Friday, May 15, 2009

Bacon and egg risotto

This is a recipe from the Ojai Valley Inn courtesy of the Los Angeles Times' Culinary SOS column. Risotto is pretty flexible so just moving the flavors from Italian to American isn't all that interesting, but instead of dumping a bunch of cheese in at the end, the recipe called for a raw egg yolk to be mixed into each serving at the table and that seemed worth a try.

I wanted to add some vegetation to the dish so I left out the minor amount of chives and substituted in a good bit of finely chopped broccolini. No doubt that ruined the balance of flavors Jaime West, the original chef, was looking for, but I think it still turned out fine.

3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 tablespoon butter
3/4 cups arborio rice
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
3 strips bacon, preferably apple-wood-smoked, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/8 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/8 cup chopped chives [or a full cup of broccolini]
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 egg yolks

1. In a medium saucepan, bring the broth to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low to keep the broth warm.

2. Meanwhile, in a 4-quart heavy pot over medium heat, cook the onion in the butter until softened, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Stir in the rice, garlic and bacon and cook, stirring frequently, until the bacon begins to brown, about 3 minutes.

3. Stir in one-half cup warm broth and continue to cook the rice at a simmer until the broth is absorbed, stirring frequently. Continue to add the broth, one-half cup at a time, stirring constantly until each addition is absorbed before adding the next, until the rice is creamy-looking but still slightly chewy, 18 to 20 minutes (you should have leftover broth). [I added the broccolini at around 10 minutes and ended up using the full three cups of broth and 25 minutes of cooking time.

4. Stir in the cheese and chives, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

5. Immediately divide the risotto between 2 warmed plates, and make an indentation in each mound of risotto for a yolk. Place a yolk in the center of each mound and serve immediately.

The egg flavor comes through clearly in the sauce so there's no mistaking this for a traditional risotto. It's rich and smokey with a little bit of bitterness from the broccolini. I think the flavors would be rather straightforward and boring without it though. I was more attentive to my stirring than usual and I think it paid off in rice that was firm but not chalky and a thick creamy sauce. I cut my bacon larger than the recipe called for so I had a little problem with chewing limp rubbery bacon pieces, but crisp really isn't an option in a risotto. Kind of misses the point of bacon, though; There are plenty of other ways of adding smoky flavor. I wonder if there's some way to make it work with a smoked ham hock instead.

Anyway, I did like it; Not as much as a traditional risotto with prosciutto and cheese instead of bacon and eggs, but I did like it well enough.


Karen said...

Wonder if you could separate the bacon to a first step - y'know, brown the bacon pieces til crisp and remove them to a paper towel to drain, then proceed with adding the onion and rice etc etc, and just add the crisp bacon back at the last minute, just before the egg yolk? I think you'd still keep the smokiness and richness and be able to get the crisp.

kat said...

I'm with Karen about the bacon, I think that would really help with the texture though it wouldn't be infused with bacon flavor.

billjac said...

It's a trade-off between infusing the flavor and texture. Probably the best thing to do would be to use twice the bacon--a couple slices cooked with the rice in big chunks that could be fished out later and a couple more slices cooked crisp and crumbled over top at the end.

But at some point you have to stop and think: bacon, eggs and risotto is slightly less tasty than bacon, eggs and grits so why am I bothering? It's a clever fine-dining presentation, but if I'm cooking for myself at home, I think I'll go with the grits.

Karen said...

Oh grits, absolutely, AND they're less labor intensive than risotto. Maybe add some cheese, too, as long as we're not worrying about arteries.

But about infusing the flavor - we get thick-sliced handmade smokehouse bacon from Colorado which is plenty smokey (though not so locavore). Or if we're out of that the Applewood Farms Sunday Bacon at Publix, also thick-sliced, is an OK sub. But it's seldom a bad idea to increase the bacon, as well. :)

billjac said...

I used that sort of extra-fancy thick cut bacon in this recipe and I think the double-thickness contributed to the textural problem. I've been having the same trouble with most every recipe I've used it in so, while I like the hand-crafted cure and smoke, I'm going back to thin sliced next time around.