Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Spinach and Bacon Risotto With Goat Cheese

So, I’ve been in a funk.  I’m not sure whether this is because of my dad’s death, the end of the summer (and thus the beginning of the school year), the seemingly interminable stretch of 100-degree-plus days with no rain in sight, or some combination of these factors–but, in any case, I haven’t been feeling compelled to do anything creative.  Just convincing myself to make something for dinner each evening has been pretty much the extreme edge of my motivational powers.

Yesterday afternoon, though, something happened: a package arrived at my house addressed to The Family Foodie.  That wasn’t completely unexpected–I live here, after all, and I knew the package was coming–but it was the first time that had happened.  And it jangled something loose in my brain.

That address label was like a little message from the universe.  You are The Family Foodie.  Go ahead and slog through this funk, but don’t forget what your life is about.  

And what my life is about, my friends, is creativity.  Writing.  Cooking.  Helping to shape phenomenal children into amazing adults.  (And drawing, once in awhile.  Not so much anymore.  I do have the usual limitations of a human being.)

I decided to celebrate this moment of revelation with a new recipe:  Spinach and Bacon Risotto with Goat Cheese.

Although risotto almost always involves Parmesan cheese–and although risotto with Parmesan is one of my favorite things in the world–I was curious to see how the tangy flavor of goat cheese (another of my favorite things) would pair up with the creamy consistency of Arborio rice.  Adding bacon and spinach made this a one-dish dinner, always a plus when it’s hot outside.   It could easily become a vegetarian dish by leaving out the bacon and substituting vegetable broth for chicken broth–and it becomes gluten-free if you make sure to use a brand of broth that doesn’t include wheat products. (I used Kirkland brand chicken broth, from Costco, which isn’t certified gluten-free but doesn’t include wheat as a thickener.)

Many people will tell you that risotto has to be stirred constantly throughout the cooking process.  Anytime I read the words “stir constantly” in a recipe, my first thought is “Oh, I don’t think so.”  If the constant-stirring stage is short, I might roll with it.  Otherwise, it’s a given that I’m going to walk away from the stove at some point.  This is only rarely a disaster.  Don’t let your risotto go without stirring for too long, but don’t be afraid to let it simmer on its own for a minute.  The more important element of the cooking process is to add the broth slowly:  risotto is very starchy, which is what lends the finished product its creamy consistency and also what makes it a slow-cooking grain.  Add the broth all at once and you’ll lose too much liquid to steam before the rice has absorbed what it needs to soften.

The Boy ate his risotto, although he said “It has a lot of flavor” in a tone that suggested this was not a good thing.  The Hubs went wild for this recipe, since he loves goat cheese as much as I do.  If you’re worried about the goat cheese being too strong a presence, though, you can certainly add some Parmesan to move the flavor in the the direction of a more traditional risotto.

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Spinach and Bacon Risotto with Goat Cheese

Ingredients:

2 T. olive oil
One medium onion, chopped fine
2 cloves of garlic, minced
6 strips of bacon, chopped into small pieces
1 cup Arborio rice
3 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 package chopped frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
4 oz. goat cheese
Nutmeg to taste

Directions:

In a deep saucepan, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, stirring to coat them in the oil, and let them cook for two or three minutes. Add the chopped bacon, stir to distribute, and let this mixture cook for another two or three minutes.

Add the dry Arborio rice to the saucepan, stirring to goat the grains with the oil. Let the grains toast for two or three minutes, then turn the heat to medium low and add half a cup of the chicken broth. Stir well to distribute the rice in the liquid. After the rice has absorbed the broth, add another cup to the saucepan. Stir often and repeat this process, adding another cup of broth to the saucepan only after the previous cup has been absorbed. (If the rice still hasn't softened to your liking when you're out of broth, add water half a cup at a time. You shouldn't need much.)

When the rice is soft, stir in the chopped spinach and the goat cheese. Season with nutmeg to taste and serve immediately.

 

3 Responses to “Spinach and Bacon Risotto With Goat Cheese”

  1. 1

    Johnnie — August 24, 2011 @ 8:40 am

    Spinach and goat cheese. I am sold!

  2. 2

    Johnnie — August 24, 2011 @ 8:44 am

    I got so excited by the title, I commented before reading your very personal post. It is so cool when we are able to gain perspective and pull ourselves back up in difficult times. You are inspiring.

    • familyfoodie replied: — August 24th, 2011 @ 10:15 am

      Thanks, Johnnie. It’s been difficult to keep moving forward these past few weeks, but I know that’s all I can do. Focusing on creative outlets really helps.

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