This just in: Risotto alla Carbonara IS the Ultimate Comfort Food
September 28, 2011 in Entrees
I love it when the need for a dish creates the dish itself. Necessity is always the mother of invention, ‘mother’ being the key term in this particular case. A mom in our circle of friends recently had her second baby, and had smartly registered on MealBaby to ensure that a regular rotation of nourishing food arrived on their babymooning doorstep.
On MealBaby, you can be as general or as specific as you like about your dietary needs and preferences. In my friend’s case, I thought risotto sounded like a great comfort food for them, but they need to make sure a good amount of protein is in every entree. So I started wondering about what kind of meat would be the most harmonious in a risotto. Bacon came to mind – and then the idea struck: what about a risotto . . . . rendered in carbonara form? Did I dare?
The first time I made this, I tried it with turkey bacon, and thought it was already a resounding success (the family agreed). The second time, I decided to go all the way, with full-on 100% bacon bacon. And all I have to say is that unless you have a dietary reason to avoid any of the admittedly decadent ingredients herein, you must, MUST make this, preferably as your autumn weather begins to make its turn into the coming chilly months.
There are a few points within this recipe where you choose your own adventure. First, the bacon question. Should you use regular pork bacon, it will render enough that you can then saute the onion and rice in the leftover fat. If you use turkey bacon, though, you’ll want to start off heating the pan with a little butter, and possibly add a tiny bit more after you remove the cooked slices. Next, you can choose whether to add the yolks into the full pan of risotto at the very end, OR, and only if you’re serving it immediately and piping-hot, you could top each serving with its own perfect egg yolk. Especially pleasing if you’re using the fresh and richly-colored yolks from backyard chickens. And finally, though this might go without saying, it’s worth emphasizing that you’ll want to taste, taste, and taste before including any additional salt; between the stock, the Parmesan and the bacon, you could easily overdo it without even trying.
RISOTTO ALLA CARBONARA
12 ounces bacon (or12 ounces turkey bacon plus 1-2 tablespoons butter)
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups arborio rice
1 large onion, diced
1/3 cup dry white wine
3 egg yolks (or one per serving, if you’re choosing the all-out presentation)*
about 1/3 cup flat-leaf parsley or chives
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, and more for serving if desired
Salt to taste (I can’t stress that enough)
In a very large medium-hot skillet, saute the strips of bacon for about 10-15 minutes, until nice and crisp, turning frequently. In a separate saucepan, heat the stock to just below a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Set the cooked bacon strips aside and let it cool before you chop them into bits. Reserve the rendered fat, as we’re going to saute the diced onion in that goodness. Once the onion softens, add in the rice and stir until well-mixed and well-coated.
I’m in the camp that believes that for a real, bona fide, fully-pedigreed risotto, the first liquid to hit the pan should be a bit of dry white wine. Just about a third of a cup (a good “glug”) should do it. I love the aroma of the resulting steam that rises from the pan – and was heartened to know there is an functional explanation for its necessity beyond tradition and yummy smells: it not only adds its own flavor, but enhances the other flavors present in the dish.
Back to the stovetop! From here on out is the ritual of adding a ladleful of hot stock and stirring, another ladleful of stock and stirring, ladleful of hot stock and stirring. Once the rice reaches al dente firmness – usually about 20 minutes or so – slow down on the stock (and it’s okay if you run out, too, you just might need a ladle or two of hot water to finish the job), and add the egg yolks at this point unless you’re presenting the risotto with individual egg yolks atop each dish (remember, in this case it must be served hot, hot, HOT). Stir in the cream, the Parmesan cheese, chopped parsley, and yes, finally, the bacon.
Take a moment to anticipate this. Decorate your plates withe extra flourishes of parsley/chives and cheese, and taste for salt (multiple times, preferably). [Not pictured but also GLORIOUS: a scattering of halved cherry or grape tomatoes per bowl.]
Commit to extra exercise the rest of the week, a regimen of salads, perhaps a juice fast for a day or two. It IS worth it.
– posted by Anne