Saffron Pancetta Risotto

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This risotto turned out to be the best I've ever made, and you should try making it, or one similar to it--if, that is, you don't mind standing next to a hot stove for 45 minutes making circular motions with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula. I find the stirring to be quite relaxing, especially when you assign the task to someone else while you sit down with a good book. When they (inevitably) complain, you may choose to remind them that they, having no kitchen skills beyond the boiling of water, are lucky to be the benefactor of your culinary wisdom and should be grateful of the opportunity to work on their underdeveloped triceps. However, you should resist the temptation of this response, since at best you will have to resume the stirring yourself, and at worst will have to dodge behind the papasan to avoid a hurtling, goopy spoonful of hot risotto.

I was kind of winging it, so the measurements are just estimates. The main thing is to keep an eye on it, add more liquid whenever it boils off, and keep stirring, stirring, stirring. Add whatever ingredients you like, but I have to say pancetta (Italian-style bacon), white wine, and romano all complement eachother excellently and make for a great, creamy-textured risotto.

The risotto was served with red wine-braised veal liver and onions, a request from a friend who mentioned that while it was tasty, it was not quite as good as the liver they ate in her native Kazakhstan, made with some sort of sour cream sauce. We also made some wine braised chicken cutlets for her boyfriend, who, forgivably, doesn't care for liver. No pictures of the liver or the purple chicken unfortunately, since I'm still getting used to the focus features on my new digital camera and the pics came out rather blurry. Visualize the purple chicken on your own.

2 cups arborio risotto rice
5 cups chicken stock
1 cup dry white wine
1/4 pound pancetta, sliced into small strips
1 medium sized onion, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp fresh thyme, minced (or 1/2 tsp. dried thyme)
1/2 tsp. saffron threads
1/2 cup grated romano
salt & pepper
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter

1) Start by heating a sautee pan over medium heat and add the pancetta, stirring occasionally, allowing the fat to cook off, then remove the pancetta to a plate and add garlic, carrot, and onion. Sautee until onion is a light golden brown and set aside.
2) Heat olive oil and butter in a large sautee pan, add the risotto rice and stir to coat. Add about 1/2 cup of white wine and continue stirring until wine has cooked off. Add another 1/2 cup wine and repeat process until wine is gone, then continue process using chicken stock, 1/2 cup at a time. It will take roughly 40 minutes for the rice to cook to perfection, and you may not need all of the chicken stock, or you may need more. The rice should be creamy, but with a slight firmness. As I mentioned, you or someone else MUST stir the risotto the entire time.
3) Once the rice is just about cooked, add the thyme, pancetta, onion mixture, and saffron. Stir for about another 5 minutes.
4) At the very end, add the romano (or asiago or good parmesan) and stir for another minute off the heat.
5) Enjoy.


Barbara (Biscuit Girl) said...

Your pictures always make me sooooo hungry! I'm waiting to get the italian cookbook you mentioned in your last entry so I can try the polenta dish. And now I think I'll have to add this risotto one to my list as well.....

And purple chicken....hmmmm....you know, I'm gonna have to take a pass on that one.

Kitchen Monkey said...

Say yes to purple chicken! It was really tasty, and kids might like the fun color! My father used to put green food coloring in the waffle batter for us, and we loved it! I have yet to try putting red wine in my waffle batter. I think I'll wait until I have kids.