I’ve been making this for YEARS and it’s consistently my favorite dish to make for company. I first learned how to make risotto in Bizzy and Nina’s happy yellow kitchen, about five years ago, from a Best Recipe book. It was the perfect thing for me: kind of fiddly, easy to modify, really hard to screw up. I make it with sausage, I make it with bacon, I sometimes make it with chicken or maybe asparagus. Risotto is awesome, guys. As usual, my recipe style gets a little ramble-y – DON’T BE PUT OFF. I promise it’s easy. Recipe after the jump!
1/2 lb bacon, chopped into quarter-inch pieces. [don’t get the lean stuff, y’all, it’s the extra fat that melts off and gets absorbed by the rice that makes this AMAZING. this is not a low-calorie meal. If you want to use sausage, I generally go for the kind that comes in a tube.]
1 medium to large onion, diced small.
2 cups arborio rice.
8oz baby bella mushrooms, cut into small to medium pieces. [shitake and crimini work nicely, as well.]
up to 64 oz chicken stock. [what i mean here is, i like to purchase two 32oz boxes of stock and just use what i need. i almost always need more than one, and never need a full two. you could purchase ONLY one box, and use hot water to make up the difference, which works very well indeed, especially if you’ve got a bullion cube kicking around you could add. vegetable stock is, naturally, just as lovely.]
1/2 cup of golden sherry. [i’m actually guessing here, because i haven’t measured how much i use. i also have used dry white dinner wines, but find that risotto with sherry is sweeter.]
2 to 3 handfuls of finely grated pecorino romano cheese. [this is my favorite hard, grating cheese. I almost always reach for it over parmesan.]
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER.
In a medium sauce-pan, put one box of stock on a low simmer. it’s important the stock is hot when you add it, or the rice will take longer to absorb. when you get low on the first box, add more from the second a cup or so at a time to avoid wasting. [Confession: i often skip the pre-simmer part. I am impatient, and I don’t like having to wash a lot of pots.]
In a stock pot [reasonably heavy and LARGE enough to stir this, three quarts is big enough and to spare because the risotto will get very thick and gooey] on medium heat, brown the bacon/sausage. If using sausage, once it’s browned and delicious, go ahead and pull it out so it doesn’t get in the way when you start adding the rice. Make sure to leave as much fat in the pot as possible.
IF USING VEGGIES [see notes at the end] – it’s better to cook them at the beginning in the bacon fat before the onions. Once soft, and still a little crispy, pull them aside until later. Again, leave the fat in the pot.
Add the diced onion and saute until soft and translucent. I like my onions brown a bit, so I let this keep going.
Add mushrooms and saute until they give up some juiciness.
Add rice and stir well. let cook for a few minutes, stirring often, but do not let the rice burn or stick. You want to brown the grains gently because they’ll absorb the stock better.
Start adding the chicken stock a cup or so at a time. My ladle happens to be very close to half a cup, so I try to add two at a time, or give it six or seven glugs from the box. This is precise business, folks.
Stir rice frequently. It’s time to add more stock when you can drag your wooden spoon against the bottom, and the liquid doesn’t rush right into the valley.
Once you have added the first box stock, but before the rice slows down it’s absorbency, add the sherry or wine and keep stirring constantly. you can even forgo this step entirely, if so desired. here is a good place to add back the sausage/veggies that might have been removed.
I don’t add much salt to this, as it will be v. salty from the bacon and cheese, and the stock if you’re using the regular stuff. I do, however, add pepper. Freshly cracked, and as much as you can stand, right before adding the cheese.
When you’ve added a box and a half of the various liquids and the rice has become v. thick and sluggish, throw in the cheese a handful at a time and stir it all together. sometimes, when coming to this step, my rice is still a bit crunchy. Turn the heat down very very low, and cover tightly, letting the whole thing mellow around for a while and become very thick. Eat a spoonfull every once in a while to test it. When the rice is tender, you’re done! YAYE!
Obviously, I encourage experimentation and have a very cavalier attitude toward the whole process. You may want to add shrimp! Or chicken! Or broccoli! Whatever strikes your fancy, I’m confident will turn out very well.
This goes very well as a side to chicken (try grilling chicken breasts and topping them with parmesan or pecorino while still in the pan) or beef (excellent with grilled steak, seasoned with just salt and pepper) – or indeed, all on its own.
Unbutton your waist coat, put your furry feet up, and enjoy this delicious treat. You’ll be back for a second supper, to be sure.