Some cooks are like ninjas. They’re flexible, well trained, fast, and unobtrusive. I’m not a cooking ninja. I’m more like a luchadores, a masked Mexican wrestler - over the top in all ways. And the first part of luchadores almost looks like the word “lunch”, which is part of why I like it.
Anyway, I’m not a subtle cook - and this recipe is not subtle at all. I read a recipe for bacon and leek risotto with a fried egg somewhere online, and the idea looked amazing (Jeff and I often eat eggs for dinner), but the execution looked - well, dull and ricey. So, I vastly increased the bacon (because something with four strips of bacon can only be improved by the addition of an additional pound), added loads of garlic (because, like bacon, garlic improves everything it touches), and added two additional leeks. And I poached the eggs rather than frying them sunny-side up because I hate that uncooked egg slime on a sunny side up yolk.
And so we ate the bacon and egg risotto and fell in love. But there was a lot left over. So the next day, we had it again. But my tradition with risotto is on day 2 (and beyond), I make rice patties from the leftovers and fry them in butter until they are gorgeous and crusty and golden on the outside. The poached eggs then reside upon these crispy circles, with asparagus and salad on the side.
I haven’t done it yet, but next time, I intend to use the risotto patties as a base for smoke salmon benedict - bacon risotto, generous layer of smoked salmon, poached egg, hollandaise - it will be sublime.
About the bacon. I’ve been thinking about bacon a lot lately. I can’t like the usual grocery store bacon. It’s full of yucky chemicals and water, and mostly tastes like salt. Who knows where the pigs have been or what they have ingested? On the rare occasions I buy bacon at the grocery, I at least buy the nitrate free kind. It has actual flavour and is missing at least some of the chemical shitstorm that is mass market bacon. I also buy bacon sometimes at the St. Lawrence market - its made of actual meat by the butchers. But most of the bacon I eat comes from my meat CSA - my friends at Stoddart Farm offer amazing bacon with wonderful flavour from pastured berkshire pigs. And I have been experimenting with making my own bacon - in the european style (to avoid the nitrates), which tastes more like pancetta than classic bacon, but is darn good. My point here is that if you want the risotto to really taste good, buy some decent quality bacon!
About the coconut oil. I’ve been using this in cooking more and more. It’s an awesomely healthy fat that isn’t damaged by heat (the way olive oil is). I use two kinds: simple organic coconut oil and organic processed coconut oil. The processed has all the flavour and fragrance of coconut oil removed, but maintains the health profile. If you don’t have coconut oil, use butter. I usually use a little of each.
About the eggs. Did I mention that my friends at Stoddarts sell organic, pastured, eggs? The yolks are dazzlingly bright orange and taste fabulous. Why settle for factory farmed eggs?
About the parmesan. At least buy the kind you have to grate yourself rather than the pre-grated kind. One, it tastes WAY better and because it is not desiccated, it integrates more easily into whatever you are cooking. Two, the rind is the secret ingredient for homemade stock, so it MUST be saved (more about this in a future post).
Bacon, Garlic and Leek Risotto
1-1.5 pounds bacon (sliced and cut into lardons)
3-4 large leeks (cleaned, quartered lengthwise and sliced very thin)
5 cloves of garlic (finely chopped or pushed through a press)
2 cups of arborio rice
6 cups chicken broth
½ - ¾ cup freshly grated paramasan
A twist of fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper
eggs (there should be enough risotto for at least ten eggs, make as many as you will eat for this meal)
Slice the bacon slices crosswise to make matchstick-size pieces. Sauté in a skillet over medium heat until the bacon is quite crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain in paper towel.
In a saucepan, melt a spoonful or two of coconut oil and or butter. Add the Arborio rice and stir, coating each kernel with the oil. Toast gently until fragrant, (or until ever so slightly browned at the edges).
Add a cup of broth to the rice and stir five or six times. As the broth is absorbed and evaporates continue to add ½ to ¾ of a cup of broth at a time and stirring, stirring, stirring after each addition.
After you have added 4½ cups of broth, add the bacon and leeks to the rice and stir well. Continue adding another cup of broth, then stir in the parmesan, lemon juice, a spoonful of butter, and a generous shake of pepper. Taste it to see if it needs salt (depends on the parmesan and the kind of broth you used). Adjust the seasonings, while trying not to eat all the rice directly out of the pot with a spoon.
Take the rice off the heat, cover it, and put it aside.
Poach the eggs: Bring about two inches of water to a boil in a deep skillet. Add a generous dollop of white vinegar to the water. Break the eggs in one at a time.
You have to be speedy here, because the eggs cook quickly. Add the last half cup of broth to the rice, stir it in, and spoon however much you want into a shallow bowl (pasta bowls are perfect for this). The rice should not be fluffy - it should be just a little soupy, and should slump rather than sit up when you put it into the bowl. If it is too firm, add more broth.
I like poached eggs with the white cooked, but the yolk runny. As soon as the whites are fully white and opaque, turn off the heat and use a slotted egg turner to remove the eggs one at a time. Blot each egg on a little paper towel to remove the water as you transfer it the top of some rice. Jeff and I like two eggs per bowl.
Part 2: leftovers:
Left over rice goes into the fridge and will keep adequately for a week.
When you are ready to eat your left overs, prepare patties by measuring out about 4 heaping spoonfuls of rice and firmly shaping it into a “burger”. I use a burger press because I happened to get one in my Christmas stocking one year, but use whatever method works for you. Make the patties about ¾ inch thick and about 4 inches in diameter.
Heat a skillet and add 3 tablespoons of butter and a dollop of coconut oil. Add the rice patties and fry in the butter until dark golden on the bottom. Flip the patties and cook until golden on both sides (adding more butter if needed)
Be careful when you flip the patties - they are quite delicate and break easily (although if they do break, just stick them back together and move on). When they are cooked, plate them and top each with a poached egg.