Sending Off the Chill in Style: The Decadent Side of Risotto

Bacon, Brussels Sprout and Blue Cheese RisottoIn those last remaining days before the weather turns too warm for kitchen cooking, treat yourself and family/guests to one last decadent meal to remind everyone that winter has slipped away. The following risotto recipe is the perfect contender. It came to me one day while I was considering how to incorporate some of my favorite but contrasting ingredients. Pancetta, Brussels Sprout & Blue Cheese Risotto, an experiment at first, turns out to have lovely textural and flavorful balance, while still delivering an eye-popping savory onslaught.

The dish is also an exciting opportunity to pour either a hearty Southern Italian red wine, or, what I would recommend for the true adventurist, a substantially rich white wine….think later-harvested Alsace Pinot Gris or mature Savennieres. It’s the kind of dish that these uncommon whites really shine alongside.

Don’t be intimidated by the recipe; stick with it, and in a reasonable amount of time, with minimal clean-up, you will be feasting blissfully, while impressing your guests. Bon Appetit!

Pancetta, Brussels Sprout & Blue Cheese Risotto (Serves 4)

4 oz pancetta, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup Arborio rice
4 cups chicken stock, just barely simmering
1 pound Brussels sprouts, stemmed and cut into halves or quarters, depending on their size
2oz blue cheese (I like Cambozola) sliced into ½ cubes
1oz premium parmesan, shredded
3-4 Tbsp Oloroso or Amontillado Sherry

Place pancetta in 10 inch deep skillet, over medium heat….the goal is to render the fat and keep pancetta crisp. Remove pancetta and perch upon paper towel.

Pour off all but 2 Tbsp of the fat (reserve the rest for later cooking).

While pancetta is cooking: microwave the Brussels sprouts in a large, shallow microwave-safe dish, covered with paper towel, until firm in the root….between 1&2 minutes (tension is felt when you put a knife through the stem). Set aside.

Risotto in Pan Showing Bottom

An example of a “thirsty” risotto. When a stir reveals the bottom of the pan for a moment, it’s time to add the next splash of chicken stock.

Add garlic to pancetta fat and let cook until the garlic becomes fragrant. Add rice and coat with pancetta fat. Let cook for about 5 minutes under medium heat. You don’t want the rice to brown, but rather to become a tad translucent. Add the sherry and let it simmer until almost dissolved. Add chicken stock, 1 cup at a time (you’ll know it’s time to add when a stir reveals the bottom of the pan for a brief moment). Stir perpetually, enjoying the aromas as you do.

After the third addition of stock, add the Brussels sprouts into the risotto. When the fourth (and final) addition of stock is added, season with salt and Szechuan pepper. Of course, cook to taste; I like mine with some “tooth” left in the rice, but with a creamy consistency overall.

DSC_7182When desired consistency is achieved, add parmesan and incorporate. Right before plating, fold in the blue cheese for a couple of turns. Garnish with pancetta and serve. And don’t forget that wine!

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