Monday, May 28, 2012

Bacon and Tomato Risotto

The inspiration for this risotto is a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich. Lettuce in risotto didn't sound like a good idea, so I had to come up with something else. I considered spinach, but thought the flavor would be too strong for it to represent iceberg lettuce.

I chose avocado. Not only is the color close to that of iceberg lettuce, the creaminess is similar to mayonnaise. I didn't mix it with the risotto, though - it was a garnish on top, along with crumbled bacon.

The rice I was working with was a brown rice instead of the typical white rice, so I wasn't sure what to expect. I figured it would require more liquid to cook to the proper consistency, and since I'm at high altitude I usually need more water, anyway.

With risotto, it's all about cooking to the right consistency, so use as much liquid as you need - don't follow the amount, pay attention to the texture.

This dish was created for a contest at Marx Foods, and they supplied the rice to all of the participants. As much as I like risotto made with the typical white rice, I thought this was interesting. And if you're going to be eating a rice-based dish, it's not a bad idea to use a whole grain, at least once in a while.

When the contest goes live, I'll be begging politely asking for some votes.
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For sundried tomatoes, I prefer the ones that are sold like dried fruit - in bags - rather than the ones in jars. I like the flavor and texture better, but use whatever you like - or whatever you can find. You can also dry your own tomatoes, if you prefer.

For the stock, I used a homemade stock. A good-quality commercial stock is fine, but you don't want something that's too salty because it reduces a lot during the cooking time. The cheese also adds a saltiness, as does the bacon.

If your stock is salty, you can cut back on the stock and use water for some of the liquid. If you need to add salt, you can easily do that during cooking, but if your dish is too salty because of your stock, you can't take it out. If you're using a commercial product, look for something that's low-salt or unsalted.

Bacon and Tomato Risotto

1/2 pound bacon
1 cup Integrale Rice
1/4 cup vino verde
6 cups chicken stock (as needed)
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes
Salt, to taste
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1 avocado, diced

In a large saute pan, cook the bacon until it's crisp pouring out the bacon fat as it accumulated and reserving it for later use. When the bacon is done, remove it from the pan and drain off the remaining grease, leaving just a light oil slick in the pan.

When the bacon has cooled, dice it or crumble it for use as a garnish, and set aside until needed.

Meanwhile, heat the stock in a saucepan and leave it simmering lightly

Add the rice to the pan and cook stirring as needed, until the rice changes color - it will become more white. You'll see as you cook it.

Add the white wine and cook, stirring, until the pan is nearly dry again.

Add the stock, one ladle at a time, stirring often, keeping the liquid at a slow simmer. You want to continue adding the liquid a little at a time, never letting the pan go dry, but not drowning the rice. The goal is for the rice to release its starch into the liquid to create a thick sauce, and for the rice to be cooked through but still a little al dente. This should take about 20 minutes, but could be longer. Mine took a bit more than 30 minutes.

About halfway through the cooking time, chop the tomatoes roughly and add them to the risotto. You want them to soften, but not lose all of their chew.

Taste for seasoning and add salt if needed in the last few minutes of cooking - but keep in mind that there's cheese to come.

When the rice has reached your desired consistency, add the cheese and stir it in, along with a tablespoon of the reserved bacon fat.

Serve, topped with diced avocado and crumbled bacon.