I often marvel at how differently my kids eat from how my brother and I ate growing up. Don't get me wrong, my mom was an amazing cook -- but we ate a lot of the old-school standards: meatloaf with "scalloped" potatoes, lasagna, shredded chicken sandwiches, hamburger hash...that kind of thing. And while all of those things definitely make an appearance on my menu, I also make a much wider variety of foods for my kids. I don't think I tried Mexican food until I started dating Joe (not even Taco Bell -- really!), and I know that I never tried risotto until I made it myself for the first time, well into my 20s.
As an adult, risotto has become one of my great food loves. I love the whole process of cooking it, how adaptable it is, and how so few ingredients can come together to make something that tastes so amazingly flavorful. Risotto has it all: texture, flavor, epic deliciousness, you name it. And this recipe right here is one of the best versions I've found. This version is loaded with bacon, caramelized onions (cooked in the bacon drippings), and spinach. It's hearty and flavorful and restaurant-quality. It was a huge hit in my house, and I already can't wait to make it again.
Risotto with Bacon, Caramelized Onions, and Spinach
adapted from A Taste of Home Cooking
1/2 pound bacon, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, sliced into thin rings
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/4 cups arborio rice
1/4 cup dry white wine
6 cups low sodium chicken broth, warmed
1 6-ounce bag baby spinach, chopped
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1. Add the bacon to a large pan over medium heat. Cook until crisp and remove to a paper towel to drain. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the baking drippings in the pot; discard any excess.
2. Add the butter to the bacon drippings, then stir in the onions. Season with salt and pepper. Stir the onions often so they brown slowly, and let cook for at least 30 minutes. Adjust the heat as necessary to keep the onions from burning. Like my friend Sarah, I added a bit of water to the pan as needed to keep the onions from burning, which also helped to pick up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Remove the onions from the pan and allow to cool before chopping into small pieces.
3. Add the olive oil to the pan. Add the garlic; cook and stir for 30 seconds. Stir in the rice and cook, stirring frequently, for 1-2 minutes. Add the white wine and stir until it is absorbed.
4. Start adding the chicken broth one ladle-full at a time, letting it fully absorb before adding more. This process takes anywhere from 17-25 minutes.
5. Before you add the final ladle of broth, add the caramelized onions, spinach, and half of the bacon. Taste the rice to make sure it's cooked through. Turn off the heat and add the grated cheese. Top each serving with some of the reserved bacon.