Simple and Delicious: A Risotto for a Busy Tuesday Night
For me, Tuesday nights are a challenge. Sunday’s leftovers are gone, the work week seems endless, and making a mess in the kitchen is the last thing I want to do. Enter the “Tuesday Night” recipe, an easy-to-follow blueprint for a dish that’s as simple as it is delicious.
First up is Donna Hay’s baked risotto, a recipe from her book “The Instant Cook” (HarperCollins, $34.95). Hay, an Australian cookbook writer and magazine editor, is the Down Under equivalent of Ina Garten, albeit enhanced with a sizable smidge of Martha Stewart’s creativity and artistry. Her recipes are designed for home cooks looking for dishes that are creative, delicious, and relatively simple. As an added bonus, there’s a full color picture for virtually every recipe. I have five of Hay’s cookbooks, and they’re all jammed with bookmarks. My Bucket List runneth over.
Recipes like this easy-on-the-cook risotto offer a fair amount of wiggle room. Switching out ingredients from two versions of the recipe, for example, didn’t cause a problem. What can’t be changed are the ratio of liquid to rice, the temperature of the oven, and the length of time required for cooking.
In lieu of the uncooked bacon, I used four slices of Nueske’s fully-cooked Canadian bacon. I diced two of the slices and then sautéed them with the sliced leeks and a teaspoon of dried thyme.
I used 5 cups of chicken stock- good quality but not homemade- and 2 cups of Arborio rice. I decided to use fresh spinach instead of the peas, and as a result, I could cook the rice, non-stop, for 40 minutes. One and one-half ounces of uncooked fresh spinach measured about a cup and a half. To make up for the lemon rind and the chicken that I also wasn’t using, I upped the spinach to 2 cups. I added the parmesan and mint as directed, along with two more slices of diced Canadian bacon.
When I took the rice out of the oven, it looked very liquid. But by the time I finished stirring in the rest of the ingredients, the risotto was al dente, and the dish was ready to serve. While no risotto aficionado would mistake this risotto for the real thing, it’s the quintessential “Tuesday Night” dish. And FYI, a "Tuesday Night" dish tastes just as good on Sunday or Wednesday as it does on Tuesday.
Baked Risotto with Bacon and Peas
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 strips bacon, chopped
2 leeks, sliced
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
5 cups chicken stock
1 cup frozen green peas
4 strips bacon, extra
¾ cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped mint
Sea salt and cracked black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 390-degrees F
2. Heat a frying pan over high heat. Add the oil, bacon, leeks and thyme
3. Cook for 5 minutes or until the leeks are lightly browned
4. Spoon the mixture into a 10-cup capacity ovenproof dish.
5. Add the rice and stock and stir.
6. Cover tightly with foil, and bake for 30 minutes.
7. Add the peas, re-cover, and cook for a further 10 minutes.
8. Place the extra bacon on a tray and cook in the oven for 8 minutes or until crisp.
9. Remove the risotto from the oven; add the parmesan, mint, salt and pepper and stir for 4 minutes or until the risotto has thickened.
10. To serve, place the risotto in bowls. Garnish with the crispy bacon.
Chicken and Spinach Variation
Omit the bacon and the peas from the recipe. Stir in 3 cups of shredded chicken, 1 ½-ounces baby spinach leaves, and 2 teaspoons grated lemon rind at the same time as the parmesan and mint.
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