This risotto has bacon in it. Is there really more that needs to be said? How about the fact that it’s paired with one of the most under appreciated vegetables around, the humble leek? When we lived in Macedonia, we cooked with leeks a lot. Leek pie, leek soup, leeks in our omelets. Like everything else at the market, leeks were cheap and delicious. Now, whenever I buy leeks, I can’t help but think of another expat we knew during our time in Macedonia. Never one to let her limited (but growing!) knowledge of Macedonian stop her, my friend set out for the market during one of her first few months in the country. Noticing one old woman with particularly good looking leeks, she mustered up her best Macedonian and asked for two. “Two?” the seller asked her. My friend nodded and handed the woman a few denar. The woman took her money and reached behind her to pull up two ginormous bundles of leeks. Surprised by her purchase and not quite sure how to articulate that she actually only wanted two individual leeks, not forty kilos of them, and realizing that this life-time supply of leeks probably cost her less that two dollars, my friend threw the leeks over her shoulder and hauled them back to her apartment across town. She was giving away leeks for a week!
Should you find yourself in a similar situation, I suggest this risotto.
For years, I was intimidated by the thought of making risotto. All the stirring! Might as well be tied to the stove! As it turns out, the constant stirring is actually a myth. The key to a creamy, flavorful risotto is to use high quality ingredients (flavorful chicken broth), and to add the liquid slowly giving the rice time to absorb it without getting gummy.
- 6 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 2 cups aborio rice
- 1 medium onion (diced)
- 4 strips thick cut bacon
- 1 large leek (thinly sliced)
- 2-4 teaspoons lemon zest
- 1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
- In a medium saucepan bring chicken broth and wine to a boil. Reduce heat to lowest setting.
- Heat a heavy cast iron pan over medium and fry bacon until crispy. Remove and set aside. Drain all but a few tablespoons grease from the pan.
- Add leeks to the cast iron pan and fry until they just begin to brown. Transfer leeks to a small bowl and set aside.
- Add onion to cast iron pan and sprinkle with a few pinches of salt until they begin to become translucent, about five minutes. Add rice to the onions and let cook three to four minutes. The edges of the rice should become translucent, but should not brown.
- Pour just enough of the hot broth/wine mixture into the cast iron pan to cover the rice and onions by about a centimeter. Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer until all of the liquid has been absorbed by the rice. Stir occasionally to ensure all rice comes into contact with the liquid. Repeat this process about 3-4 times, until all of the liquid has been incorporated into the rice. The entire cooking time should take about 45 minutes.
- Just before the final batch of liquid is fully incorporated stir in parmesan cheese, and add lemon zest, salt, and pepper to taste.
- Remove from heat and stir in half of the bacon and half of the leeks.
- Serve hot, garnishing each bowl with remaining bacon and leeks.