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Parmesan Pancetta Risotto

Author: Julie Wallace

Ingredients

  • 8 oz deli sliced pancetta, divided
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 4 Parmesan cheese rinds
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 2 tbs unsalted butter
  • 4 oz, or about 1 cup, shredded Parmesan, plus extra for serving

Instructions

  • Chop 6 ounces of the pancetta and set aside. Place the remaining 2 ounces, torn into pieces if they are large slabs, into a medium stockpot. Pour the chicken stock over the torn pancetta and add the parmesan rinds. Turn the heat to low and let it just barely simmer for about 20 minutes. You don’t want it to evaporate, you’re just infusing all that flavor.
  • Meanwhile, place a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil, then the chopped pancetta. Cook, stirring frequently with a slotted spoon, until the pancetta is crisped and the fat is rendered. Remove the pancetta to a paper towel lined plate, leaving the fat in the pan.
  • You’ll need a good tablespoon of pancetta fat, so supplement with more olive oil if you don’t have enough. If you have a little too much, that is not an actual problem in life, so don’t pour any off. Turn the heat to medium, then add the shallot and garlic. Cook, stirring continually, for about a minute, until softened. Now add the rice and stir to toast and coat, about one minute. Pour in the white wine and stir until it has absorbed into the rice.
  • Turn the heat on the chicken stock to its lowest point. Ladle about one cup of flavored stock into the rice and stir continually until it is absorbed. Repeat with the rest of the stock, ladling it in one cup at a time and stirring until absorbed. This entire enterprise will take about 30 minutes. Taste for texture, and if the rice is still too chewy or hard, keep adding water the same way you added stock until the rice is al dente and creamy. Also taste for seasoning. The stock is going to be pretty salty, but add a little kosher salt if necessary.
  • Turn the heat to low and melt in the butter and shredded Parmesan. Serve garnished with plenty of reserved crispy pancetta and more shredded Parmesan if desired.

Notes

This recipe was developed by yours truly with a conceptual assist from Kristen Kish. Her debut cookbook features a mushroom and wild rice recipe based around a parmesan pancetta infused chicken stock, and I thought that might make an outstanding and very special base for risotto. I do so enjoy being right. You are basically infusing chicken stock (store bought in my case, though homemade would work well) with a few torn pancetta slabs and parmesan rinds. After that has simmered very softly - don’t evaporate it - for about 20 minutes, you ladle it into your Arborio rice and stir to cook as you would any other risotto. The result is deep-flavored and magical. And just to drive the pancetta-parmesan flavor home some more, you toast the rice in crisped pancetta drippings, then melt in some extra shredded Parmesan at the end, and finally garnish each risotto serving with crisped pancetta. Like I said: magic.