Confession time: I may have a bit of an addiction to cookbooks. Obviously I cook a lot, so this probably doesn’t sound too out of the ordinary. Here’s the thing though, even when I acquire a new one (which seems to be happening more and more lately) I’m not satisfied. I plow through it looking for ideas and admiring the photos, yet almost immediately want another. This is true, no matter how good the book. Yup, its an addiction.
There has been chatter lately that with the advent of electronic reading devices, cookbooks may become a thing of the past. I guess the idea is that the internet (including blogs) and paperless “cookbooks” will make those comforting recipe tomes obsolete. I disagree. It seems that as a country, we’re becoming more interested in real, wholesome food. As people become more comfortable with cooking at home again, I think they’ll return to beautifully written and photographed hard-copy cookbooks. Sure, being able to find a meal based on ingredients you have on hand by using your computer is nice, but stumbling across a recipe that expands your horizons is what it’s all about.
Anyway…2010 was a stellar year for cookbooks. Take a look at a few lists here or here. Today’s recipe comes from one of my favorite new books– Harvest To Heat by Darryl Estrine and Kelly Kochendorfer. It’s a collaboration of recipes from America’s best chefs, farmers, and artisans. It is an absolute stunner.
This dish uses pea shoots, which are in-season, locally. Hopefully, you can get your hands on some of these little gems. If you can’t, don’t worry. You can still make it by simply omitting the pea shoots at the end. Pea shoots are the leaves and tendrils of pea plants. They are delicate and taste just like peas, but with a bit of a crunch. Mixing them with salad greens is another way to really enjoy them. In this dish they are sauteed for just a few seconds and then placed on top of this fantastic risotto.
The risotto itself has a pea puree swirled into it. My first thought was to skip making the puree and just add whole peas. I’m so glad I didn’t. The puree is lovely and gives the risotto a beautiful soft-green hue. This dish comes together quickly, so go ahead and put the extra effort in by making the puree. The herbs add loads of character to what would otherwise be a straight-forward risotto. The fennel, in particular, really stands out. The additional acidity of the white wine, countered by the rich flavor of the bacon really brings it together. It’s creamy, salty, smokey, and fresh– all at once.
The Recipe: Risotto with Pea Shoots and Bacon
2 cups fresh peas (or frozen)
4 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley, 2 left whole and 2 chopped (2 tablespoons)
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 small yellow or white onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups arborio or carnaroli rice
2 cups dry white wine (I used a Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire– though next time I’ll try a less aggresive style. Perhaps a Pinot Bianco or Pinot Grigio.)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Grana Padano cheese
1/4 pound bacon or pancetta (about 6 slices), diced
2 cups pea shoots
1 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
Course salt and freshly ground pepper
Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Add the peas and cook for 1 minute. Drain and cool. Transfer to a food processor or blender and puree; strain through a mesh strainer and discard and solids. Set aside.
Wrap the whole parsley sprigs, thyme, bay leaves, peppercorns, and fennel seeds tightly in cheesecloth and tie with butcher’s twine.
Heat the broth in a medium saucepan over medium heat to a simmer. Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan over medium heat; add the bouquet of herbs, the onions, and the garlic. Cook until the onions and garlic are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat evenly with the onion mixture. Add the wine, increase the heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring constantly, until the wine is almost completely absorbed, about 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, then add the warm broth 1 cup at a time, stirring the rice constantly until most of the liquid is absorbed before adding additional broth. Continue to add broth, stirring until the rice is almost cooked through, about 20 minutes. ( Note: you may not need to use all of the broth.)
Meanwhile, in a medium skillet over medium-high heat, cook the bacon or pancetta until crisp, 5-8 minutes. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate, then transfer to a small plate and set aside. Wipe out the skillet and heat 1 teaspoon butter over medium heat; add the pea shoots and cook until just wilted, about 1 minute. Set aside.
When the rice is just cooked through, remove the bouquet of herbs, then add the pea puree, chopped parsley, chives, and Parmesan or Grana Padano cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, ladle the risotto into soup bowls. Top each bowl with the crisp bacon or pancetta and pea shoots. Enjoy!
Source: Adapted from Harvest to Heat Cookbook
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