Cheddar Cheese Risotto
- 4 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped into small pieces
- 2 Gala or similar firm, sweet apples, peeled, cored, and julienned (reserve the apple peelings)
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 cup grenadine
- 1⁄2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 4 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup minced onions
- 2 cups arborio rice
- 3 cups dry white wine
- 4 ounces Wisconsin cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
- 2 ounces mascarpone (about 1⁄4 cup)
- Salt and coarsely ground black pepper
- 1 bunch chives, finely chopped, for garnish
1. For the bacon powder, in a small frying pan, slowly cook the bacon over medium-low heat. Spoon the fat off and discard as the bacon cooks. When the bacon browns, use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon to a fine-mesh sieve or chinois to drain a little more. Spread the bacon pieces on paper towels and allow the bacon to air-dry for 2 to 3 hours.
2. Grind the bacon pieces in a spice or coffee grinder. Spread the powder on paper towels and let it air-dry for at least 6 hours. The powder can be made up to 2 days ahead and stored in a lidded container at room temperature until ready to use.
3. For the apple garnish, in a small bowl, toss the julienned apples with the lemon juice. Add some cold water to cover the apples and set aside for up to 4 hours.
4. In a small saucepan, combine the grenadine, vinegar, and brown sugar with the reserved apple peelings. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce the heat, and simmer for about 5 minutes, or until the syrup has reduced to the consistency of honey. Transfer the syrup to a blender and puree until smooth. Set aside until needed.
5. For the glazed onions, in a large sauté pan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. When hot, cook the pearl onions for about 15 minutes, or until browned and tender.
6. Add the hard cider, reduce the heat to medium, and cook for about 30 minutes longer, or until the onions are cooked through. Lift the onions from the cooking liquid and set aside, covered to keep warm, until needed.
7. For the risotto, in a large saucepan, bring about 3 cups of water to a boil. Reduce the heat so that it’s barely simmering but is very hot.
8. In a large, deep pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat and sauté the minced onions for 4 to 5 minutes, or until translucent. Add the rice and stir with a wooden spoon to mix well with the onions. Cook for 5 minutes longer.
9. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add 1 cup of the wine, stirring the rice and wine continuously with the wooden spoon. When the first cup of wine has been absorbed by the rice, add another cup. Stir the rice and wine, and add the final cup of wine when the rice has absorbed the second cup. As you stir, the rice will release its natural starches, which help absorb the liquid.
10. Begin adding the hot water in 1⁄4-cup increments, stirring all the while. When you have added about 1 cup of the hot water, start tasting the rice and when it’s al dente and has a little toothiness, stop adding water. This entire process should take about 20 minutes. Keep the hot water on the stove.
11. Add the cheddar and mascarpone to the hot risotto. Stir to allow the cheese to melt into the rice. Season with salt and pepper. (Make sure you use enough pepper, which helps cut through the flavors of the dish.)
12. Divide the risotto among four to six serving plates or shallow bowls. Drain and pat dry the julienned apples and garnish each serving with the apples, chives, and bacon powder. Spoon the pureed apple peelings around the outside of the dish.
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