Risotto is a comfort food that requires no special skill other than patience. Arborio rice is typically used to make risotto due to its short grains and high starch content, giving the dish its creamy texture. Paul usually makes his risotto with parmesan or mushrooms, but his latest experiment with sweet potato gave this savory masterpiece a gorgeous fall color, making it not only a satisfying main entrée but also a killer Thanksgiving side dish. Topping it with warm crumbled bacon as we did for this photoshoot is not necessary. But really… isn’t it? Pair with a chilled Gewurtztraminer.
Food styling tip for photoshoots: use droplets of warmed chicken stock to freshen the look of risotto or bacon that has been standing for a while, waiting for its closeup.
1 cup cooked, mashed sweet potato (about 1 large sweet potato)
2 cups arborio rice
8 slices bacon
8 cups chicken stock (unsalted)
½ cup finely chopped scallions
2 cloves finely chopped garlic
2 cups dry vermouth (we used Noilly Prat)
1 tsp sea salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
fresh thyme (optional, for garnish)
1 oz patience (or substitute 2 glasses of wine, imbibed)
Prepare the Mashed Sweet Potato:
Preheat oven to 400F. Pierce sweet potato a few times with a fork and bake on a pan for about 1 hr 15 min or until fully cooked. Allow to cool, then remove the fleshy insides and mash well. Set aside.
Prepare the Bacon:
Fry bacon in a pan until crisp and browned. Set aside on a plate lined with a paper towel to absorb excess grease. Reserve the bacon fat from the pan, and set aside.
Prepare Heated Chicken Stock:
In a medium sauce pan, start heating up the chicken stock to a simmer and then reduce to a low heat just to keep hot, not simmering.
Start the Risotto:
In a wide bottomed pot or deep sauté pan with high sides, add 2 tbsp of bacon fat at medium heat and sauté scallions and garlic for 1 to 2 minutes until softened - do not brown.
Add the rice and sauté for 2 minutes, until the rice absorbs the bacon fat.
Add the vermouth and allow to simmer and reduce until mostly absorbed.
Add 2 cups of hot chicken stock along with the mashed sweet potato and stir until mixed. Add salt and pepper and continue stirring slowly, allowing the stock to mostly absorb into the rice. Do not allow the rice to dry up and stick to the pan.
Continue to add chicken stock slowly, 2 cups at a time, until almost completely absorbed into the rice each time. Keep at medium low heat, at a very low simmer. It will take at least 45 minutes to slowly introduce all the stock into the rice, or until the risotto has reached your preferred consistency (taste the risotto along the way - you might not need to use all the chicken stock). Many recipes call for the rice to be cooked to "al dente," where the grains still have a little firmness to them, but we prefer a softer, very creamy risotto so we tend to cook it a little longer.
Adjust salt and pepper to taste towards the end before serving. Serve right away with crumbled bacon pieces on top, and a sprinkling of fresh thyme.