pea and bacon risottoI love making risotto. I know a lot of people think it’s an intimidating dish to make, but I find it positively meditative. I had a long day yesterday, and I came home completely exhausted. I woke up from a post-work nap and decided to make risotto for dinner. Perhaps not the first thing that comes to mind as an easy dinner after a long day, but it was just what I needed.

The trick is that you have to pay attention. You can’t multitask when you make risotto. There’s no time to check email, look at bills, work on lesson plans, or make phone calls. You have to stir and wait. And you can see your progress. It’s tangible, the risotto gets thicker and creamier the more you stir and add broth. And when it’s done, you’ve accomplished something kind of magnificent and slightly magical. And all you had to do was unplug from the world for a little while and just concentrate on one thing. And how often do we get to do that? Like I said…meditation.

So here’s the recipe I used, a triumph from the January 2009 issue of Gourmet.

Pea and Bacon Risotto

Note: The original recipe was a dinner for 1, so that’s how these ingredients are measured. I multiplied it by 4 so that I’d have enough for dinner for 2 and plenty of lunches this week for both of us.

Serves: 1
Active time: 35 minutes
Start to finish: 35 minutes

1 3/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup water
1 bacon slice, chopped
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
1/3 cup Arborio rice
1/3 cup frozen peas
2 tbsp grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 tsp grated lemon zest
1/4 tsp fresh lemon juice

1. Bring broth and water to a simmer in a small saucepan.

2. Cook bacon in a small (medium if you’re multiplying quantities like me) heavy saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring, until crisp. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a paper towel to drain.

rice in bacon fat!3. Add garlic to the bacon fat in the saucepan and cook, stirring occasionally, until pale golden, about 1 minute. Add the rice, stirring to coat it.

4. Add 1/4 cup hot broth mixture and simmer, stirring constantly, until the broth is absorbed. Continue simmering and adding the hot broth mixture, about 1/4 cup at a time, stirring frequently and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next. Do this until the rice is tender but still al dente, 18-22 minutes. You’ll have some broth leftover, reserve this for later.

risotto5. Add peas and cook, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes.

6. Stir in cheese, butter, zest, and juice. Thin the risotto with some of the leftover broth mixture if desired. Season with salt and pepper. Top with bacon. Sit on the couch and eat.