Bright spring leeks are now peaking out of the stalls at the farmers markets and caroling at me to use them in a creative way. They are talking about freshness, asking for warm salads and light braises. But sometimes — well all the time really — the body just wants bacon.
Not just any bacon, but pancetta, an Italian cured but smokefree pork belly product and a lovely accompaniment to leeks. The salty cubes of pancetta absolutely make this risotto, and of course you can’t listen to your inner bacon devil everyday, but sometimes you just need to top your food with a little swine.
The soft leeks do get their chance to sing of course. They are a sweet background singer, piping up at the chorus but still allowing the soft rice and salty nuggets to be the rockstars. If you are looking for a more pronounced leek flavor try this caramelized leek risotto recipe.
Pancetta and Leek Risotto(serves 3-4)
In a heavy saucepan melt one tablespoon of the butter over medium low heat and crisp up the pancetta. Take special care to not burn any. Once crisp, remove pancetta from the pot and set aside. Try and leave as much of that lovely fat as possible. Add onion and leek to the pot along with a healthy pinch of salt and sweat for 6 minutes. Meanwhile put your chicken stock into a second pot and heat it until just below a simmer. Turn the heat up to medium and add rice. Saute the rice in the hot fat, stirring regularly until it starts to make a popping sound. I find this doesn't usually take more than a few minutes. Stir in the white wine and stir regularly until the wine is almost gone, about 3 minutes.
Add enough stock to cover the rice and stir regularly allowing it to absorb. Continue stirring and adding stock until the rice is nearing al dente, then you can add a little less stock. Cook until it is soft to the bite but with just a little bit of give. Stir in the butter, then cheese and finally parsley. Taste and season, but under season slightly as you will be topping with the pancetta. Serve topped with pancetta.