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BLT (or BBT) Risotto

September 8, 2010

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Sorry for the radio silence folks. Life got pretty dumb there over the last few weeks, and I had a hard time keeping my shoes on the right feet and my head on straight, much less finding words to write down about food. Which is a crying shame, because this risotto recipe has been sitting here, patiently waiting to be shared, for almost three weeks now. Three weeks! It’s just not right. This risotto recipe was so tasty, even with me burning the bacon, that really, you should have been privy to it right away. But hey, sometimes life gets dumb.

And I’m here to share it now! I urge you to make it soon, while there are still flavorful tomatoes to be had, and basil coming out the wazoo. Because it is good. See, I started getting all these beautiful tomatoes from the CSA, truly beautiful tomatoes. And I had some bacon leftover from making corn pesto (which, really, you should also try). And one night for dinner, visions of BLTs went dancing through my head, but I had no lettuce, it being rather late in the season. However, I did have a crap ton of basil, and some wine, and some arborio rice, and it had been awhile since a lovely risotto had graced my kitchen. So I was inspired to make BLT risotto, or really, BBT risotto, seeing as there is no actual L for lettuce here.

I’ve talked pretty extensively in the past about making risotto, and at one point, I had written up a basic, simple recipe for risotto. Which I later took down and never re-posted, because I sometimes lack follow through like that. Risotto is not as scary as it is made out to be, although it does take practice. I tried three times before I finally got it down. Here are a few key things to keep in mind:

  • Keep the heat low, but not too low. The liquid in the pan should bubble just a bit if you let it sit for awhile.
  • Add liquid in small doses, and wait until it’s almost completely absorbed before adding more. A lot of recipes say to add a cup at a time. I think that’s too much; I usually add about 1/4 to 1/2 cup at a time. I have a small ladle that is perfect for this.
  • You’ll know it’s time to add more liquid when you stir the risotto, and the liquid doesn’t rush in to fill the paths you’ve made with the spoon. I hope that makes sense.
  • You want to stir it regularly, but you don’t have to obsess about it. It’s ok to let it sit and cook away while you pour yourself a glass of wine, or chop something or other, or even fetch a book to read while you’re standing over the stove (yes, I do that).

I will try to write up a basic risotto recipe again soon. I promise.

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This BLT BBT risotto was pretty simple. The only ingredients missing from this pictures are chicken stock and wine. Oh, and salt and pepper. I’m not that great at ingredient shots.

Bacon, Basil, and Tomato Risotto

  • 2-3 strips of thick cut bacon
  • 2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 3/4 cup arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • about 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 3 medium tomatoes
  • about 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • a good handful of basil
  • salt and pepper

You want to use a good, heavy-bottomed skillet for risotto making. Heat the skillet over medium heat. Cut the bacon into bite-sized pieces and add to the hot skillet. Cook the bacon, stirring occasionally so it cooks evenly, until it’s almost crisp, then remove it to a paper towel-lined plate. Drain off some of the fat, so you have about a tablespoon left in the pan. Lower the heat to low-medium. Meanwhile, put the chicken stock in a small saucepan and bring it to a boil. Then lower the heat until the stock is just simmering and keep it close and ready for adding to the rice.

Add the roughly chopped garlic to the bacon fat in the skillet. Cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds, or until the garlic is lovely and fragrant, and just turning golden. Stir in the arborio rice and cook for about a minute, stirring once or twice, until the rice becomes translucent around its little white core. The skillet should be fairly dry. Deglaze with the white wine and scrape up any remaining bacon, garlic bits on the bottom of the skillet.

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Cook the rice and wine, stirring occasionally, until the wine is almost entirely absorbed. Then begin adding the chicken stock. Add a little at a time, stirring and cooking over low-medium heat. Keep going until you’re out of stock and the risotto starts to look creamy. The rice kernels should have a little, barely perceptible bite left, but should not taste raw or uncooked at all. Once the risotto is nearly done, stir in the tomatoes. You want to cook them just long enough for them to start to break down and warm up. Then stir in the reserved bacon, parmesan, basil, and salt and pepper to taste. You probably won’t need much salt, especially if your bacon is very salty, so be sure to taste first!

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Just thinking about this again makes my mouth water. The tomatoes were wonderfully tart and sweet, and the bacon added what it always does: a wonderful smoky salty porkiness that lets me know I could never go totally vegetarian. This wouldn’t be nearly as good without those incredible summer tomatoes, and this encroaching fall weather is pretty much perfect for making risotto. So maybe it is alright that I waited so long to share it.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Nicole Lewon permalink
    September 8, 2010 4:07 pm

    Oh man, this looks delicious! I love risotto. I’ve been craving it for a month now!

  2. stevenwashuta permalink
    September 20, 2010 9:52 pm

    I made this tonight and it was amazing. I’d lost hope after making a few disappointing risottos, but I’d never thought of using bacon grease instead of olive oil. It paired brilliantly with that Sangiovese I had open too!

    • September 21, 2010 7:26 am

      I’ve found that learning to make risotto takes at least three failed attempts before it comes out right. I’m glad you found success in bacon! I almost always drink white wine with risotto (because that’s frequently what I open to cook it), but you’ve made me re-think this. Next time I’ll have to try it with a red.

      • stevenwashuta permalink
        September 21, 2010 9:12 pm

        I had to open a wine for cooking – it was a the only white I had left which I could bare to dump into risotto (gasp!), and it was one step above rocket fuel. Luckily it didn’t seem to hurt the dish too badly, but I think this risotto in particular went well with the sangio (which was a vino nobile de montepulciano) because of the tomatoes. In general I agree though, I usually go with white. If I still lived in WW I’d have liked to meet up for risotto night, but alas, this is life in California.

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