BLT – The World’s Best Sandwich meets Risotto.
Bacon, Leek and Tomato Risotto.
Oh yes I did.
A few years ago there was in internet poll going around asking what one thing can be added to almost anything else and make it better. The winner, hands down was bacon. It’s true. I wouldn’t lie about bacon.
The Parking Dude was out of town at a conference most of the week so in between my John Cusack Movie Marathon, I decided to make some risotto to use up a few tomatoes that were hanging out on the counter. That’s when the bacon started calling to me from the fridge. Then the leeks wanted in on the party. Wasn’t long before a big old pot of BLT Risotto was bubbling away on the stove.
Here’s what you need:
Arborio Rice, Bacon, Leeks, Tomatoes, Vegetable Broth, Chicken Broth*, White Wine, Romano Cheese, Salt & Pepper (not shown).
We’ve made Risotto here once before. Risotto is made with Arborio Rice which has a shorter, fatter shape than regular long grain rice.
It also has more starch than regular rice which makes Risotto creamy and delicious. I am able to find Arborio Rice in my regular old grocery store. However, if you have access to an Italian Market/Grocery, you are not only very cool and lucky, but you’ll also be able to find it in larger bags much and much cheaper.
For this recipe, I like to peel my tomatoes. Tomatoes in Florida have a very tough outer skin and when you cook with them, it pulls away from the tomato pieces and floats around in the sauce. If you want to peel your tomatoes, follow these easy steps…
Grab 2 large, ripe tomatoes and cut a little X into the top. In the sink, carefully pour boiling water over the tomatoes. Stop 1/2 way through, turn the tomatoes over, and pour boiling water on the other side.
Let the tomatoes rest for about 10 minutes. Then, the peel should easily lift away from the flesh of the tomatoes.
Sometimes you’ll get a stubborn tomato and it takes a little help with a sharp knife to remove the peel.
Once the tomatoes have been peeled, cut off the stem end and give them a gentle squeeze to remove most of the seeds.
You can stick your finger up into those little compartments in the tomato to help loosen the seeds. Chop up the skinless, seedless tomatoes into small chunks and set them aside.
Bacon. I’m using about 1/2 pound of Center Cut Bacon because that’s what my store had on sale. Any variety of bacon will do the trick. Cut the bacon into bite sized pieces.
Grab a large pot and cook the bacon over medium low heat.
Cook the bacon low and slow to render out as much of the delicious fat as possible. Don’t be in a hurry to get it too crispy too fast or it will taste bitter.
In a medium sauce pan, combine 2 cans of vegetable broth with 1 can of chicken broth*. Heat the broth over medium heat to warm it up. It’s important that the broth be hot (but not boiling) when we add it to the risotto.
I’m using a combination of vegetable and chicken broth because I wanted a boost to the flavor of vegetable broth but didn’t want the risotto to taste like chicken. 2 veggie + 1 chicken worked well.
Check in on the bacon and give it a gentle stir around the pan to keep it from sticking.
Lop off the root end and the tough dark green parts of three leeks. Cut each leek in half lengthwise.
Leeks are related to onions but have a mild, subtle flavor. They’re grown in sandy soil so it’s not uncommon for leeks to be quite dirty and gritty. To avoid gritty leeks, run each half section under running water while you separate the layers slightly. Don’t be afraid to give these a good rinse.
Slice your nice clean leeks into thin little semi-circles.
By now the bacon should be nice and crisp. Remove it to drain on a paper towel covered plate. Try not to eat all the bacon bits while the risotto cooks. This is harder than it sounds so you might want to hide the bacon in the microwave where you won’t be tempted by it. Just speaking from experience.
Take a look in the pan (sorry there is no picture, I had a case of the blurries) and if you have an abundance of bacon grease, remove all but 2-3 Tablespoons of grease. (If you’re a good southern cook, you’ll keep this bacon grease for making cornbread.)
Add the sliced leeks to remaining bacon grease and stir them around in the bacony goodness. Cook the leeks over medium heat until they are slightly wilted but still vibrant green, about 3-4 minutes.
Add 1 1/2 cups of arborio rice and stir it around in the leeks. Cook the rice in the bacon grease/leeks for 1-2 minutes just to coat the little grains of rice.
Add 1 cup of white wine and stir, stir, stir over medium to medium low heat. The cooking risotto should bubble slightly when you add the liquid. Just watch the heat to be sure it doesn’t get too hot, stick and burn.
The trick to cooking risotto is in the stirring and adding liquids. Rather than dumping all the liquids in at once, risotto is made by adding the liquids a little bit at a time and then stirring the rice until almost all of the liquid has been absorbed. Then you add more liquid and stir, and more liquid and stir. You get the idea.
If you have a helper who is willing to stir in exchange for a beverage and witty conversation, ask them to assist. If not, enjoy these quiet moments you’ll have to reflect on your day while you stir away.
Now that the wine has been absorbed into the rice, add about a cup of the hot broth.
Stir, stir, stir….
Add more broth and stir, add more broth and stir…
You’ll notice that as the risotto cooks, it plumps up and also starts to develop a very creamy texture.
It will take about 15-20 minutes to add all the broth* and for the rice to become tender. Like pasta, risotto should be cooked al dente — tender but with a very,very slight bit of resistance in the middle when you bite into it.
*Depending on how your risotto is cooking, you might not need all of the broth OR you might use up the broth and still need a little more liquid. Risotto isn’t an exact science. Give yours a taste and if it’s tender and you have a bit of broth left in the pan, that’s okay. Save the broth to add to the leftovers as it thickens up a lot as it cools. OR if you need extra liquid, add a little water and cook until al dente.
When the risotto is tender, add the chopped tomatoes.
Season with pepper and continue to stir until the liquid from the tomatoes has been mostly absorbed.
Stir in 1 cup of grated Pecorino Romano (or Parmesan) cheese. To me the cheese and the bacon are salty enough to flavor the risotto. However, taste it and season with additional salt and pepper to your own taste.
Serve the risotto in a bowl and top with bacon and a little extra cheese. Makes 4 large servings.
Add a green salad and a John Cusack movie and make an evening of it!
Here’s the recipe: