20 February 2012

Bacon & Asparagus Risotto

This lovely risotto isn't the risotto it should have been - although as it worked out, it was fairly exceptional in its own right.

You see, we had invited my parents over for lunch last week.  It seemed like a good moment, as son & heir was on holiday and we hadn't had them over to our place for quite some time.

However, we hadn't banked (and neither had he) on son & heir going down with what appeared to be a nasty cold, just two days before they were due to come.  Poor chap, he wasn't very well at all, and as my Dad is isn't in his first flush of youth, we figured that he could do without contracting such nastiness.  So, it was regrettably all called off - the day after we'd done all the shopping for the meal.

We had planned for hubby to make a Prosciutto, Asparagus & Petit Pois Risotto.  Problem number one came when the supermarket didn't have any Prosciutto.  We bought some bacon as a fall-back position and crossed our fingers that we'd be able to find some elsewhere.  In the circumstances we didn't need to - and the bacon got press ganged into use.

The Petits Pois got abandoned when we realised that we had double the quantity of (Moroccan - it'd be absolutely fabulous with English) Asparagus necessary to feed three people - and the Bacon & Asparagus Risotto was born.

Like a lot of recipes, this simple to make, comforting and very satisfying taste of Italian indulgence came out of necessity rather than via a recipe book.  I like it when that happens!


Ingredients :

500g asparagus, cut into pieces
250g streaky bacon, grilled and liquid fat reserved
25g butter
1 tbsp olive oil
2 banana shallots, diced finely
1 clove garlic, minced
320g arborio or carnaroli rice
half a glass of white wine
2 ham stock cubes in 1.2L of water
1 tsp dried basil
50g grated parmesan.

Method :

1.  Bring a saucepan of lightly salted water to the boil and, while you are waiting for it to boil, prepare a bowl of cold water with a tray of icecubes in it.

2.  Once the water is boiling, add the asparagus pieces and cook for 3 minutes.  Retaining the water, remove the asparagus and place into the iced water to stop the cooking process and retain the bright colour.

3.  Grill the bacon until the fat has rendered out of it.  Reserve the fat and slice all but 2 rashers into small pieces and reserve.

4.  Chop the remaining two rashers until finely minced and set aside.

5.  Now we get on with the risotto itself.  Using the cooking water from the asparagus, prepare the stock with the dried basil and have this simmering in a saucepan next to the risotto pan.

6.  In a large heavy bottomed saucepan, melt the butter and add the olive oil.

7.  Add the shallots and cook until softened, but not browned.  You want to keep the colour of the rice as pure and white as possible.  If you allow the shallots to brown, which will affect the colour of the end risotto.

8.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, then add the rice and half the bacon.  Cook and stir on as hot a heat as you dare, until the rice is completely coated in the buttery juices.

9.  Add the wine and continue to cook until it has sizzled all the alcohol out - a mere 30 seconds to a minute.  Stir continuously.

10.  Add a ladleful of stock and stir until the rice has absorbed the stock, then add another ladleful and stir.  Continue in this fashion until half the stock has been absorbed, then add the remainder of the bacon.

11.  Continue with the ladleful of stock and stirring, until the rice has become tender to the bite.

12.  Drain the asparagus and add it to the risotto, along with the Parmesan cheese.  Give everything a good stir and then leave, with a lid on, to rest for 5 minutes.

13.  Serve onto warmed plates and garnish with an asparagus point and the minced bacon.  A bowl of additional grated parmesan can also be served, for diners to help themselves.

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