As someone who never thought he would utter the sentence "I really don't like bacon in x" this is difficult for me to admit. I don't like bacon in risotto.
Let me clarify. Bacon: amazing. Risotto: delicious. Together: no thanks. There's something about the clash of textures, too harsh, too chewy, that I can't get behind. It's a shame, really, because the flavour of bacon is perfect for risotto. Salty, meaty, and slightly smoky? How can that not work with starch, cheese, and butter?
Referring back to my original risotto guide, the solution came from first principles: risotto being stock, rice, and the-rest-of-it. There's no real bacon-flavoured rice — If exists it likely comes from a packet and tastes horrible — and I've already complained about making bacon the-rest-of-it, so what we need is bacon stock. Hey guess what? I have bacon stock!
Ingredients (makes about 1L):
- 350 g bacon, diced quite small
- 1 tsp tomato paste
1. Cook the bacon slowly in a large heavy-bottomed pot until it is deeply caramelised. Expect this to take a while. Pour off any fat and return to a medium heat.
2. Add the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute, then top up with 1.5-2 L (6-8 cups) of water and bring to a medium simmer. Simmer for 2 hours, then pour through a fine mesh strainer.
A few notes: Dicing the bacon before cooking means that there will be more delciously caramelised surface area to infuse into your stock. Don't add any salt to it either (you shouldn't be adding salt to your base stock anyway) as the bacon and tomato paste are already pretty salty. Finally, bacon can be very fatty, so you will want defat it. Either cool it in the fridge overnight and strain out the solidified fat, or use this handy trick.
With your bacon stock made, bacon-flavoured risotto is easy as pie. I used my basic risotto recipe, with some minor modifications. Because I failed to follow my own advice (salted the bacon out of habit, and didn't defat out of impatience) my stock was both salty and fatty. As a result the risotto didn't need extra butter or cheese. The bacon fat emulsified with starch from the rice to make a creamy risotto, and sans cheese it went perfectly with butter-poached prawns (screw you, heart disease). A pinch of cayenne pepper perked it up, and I was set.