Crock It! Bacon, Spinach, And Leek Risotto

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MyVeronaNJ-Crock-It!-Risotto-BaconI’ve spent the last several months flipping between white rice, brown rice, random pasta shapes, and potatoes as sides to accompany our dinner time meals. About two weeks ago my frustration peaked and I was feeling very lost, and bored, with this routine. I hate it when that happens in my kitchen.

Then, I received the smoked bacon portion of my organic pig from Wrong Direction Farm in New York state. I had been told that the smoking of the meat went extremely well which sounded great, but generally speaking, I had no idea of what that meant. The first batch we ate was delicious, and since I am one of those who thinks that bacon goes with anything, I had to try it in some risotto.  So, after thinking through a few items which I expected would work well with the bacon and not overwhelm it’s smokiness, I chose baby spinach (for color) and leeks (for a sweet onion flavor).  In my kitchen, risotto is not complete without Parmesan cheese, and the lesson I learned with this recipe is that fresh grated is best and yields the most flavor.

I had to make this twice to get it right, so be sure you have timing on your side when making it. Cooking any longer than the suggested amount of time will create a less than creamy and very gummy result. Also, it’s best to use really good bacon; the flavor and thick cut pieces will pay dividends in the final tasting.

Crock It! Bacon, Spinach and Leek Risotto

Ingredients:

1 1/2-2 leeks, cleaned and sliced; white parts only

5 pieces thick cut bacon, sliced about 1/4″ wide

2 cups baby spinach, stems removed and cut in strips.

1 cup Arborio rice

3 1/4 cups chicken stock or broth

1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese

What’s Next:

Place rice and broth in a 6 quart slow cooker. Stir, cover and cook on high for 1 hour.

While rice is cooking, sauté bacon in a small skillet (mine was an 8″ skillet) for about 8-10 minutes, until almost crisp. Drain 3/4 of the bacon fat from the pan by gently tilting pan and holding bacon back with a wooden spoon.

Place pan with bacon back on the stove.

MyVeronaNJ-Crock-It!-Bacon-Leeks

Add leeks to pan with bacon and remaining fat and sauté for about 8 minutes or until leeks become soft and wilted.

Add spinach leaves to pan and cook for another 7-8 minutes until spinach leave are bright green and also wilted. Remove from heat and leave in pan until the first hour of rice cooking is complete.

MyVeronaNJ-Crock-It!-Spinach

When the first hour of slow cooker cooking is done, add the bacon, leek and spinach mixture to the rice and broth in slow cooker, and stir together. Cook for another 45 minutes on high.

Stir in the cheese, cover and continue cooking for 15 more minutes. There should still be a small amount of liquid that has not been absorbed by the rice yet.

Serve immediately after a total of 2 hours of cooking.

Notes from my experience:

Don’t be intimidated by the precise timing of this recipe. It may seem tedious at first, but it’s basically 1 hour, 45 minutes, 15 minutes, serve. Figure out what time you are serving and work backwards for two hours from there.

It may be tempting to remove all of the bacon from the pan and then drain the fat, but don’t give in! You will be happy to have the added flavor.

It is very important to sauté the ingredients in order from bacon to leeks to spinach, and not throw it all in the pan at once. The flavoring is much better this way.

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