One of the nicest benefits of writing this blog (besides getting to electronically meet folks from all over the world) is that local friends often provide me with food gifts. They give them to me because they know I will use them and I guess sometimes they are interested to see if I will write about what I do with them.
Recently, I was the lucky recipient of a large quantity of fresh herbs from my friend Karen’s garden. Oh, boy, was I excited thinking about all I could do with this collection of flavors.
First up was a risotto with fresh sage and bacon. I used to believe that I didn’t like sage. I thought is was too strong and musty and it made me think of camphor. But, then I realized that I only dislike dried sage. Freshly picked sage is another story…it is lighter with a bit of lemony flavor. Perfect paired with butternut squash or apple, or bacon…!
This recipe is the result of my experimentation with making risotto in the oven, instead of the stovetop with constant stirring. It is great for an easy after-work meal. This is inspired by a recipe from Delia Smith. It is has a slightly less creamy texture than risotto prepared in the traditional way, but I think this is good in its own right. I hope you do, too.
Oven Risotto with Sage and Bacon
about 2 Tbsp olive oil
4 to 6 slices of bacon, sliced into lardons (small, thin strips)
1/2 cup sweet onion, diced
1 cup arborio rice (specially made for risotto)
5 Tbsp white wine or lager beer (whichever you have on hand)
2 cups chicken broth
about 2 tsp fresh sage, chopped
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 to 4 Tbsp parmesan cheese, grated
First, find a pan that can move from the stovetop to the oven. If it has a lid, that makes it really perfect. If it doesn’t, you can just use foil instead. I used an enameled cast iron pan that my brother passed down to me.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
Place your pan on the burner and heat about 1 Tbsp of olive oil. Add the lardons or bacon strips and cook.
Once the bacon starts to brown, add the diced onion. Depending on how much fat your bacon has, you may need to add more olive oil at this point. Stir and cook until the onion is soft.
Add the rice and stir to coat the grains in the oil.
Now, add the wine or beer, chicken broth, sage, and black pepper.
Stir to blend and turn down heat to low. Bring the mixture to a simmer.
Turn off burner, cover pan with lid or foil, and transfer to preheated oven. Bake for about 20 minutes. Then, remove lid or foil cover, and add the grated Parmesan cheese.
Stir, recover, and put it back in the oven for another 10 minutes. The final texture should be thick with no liquid left. If there is some remaining liquid, just stir, recover and place back in oven. Check it every five minutes or so until it reaches the appropriate texture.
Serve warm and you may want to add a bit more grated Parmesan cheese to each helping.