Bacon, Beer, and Three-Cheese Risotto

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I love my friends, but they are a bunch of enablers.  Instead of going outside or having a life, I prefer to spend my free time trying new things out in the kitchen.  They are happy to oblige, always providing me with recipes that caught their eye or that they think I would be interested in.  Of course, it serves their own interests as well, since they normally get to consume the finished product.  I’m not complaining.  I have discovered some pretty delicious things by having a friend plant the seed.

One such friend, who is practically “vegetarian except for bacon,” sent me this recipe, which immediately caught my attention.  Bacon, beer, and three-cheese risotto!  I love carbs, bacon, and cheese.  What could possibly be bad about combining them all into one, steaming bowl of creamy risotto?  Nothing, that’s what.  I challenge anyone to refute that.  So, I agreed to give this recipe a shot.  And, of course, she was more than happy to come and “assist” and critique the finished product.  Quality control is an important job, you know!  But, thanks to the extra set of hands, I managed to catch some shots of the process to making this decadent dish.

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Now, I am normally a pretty ad-hoc cook, but risotto is a fairly time-sensitive dish that requires constant attention.  You really can’t step away to chop a shallot or grate cheese while it simmers, so mise en place (prepping everything and having it ready to go before you start cooking) is critical.  So, before you get started, make sure all of your ingredients are prepped and ready to go.  You can heat up your broth or stock while this is happening.

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While your cooking liquid is warming up, you can start cooking the bacon.  Make sure you lower the heat on the liquid as soon as it starts to simmer.  You don’t want to add boiling broth/stock to your risotto.

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Fry the bacon until it’s nice and crispy, and then strain the bacon out and set it aside.  Do not clean out your pan.  Just pour out all except for about a tablespoon of the bacon fat.

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So, we’re leaving the fond-crusted pan as-is and dumping our chopped shallots in there, then the garlic once the shallots are soft.  Once the garlic is starting to get fragrant, throw in the rice and let it brown a little.  Add the beer, and cook until the rice absorbs most of it.  Then, reduce the heat and start adding the hot stock/broth, one ladle at a time.  Let the rice absorb most of the liquid before adding another ladle, continuing to stir gently.  It will take about 20-30 minutes for the rice to cook, so be patient and don’t rush it.  If you run out of liquid and the rice is still not cooked through, you can add some hot water and continue stirring until it’s the desired consistency.

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Once the rice is the desired consistency, add the cheeses and stir until they are melted.  The original recipe uses Parmesan and cheddar, but we added a bit of Gruyere to give it some additional bite.  Add the bacon after that, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Dinner is served!  See those dark flecks of solidified bacon drippings floating around in there? That’s concentrated flavor!

If you’re feeling fancy, garnish with an extra sprinkle of cheese or some chopped parsley or chives.  But, I’m not fancy.  I’m hungry.

EDIT 10/28/2017: I recently discovered that this can also be made in a pressure cooker, which saves a lot of effort.

Bacon, Beer, and Three-Cheese Risotto

Ingredients

  • 1 cup uncooked Arborio rice (add in extra 1/2 cup if using a pressure cooker)
  • 6 slices of bacon, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 bottle of beer (I use lager)
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 quart broth or stock of your choice (I use Vegetable or Chicken Stock)
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup Gruyere cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Pour chicken broth in a small pot, and let it sit on a gentle heat.

In a large sauté pan, cook bacon to render the fat. Once crispy, remove from pan and set aside.  Leaving about 1 tbsp of the bacon fat in the pan.  In the bacon fat, add the shallot. Cook until translucent, then add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains in the fat. Cook for about 2 minutes.

Once the grains begin to brown slightly, pour in the beer. Stir and let simmer. Once the liquid is mostly absorbed, add a large ladle of the hot broth/stock. Continue to stir until the liquid is mostly absorbed. Repeat the process until the grains are creamy and cooked through.

Lower the heat and stir in the cheeses and cooked bacon. Remove from heat and serve.

To make in a pressure cooker: Follow the same steps as the stovetop recipe, except use the liner of your electric pressure cooker on the Saute/Browning setting, until you get to the part where you add the beer.

Once the rice has absorbed most of the beer, add in the entire 4 cups of broth or stock.  Cover and seal your pressure cooker, then cook on Manual (High Pressure) for 6-7 minutes.   Immediately release the pressure, uncover, and remove the liner from the pot.  Stir the rice with the liquid until it starts to thicken.  Add the cheese, a little bit at a time, until all of the cheese is melted and risotto is creamy.  Stir in the cooked bacon and serve immediately.

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