If the pesto I made the other week was one of the most beautiful things I have made, this risotto is easily one of the most luxurious. This weekend has been rather terrible in San Francisco – overcast, fog so thick it feels like it’s raining and wind to make it all worse. Seeing as that it was not summer weather, I was craving a not summer meal. Risotto screams comfort – warm, thick and rich, it seemed just the right way to end this weekend. My first memory of risotto is one that my mom made, simply with prosciutto and white wine, and how amazingly decadent it was with the bacony hints. I wanted to recreate some of that magic with a seasonal twist.
Even though the weather in the city wasn’t really summer, the farmer’s market was still bountiful with the summer stock brought in from other parts of the Bay Area. I wanted to find some snap peas for my seasonal twist, inspired by my friend’s recent regaling of a pea risotto she made, and luckily I found one stand with the last of the season’s sugar snap peas. They are crunchy and sweet, and really take no time at all the shell. While I only used the peas, the shells are edible too and would make a great addition to the risotto or a snack for later.
For the actual recipe, I turned to Jamie Oliver. I’ve loved him ever since he was the naked chef (in fact, I have the menu from his restaurant Fifteen hanging in my kitchen from the night I ate there while studying abroad in London), and am pretty disappointed he no longer cooks on TV, but I own a couple of his books found my inspiration there. I ended up with an amazing combination of bacon, rosemary and peas – the low and slow cooking method allows the rice to absorb all the flavors and the constant stirring develops the starches making it thick and rich. The rosemary is woody, which pairs perfectly with the nutty parmesan and smokey bacon, while the butter adds smoothness and a sweetness that matches the peas. Along with some sweetness the peas add texture and pop in every bite. I love this combination, but the great thing about risotto is that there is a basic method and base recipe that you can add any seasonal ingredients and add-ins you prefer!
Pea, Bacon and Rosemary Risotto*
- 3 cups home-made or good quality chicken stock (this is a huge flavor builder, so get the best your can find)
- 2 pieces of bacon, sliced
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 shallot + 1/2 onion, finely chopped
- salt + pepper
- 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
- 1/2 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
- 1 cup Arborio rice
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 cup peas (more if you like!)
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1.5 oz parmesan cheese (grated fresh from the block, not the pre-grated kind)
1) Heat the stock in a separate pot, bring close to a simmer
2) Lightly brown bacon in a separate pan
3) Heat olive oil and add shallot and onion when hot. Add a pinch of salt and sweat the veggies for a few minutes. Add garlic and cook for another couple of minutes until veggies are soft.
4) Add rice, rosemary and bacon – cook while continuously stirring until the rice is moderately translucent, about 5 min. You don’t want to brown the rice, so if you see it start to change color, decrease the heat. This is where the rice is picking up all the flavors in the pot – exciting!
5) Add the white wine – it’ll smell great, it’ll sizzle, and the rice is soaking it all up! Continue to stir until the rice has absorbed all the liquid. This is where things start to get a little labor intensive, but it’s totally worth it.
6) When the wine is absorbed, add half a cup or so of the warm chicken stock. Keep on stirring! When all the liquid is absorbed, add another half a cup while continually stirring and repeating these steps. Keep the rice and stock mixture at a high simmer, not a full boil, this will allow all the rice kernels to cook evenly all the way through.
7) After you’ve added about half the liquid add the peas to the mixture, so they’ll cook as the rice finishes.
8 ) Eventually the rice will plump up and the mixture will be thick and creamy. Start tasting the rice sooner rather than later, when it is soft with a slight bite, you’re done! You may not need all the stock, so make sure to taste as you go. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
9) Now you could stop here. It tastes good, it looks good, and it’s lactose/gluten-free! However, to make it fully luxurious and decadent, you add the butter and cheese – AMAZING.
10) Indulge and don’t feel bad! You used fresh ingredients, there are no preservatives, and you know all the love it contains.
This recipe will serve about 2 full meal servings, or 3 smaller portions.
* adapted from The Naked Chef