Bacon, Pea, and Gruyere Risotto

In the north-eastern part of Italy, close to Venice, risotto tends to be slightly wetter than in other regions. This recipe is a play on the classic Venetian Risi e Bisi, translated as “Rice and Peas”, that uses the regional rice varietal “Vialone Nano”, but regular Arborio or Carnaroli also works. I use some smoky bacon and the nutty Swiss Gruyere cheese to create a stick-to-your ribs type of risotto that will leave you full, warm, and ready for the end of winter! The bacon we get in from Metzger Meats in Hensall, Ontario, is perfect - it's meaty, with a robust smoke flavour that compliments the Gruyere.

Serves 4 as a side dish, 2 as a main course

Ingredients

1 L                         chicken stock
1 tbsp                   shallot, minced
3 slices                 Metzger bacon, finely chopped
2 tbsp                   butter, divided in half
1                            bay leaf
1 cup                     vialone nano, arborio, or carnaroli rice
2 tbsp                   white wine (pinot grigio or other mildly flavoured wine)
1 cup                     frozen green peas
2 cups                   gruyere cheese, grated
 

Method

1. In a large pot, bring the stock to a simmer over a low heat.

2. In a sauce pan over a medium heat, sweat the shallots and bacon in 1 tbsp of butter. Cook for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the bacon fat has been rendered and the shallots are translucent. Add the rice and the bay leaf and stir well, cooking for another minute. Add the white wine, stir, and allow to evaporate.

3. Add the hot stock to the rice 1 cup at a time, allowing the rice to absorb the liquid before adding another cup. Continue stirring while adding the stock. Test the rice for doneness after 3 cups have been added, and add a bit more stock if necessary. This will take about 20 to 30 minutes, and the rice should have a bit of a chew but be fully cooked through the grain. At the fifteen-minute mark, add the frozen peas. The finished risotto should be wet, like a soupy porridge consistency.

4. Once the rice is cooked, take the pan off the heat and vigorously stir in the gruyere and the second tablespoon of butter. Pour into a dish and serve immediately.