 minutes; strain through cheesecloth or coffee filter, reserving liquid. Rinse mushrooms to remove grit.

2. Heat oven to 425°F. Heat oil in large stovetop- and oven-proof casserole until hot. Add chicken; cook over medium-high heat 2 to 3 minutes or until browned on all sides. Place on plate.

3. Add bell peppers and onion to casserole; reduce heat to medium. Cook 3 to 4 minutes or until vegetables soften. Stir in ham, tomato, garlic, parsley and paprika; cook 2 minutes. Return chicken and any accumulated juices to casserole; add mushrooms. Stir in rice; cook 1 minute.

4. Stir in broth, 1/2 cup of the reserved mushroom soaking liquid, salt and pepper; discard remaining mushroom soaking liquid or save for another use. (Risotto can be made to this point up to 8 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.) Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; boil 5 minutes, without stirring.

5. Place casserole in oven; bake, uncovered, 15 to 20 minutes or until rice is tender and chicken is no longer pink in center. Remove from oven. Cover; let stand 5 minutes.

TIPS *Smoked paprika comes in mild and hot versions and adds a pleasant smoky taste to foods. It can be found in markets carrying foods from Spain. Chipotle powder can be substituted for smoked paprika but will add a spicy taste to foods.

**Arborio rice is an Italian short-grained rice. The short, fat grains are very starchy and therefore perfect for making risotto because the excess starch helps create the creaminess necessary to this rice dish. It can be found in most grocery stores, as well as Italian markets or gourmet stores.

4 servings

PER SERVING: 645 calories, 20.5 g total fat (5 g saturated fat), 41.5 g protein, 70.5 g carbohydrate, 85 mg cholesterol, 1155 mg sodium, 3.5 g fiber

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