Milanese Risotto with Bacon, Leeks, Tomatoes, & Eggs
This post and the accompanying recipe are my response to Lynn’s Celebrity Cook-Along challenge featuring Rachel Ray, the mistress of 30-minute meals. This is a monthly challenge, with a different chef featured each month. As often as I cook, that’s pretty close to perfect for me. Find more cook-along posts here.
Since I first learned of this challenge a few weeks ago, I’ve been recording Rachel’s show—waiting for just the right recipe to come along. It did finally, a couple of weeks ago in a short series Rachel did about meals that can work for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. And who among us doesn’t occasionally like breakfast for dinner? (However, in the interest of full disclosure, let it be known that I am equal opportunity: I’m a big fan of dessert for breakfast or, failing that, dessert before dinner!)
I’ll admit it…I love risotto. Making it is easier than you would think, especially for something that looks and tastes so amazing when it is served. The keys to risotto are the type of rice (you need to use Arborio rice, which has a higher-than-normal starch content) and lots of stirring to develop the creamy consistency that is a prime characteristic of risotto.
4 cups chicken stock
A big pinch of saffron
2 medium leeks
2 tablespoons EVOO
1/3 pound pancetta or thick-cut slab bacon, diced
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 ½ cups Arborio rice
½ cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons butter
4 large eggs
¾ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
½ pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
Finely chopped parsley and sliced or torn basic, for garnish
Bring the chicken stock, 1 cup water, and the saffron to a boil in a saucepan, then reduce the heat to a low simmer.
Trim off the roots and dark green parts of the leeks. Cut the leeks in half lengthwise down the center, then very thinly slice them crosswise. Rinse the leeks in several changes of cold water, then drain and pat dry in a kitchen towel.
Heat the EVOO in a pot with a rounded bottom over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta or bacon and cook until some of the fat has rendered, about 5 minutes. Add the leeks and stir until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and season with salt and pepper, then cook, stirring, about 1 more minute. Add the rice and stir. Add the wine and cook, stirring, until the liquid has been absorbed. Begin adding the hot chicken stock, a few ladles at a time, stirring constantly and cooking until the liquid has been absorbed before adding more. Continue adding stock and cooking until the rice is al dente, about 18 minutes total.
When the risotto is about done, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet over medium heat, then cook the eggs over easy or sunny-side up.
Cut the remaining 2 tablespoons butter into small pieces and add it to the risotto, stirring until melted. Stir in the cheese and the tomatoes, then remove from the heat.
Serve the risotto in shallow bowls and top with fried eggs. Garnish with parsley and basil.
I was a bit skeptical about this recipe. First of all, I had never used leeks before. I was intimidated by their size and was afraid that size meant a strong, bitter flavor. That, most assuredly, did not turn out to be the case. Second, the idea of an egg over rice just plain did not appeal to me. As shown in the photo above, I decided to top our risotto with grilled steak and, I must say, DH and I were both pleased with the result. I did like the color (and flavor) the halved cherry tomatoes provided, and I’m sure that the called-for fresh parsley and basil would have added a nice color punch as well. However, I opted for dried chopped parsley because I forgot to get the fresh herbs when I was at the grocery store.
One last comment: saffron is very, VERY expensive. At one point I considered buying a packet of saffron-flavored yellow rice (e.g., Mahatma Saffron Yellow rice mix) and sifting the mixed-in seasoning out of the rice mix. Fortunately for the integrity of the recipe, I was able to find a less expensive brand (compared to McCormick) of saffron threads.
This recipe as printed says it makes four servings but, IMHO, it should be more like six servings. With the exception of the few modifications noted above, I followed the recipe exactly—so, we had lots of leftovers. I reheated a bit of the risotto for dinner tonight and topped that with an over easy egg. It was OK, but I still like our steak-topped version better. I’ll use up the rest of the leftovers for lunch over the next several days.