Bacon-Balsamic Radicchio Risotto

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This post might be more appropriately titled, “Falling in Love over Risotto”, since in a way, I actually did.  Having not eaten risotto until grad school, I decided I was going to make it for W for Valentine’s day.  He ended up doing most of the work.  It was the best risotto we’ve had, likely in part because it took hours to make the broth, and because it was the first time we worked together to prepare an elaborate meal and bring it to the table.

Since then, we’ve shared countless risotto versions, from a truly romantic night out abroad to a frugal meal needing few ingredients, at home.  I’ve loved them all.  This version, I’ve been meaning to make for ages, as it showcases my new favorite winter green, radicchio.  Though radicchio is not actually green, it does fall under that category, as a member of the chicory family.  Radicchio is fairly bitter, and pairs very nicely with sweet balsamic vinegar and nearly-caramelized onions.  Add bacon to that trio and this risotto truly fits the winter-comfort food category.

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If you’ve been in need of comfort lately, as I have, consider spending some quality time making risotto this week.  For me, whiling away an hour or so in the kitchen brings real solace from the rest of the world’s wearies.  Enjoy.

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Bacon-Balsamic Radicchio Risotto, adapted from Dishing Up Oregon
3 strips thick-cut bacon, diced into 1/4-inch pieces 
1 head radicchio, diced
2 large shallots, diced
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbs. brown sugar
1 small handful raisins
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 Tbs. reserved bacon fat
1/4 cup finely diced fennel bulb
1/4 cup finely diced yellow onion
1 cup Arborio rice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium-low heat until crisp.  Take out of pan and drain off extra bacon fat.  Reserve for cooking risotto.  Add the bacon back to the skillet along with the radicchio and shallots and cook until the radicchio wilts, about 2 minutes.  Add 2 tablespoons of the vinegar, the brown sugar, and the raisins.  Continue cooking, covered, over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the radicchio is tender and slightly jammy, about 20 minutes.
  • Meanwhile prepare broth by warming it over a medium saucepan.
  • Heat another large skillet over medium heat with 2 tablespoons reserved bacon fat.  Add onions and fennel bulb.  Cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the rice and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the grains of rice are opaque, about 2 minutes.
  • Stir in the remaining 1/4 cup vinegar to the fennel mixture and cook a couple minutes until vinegar is absorbed.  Ladle 1 cup of the broth into the mixture and simmer, over medium-low heat, until all the broth is absorbed.  Continue to add the broth 1/2 cup at a time until the rice is creamy and tender, and all the additional broth is used up, about 25 minutes.  Stir in the radicchio mixture to the rice.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve right away.
 
 
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