Smoky Bacon Risotto with Peas
Risotto is such a comforting meal, I'm surprised I don't make it more often. I suppose I'm put off by the notion of standing next to the stove and stirring for 20 minutes, which can seem like a lot of work after a long day. But, you know what, time flies with a glass of wine in hand. So, pour yourself some wine and belly-up to the stove for a little quality time with your wooden spoon. I'll bet you'll be glad you did.
The results will be exceptional if you have homemade stock on hand. You can use chicken stock, or smoked pork stock, or a combination of the two. For tonight's dinner, I'm using the stock made from a smoked pork hock purchased at my local farmer's market. See recipe below*.
To make two generous portions as a main course, or four smaller portions as a side, you'll need:
- 2 strips smoked bacon- cut into 1/2 inch slices or lardons
- 1 small onion- about 1/2 cup finely minced
- 1 cup arborio or carnaroli rice
- 1 glass dry white wine
- 6 cups homemade stock
- 1 cup fresh or frozen peas
- 1/2 cup grated Parmagiano Reggiano cheese
To start, bring your stock to a simmer. Keep the pot of stock handy to your risotto pan, so you can easily ladle the stock into the rice throughout the cooking process without a lot of spillage.
In a large skillet, over medium heat, cook the bacon lardons until crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan, and drain on paper towels.
Add the minced onion to the pan and cook until translucent and lightly golden around the edges, about 3-4 minutes.
Next add the rice, and cook for another minute or two, stirring constantly. The rice should be nicely coated in bacon fat.
Add the white wine and stir until the rice has absorbed almost all of the liquid.
Add a ladle or two of stock and continue stirring until most of the liquid has been absorbed.
Ladle.. stir....repeat. Don't forget to sip your wine. Continue for about 12-15 minutes.
Taste the risotto to test for doneness. If the grains are still slightly crunchy, continue to cook for another 5 minutes before proceeding, if the rice is al dente, it's time to add the peas, bacon, and cheese to the mixture. Stir the rice with an additional ladle of stock until peas are cooked, another 2-3 minutes.
Garnish with a few shavings of Parmagiano Reggiano, and serve.
*Smoked Pork Stock:
The broth from a smoked pork hock has a lot of body, it's very gelatinous, with a wonderful bacony flavour. Simmered slowly, overnight, with a few aromatics in the crockpot, one hock will yield about 8-10 cups of rich smokey broth. I like to freeze it small portions so I can easily combine it with other bases to add a subtle smoky flavour whenever desired.
Place the following ingredients in large crockpot:
- smoked pork hock
- 3 large carrots
- 2 ribs celery
- 1 large Spanish onion
- 1 leek
- 10 cloves of garlic
- 1 whole clove
- 6 black peppercorns
Add enough water to the crockpot up to 1 inch below rim. Cook on high for 2 hours, reduce heat to low and cook for another 6-8 hours.
Let cool for 30 minutes or so, and strain solids. Discard vegetables and set hock aside to cool. Shred the meat from the hock, and reserve for another use.