Sorry folks, tonight’s dinner is not the healthiest though it is pretty tasty. Besides, who doesn’t love a creamy, savory Risotto with fragrant Spanish Saffron, bit and pieces of delicious crispy bacon and fresh and colorful Brussels sprouts…oh and did I mention caramelized onions, that’s right!
I had some Arborio rice left over from a rice pudding recipe I made a few days ago; and since we all know that Arborio is pretty much the grain for risotto (well at least according to this Cook’s Illustrated article), mainly due to its high starch content which contributes to its creaminess, I guess I had no better use for this rice than the recipe below.
Making Risotto, though satisfying, is a labor of love. First, get your biceps ready for some heavy duty stirring and second, do not sit down for longer than 5 minutes while the rice is cooking unless the chair is next to the stove, trust me! In the end, I don’t know of anybody who doesn’t appreciate a good Risotto and the cook that made it for them.
As far as the healthiness issue, the main offenders in this recipe are the bacon, the bacon fat, a bit of butter, the heavy cream and the chicken broth. None of these ingredients are really in excess though and some good portion control should take care of the problem, however, some substitutions could be made if you so desire. For example, I used turkey bacon instead of pork bacon and low sodium/fat chicken broth. As far as the butter and cream, I did go for the real deal because I didn’t find any acceptable substitutes in my fridge. Otherwise, this recipe turned out pretty perfect. Enjoy!
Brussels Sprouts and Bacon Risotto
Adapted from Jenny Eatwell’s Rhubarb & Ginger
(makes about 4-5 portions)
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- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 6 strips of turkey bacon
- 2 cups (about 14) fresh Brussels sprouts
- 2 cups Arborio rice
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- 9-10 cups low sodium/low fat chicken broth, warmed
- juice of one lemon
- 4-5 threads of Saffron, soaked in 1/2 cup of warm water for 20 minutes
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Shredded green onions and grated Parmesan cheese, as garnish (optional)
- In a saucepan bring salted water to a boil. Add the Brussels sprouts and blanche for 3-4 minutes, drain and plunge into ice cold water to stop the cooking process. Once cooled, drain, slice thinly and set aside.
- In a large frying pan over medium heat, fry the bacon until it releases the fat and turns golden and crispy. Remove the strips from the pan and set aside over paper towels to dry. Allow them to cool and then crumble with your hands into small pieces. Reserve the pan with the bacon fat.
- Return the pan with the bacon fat to the stove over medium heat (you should have about 2 tablespoons of bacon fat in the pan, otherwise, remove some if you have more than that). Add the onions once the pan in hot and stir to coat the onions and spread evenly on the pan. Cook the onions for 10 minutes until browned, stirring frequently (depending on how strong your stovetop burner is you may need to reduce the heat to medium-low to prevent the onions from burning or drying out.
- Once the onions have caramelized, add the rice to the pan and stir in. Add the 2 tablespoons of butter and allow to melt while stirring to coat the rice. Cook for about a minute or two and then add 2 cups of the warm chicken broth and stir. Make sure the broth stays warms so as to not reduce the cooking temperature of the risotto after each addition. Add the 1/2 cup of water with the soaked saffron to the pan as well as the lemon juice and stir in. Once the risotto comes to a simmer reduce the heat to low and allow to cook. The rice will absorb the chicken stock as it cooks, after which you should add another 2 cups and continue in this vein, all while stirring frequently. The risotto will take about 30 minutes to cook. During this time, you should have gone through the entire 9-10 cups of chicken broth, two cups at a time every time it looks like the liquid has been absorbed.
- When the rice is close to being tender and cooked and little liquid is left in the pan, add the heavy cream and stir well to incorporate. Allow the rice to cook for 3 more minutes, stirring often. Add the Brussels sprouts and the crumbled bacon (you can preserve some of the bacon to add later as a garnish) and allow to heat through as the rice finishes cooking.
- Taste the rice and add salt and pepper if necessary.
- Remove from the heat and serve warm sprinkled with the smoked paprika and topped with the shredded green onions, grated Parmesan and crumbled bacon.