Risotto. A mere mention of the word strikes fear in many a cook. Seasoned or other wise, utter it and you may see someone break a sweat. All one has to do is watch an episode of the Food Networks “Chopped” to witness the sight first hand. For many, sometimes myself included, the risotto can be somewhat of a mystery. To properly prepare one requires a certain amount of finesse and the proper loving care in its preparation. When creating a risotto that achieves greatness, virtually no short cuts exist.
It doesn’t have to be hard to make a good risotto. A good quality Italian risotto rice is preferable. Arborio is the one most commonly available in American markets. The grains of this rice are short and stubby and absorb liquid without becoming gluey (unless they are overcooked). The rice is stirred constantly, with hot stock added a cup at a time, until it has reached a point of softness but with the grains retaining their shape. They should be creamy, with a slightly resistant core and should not stick together or to the bottom of the pan. The whole procedure usually takes about 20 minutes.
Like with anything else in life one wishes to master, a good risotto takes patience and time to perfect. Practice makes perfect and there are no shortages of the possible variations on this classic dish which you can experiment with. This Spring Pea and Bacon variation is a good example.
6 ounces hickory smoked bacon
2 cups frozen baby peas, thawed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small sweet onion, minced
2 cups Arborio rice
½ cup dry white wine
7 cups simmering organic vegetable stock
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cups fresh pea tendrils
In a skillet cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp. About 6 minutes. Drain the bacon on paper towels; reserve 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat.
In a food processor, puree half of the peas with 1 cup of water. In a large saucepan, heat the oil. Add onion and cook over medium heat until softened, 5 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring, until the rice is evenly coated with oil. Add the white wine and simmer until almost evaporated. About 3minutes.
Add enough hot stock to just cover the rice and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the stock has been absorbed. Add more stock to cover the rice. Continue cooking and