Sunday, October 7, 2012

Corn & Bacon Risotto

This is one of my favorite risottos to make in summer and early fall. This recipe originally came from chef and cookbook author, Sara Jenkins and was featured in Edible Manhattan's first issue in the fall of 2008. I've been making a version of it ever since. I love how this dish adapts traditional Italian cooking and makes it completely American using ingredients that are local to us in the states. As Sara Jenkin's says in Edible Manhattan, "You wouldn't ever eat this in Italy, but it's true to the spirit." 

Risotto takes well to so many ingredients, making it a great vessel for the abundance of summer and fall vegetables. In fact, one of my favorite things is to go to the farmer's market, pick out what looks best and create an impromptu risotto. I did just that with my family last month while winding through the Santa Cruz farmer's market in California. It seemed everything was jumping out at me! Vibrant piles of squash and peppers, enormous bunches of basil with dirt still clinging to their roots; you never know what you'll find! Nothing is more fun or satisfying than to cook a dinner where the ingredients are a celebration of the best produce you found that day. 

Early autumn is an exciting time at the market because the summer and fall vegetables overlap for a week or two. Those big colorful peaches and tomatoes begin to disappear just as crisp apples and winter squash pop up. 

I always think of this risotto as a base to add on to. I particularly love stirring kale or swiss chard into the creamy corn just when the rice has finished cooking. Sometimes when you find really fresh and sweet corn (where the kernels look so plump they could burst) you don't need to add anything; just let the corn do its thing. Happy fall!


Slightly adapted from Sara Jenkins, Edible Manhattan, September/October 2008

2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
4 to 6 slices thick bacon, cut into ¼-inch pieces
1 medium yellow onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 to 6 ears fresh corn, kernels sliced off and cobs reserved 
2 cups Arborio or Carnaroli rice 
1 cup dry white wine
5 to 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock, preferably homemade
1½ cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano
Salt and pepper to taste

In a 4-quart saucepan, heat the stock to a simmer with the reserved corncobs.

Meanwhile, in a large Dutch-oven or stainless steel pot, heat oil and 1 tbsp. butter over medium-high heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring constantly, until bacon begins to crisp, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Add onions and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring, until onions are translucent, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic, stir, and cook for 1 minute more. Stir in the corn and cook until it begins to brown slightly (if cooking too quickly, adjust heat to keep from burning). Add the rice and cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour in the wine, stir, and allow to be absorbed by the rice, about a minute. Add 1 cup of stock to the rice, stirring constantly, until just absorbed, about 2 to 3 minutes. 

Add 1 ladle full of stock (about ½ cup) to the rice and stir until almost absorbed. Continue adding 1 ladle full of stock at a time, allowing to absorb each time before adding more, stirring constantly. Continue in the same manner until all of the stock is used up. The risotto should be tender but slightly firm (here is where you can stir in some greens if you'd like). Remove pot from heat and stir in the cheese and remaining 1 tbsp. butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper and cover. Let rest for 5 minutes. Serve immediately with freshly ground pepper and a sprinkling of Parmigiano cheese.


  • Feel free to substitute the bacon with Italian pancetta.

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