There are certain dishes in the gourmet universe that just scream “PROTOTYPICAL COMFORT” to your average food-worshiper, and I am sure I don’t stand alone in putting risotto atop that list… So, when I recently surveyed my surroundings, in search of a shining beacon of inspiration for my latest culinary entry – only to find myself adrift in a sea of restless uncertainty; without anchor, tether or any apparent means of halting my tide-bound ebb and flow – “comfort” was the very subject that commanded center stage.
Still, seeking safe harbor in generic ol’ Risotto Bay is a cop-out, isn’t it? Much like calling ice cream one’s favorite dessert – it says a lot without conveying much of anything… By opening the door to risotto, are we not really just pulling the curtain from the window of possibility? Touting the culinary virtues of risotto does not place one before a masterpiece so much as it leaves one, gawking, at the threshold of an entire museum…
But therein lies the very essence of adventure… In the abstract, lawless badlands that reside between fuzzy safety and likely disaster lies a blank slate of gastronomic bravado whose boundaries are that of imagination…
…a landmarkless terrain where right and wrong are phantom concepts and every journey taken is “off the beaten path”… an unsupervised playground where guts meet glory and the rubber meets the road. A foreign land of suspended propriety, it is virtually impossible to explain to someone who has never stood at the cliff’s edge and peered across it first-hand, other than to say…well…have you ever been to Connecticut?
(“There are lots of different ways to make risotto…I guess would be what I’m getting at…but this is one you’re going to LOVE.”)
They say the best revenge is living well… Well, if that is true then you’re not going to get much revenge before starving to death if you don’t, first and foremost, EAT well. Seriously, I’m so smart sometimes that it legitimately startles me. I’m just plodding along through my day with basic, mere-mortal-level thoughts and then, suddenly, it’s like, *BOOM* “WHOA, damn I’m good…”
…and since I plan on living long enough to exact sweet, sour, salty, bitter, umami revenge on my own evil personal demons, I intend to fuel this vigilante crusade with the most mouth-watering, la-vida-loca-livingly-flamboyant, “in your face” food conceivable… And unless this is your first visit (WELCOME), you know that’s rudimentary Bossian code for………………
Now, where were we…? Ah, yes…
Spinach, Bacon & Gorgonzola Risotto
5 cups chicken stock (reduced sodium)
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
12 oz baby spinach
6 oz sweet onion, finely chopped
3 oz gorgonzola
2 oz shallot, finely chopped
1 oz crispy bacon
(reserve about 1 Tbsp bacon drippings, optional)
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp parmesan
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 clove garlic, minced
black pepper, to taste
Saute garlic in olive oil, over medium heat, until fragrant. Add in the baby spinach and salt, and gently stir until wilted. Set this aside as well.
In a 4-6 quart stock pot or dutch oven, saute the onions and shallots with 2 Tbsp butter and bacon drippings, until golden – not a burnt dark brown but a nicely caramelized color. Add the rice to onions and shallots and continue sauteing. When the arborio becomes translucent, add in your white wine (I’m a Pinot Grigio junkie, personally) and stir until fully absorbed…
No, wait, that should be “until it’s fully absorbed by the RICE…”
Begin adding in the chicken stock, one cup at a time. Once the first cup is fully absorbed, add in the next, etc., stirring often through the process. This should take approximately 18 minutes. You will want to reserve the last 1/4 cup of stock for the final step to come. While you can begin adding in chicken stock cold, I like to bring mine to a quick boil and keep it warm on the side. Adding in pre-warmed stock tends to speed up the process somewhat — and you know who loves a big ol’ hot pot of eau de chicken stock infusing his kitchen with aromatic inspiration?
KUMMERSPECK – Now with actual “Speck”!!
While we have a few minutes to kill, I genuinely consider it my humble duty to occasionally further the lexicon by hijacking words from other languages that should REALLY exist in our own. And while the Germans may have lost a few rather high-profile races in history…
…it can be safely said that they run circles around the rest of the Western world when it comes to weird fetishes and descriptive terminology…perhaps none more timely or appropriate, given the sheer awesomeness of this dish, than the epic colloquialism: kummerspeck. Literally, this three syllable powerhouse translates into a simple, yet elegant “grief bacon” — and I can confirm, after substantial research, that the English language has absolutely nothing that comes close. As if a word of such immense perfection even requires meaning, the etymology of the term points, oddly specifically, to any degree of weight gained as a direct result of emotionally-induced overeating…
Downed three pints of Ben & Jerry’s after a bad breakup? BAM, kummerspeck!! Rampant, crippling boredom’s got you reaching for the Krispy Kreme? Enjoy the kummerspeck!! Gorging on a boatful of risotto because the lovely, talented and immensely vivacious Kathy Ireland never got back to you (probably because she lost your number and has, no doubt, been searching for it for days)? You guessed it…
…aaaaaaaaaaand, let’s call that 18 mercifully short minutes.
Once all your chicken stock has been absorbed (minus the bit you held back), go ahead and stir back in your spinach and bacon and cook for two more minutes. Add in the gorgonzola, parmesan and remaining 1/4 cup of stock and blend it all together until the cheeses are melted and thoroughly incorporated. Adjust with salt and pepper to taste — and feast with all the blind fury of a vengeance-driven masked avenger, determined – against all odds – to uncover his own shadowy past with the dramatic flair of the amnesiac love-child of Stan Lee and Michael Bay…and bring those who have done him wrong to vigilante justice…
(“…enjoy your risotto…is pretty much what I’m trying to convey.“)