Risotto with kale, mushrooms, and bacon

I’ve been kicking around the idea of making a mushroom risotto a couple of weeks now, and went so far as to pick up some Arborio rice and some mushrooms on shopping trip two or three weeks ago, but it’s taken me this long to actually make it. Partly because I used the first package of mushrooms on a pizza. And then I used the second set on another pizza and more pasta sauce.

But I was also hesitating because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to use just mushrooms. I felt like it needed something else. I looked at a bunch of recipes online and in some of my cookbooks, and couldn’t find anything that really inspired me.

Then, earlier this week, I was walking through the SSU Campus Garden, admiring the kale and cabbage, and realized that kale would be a perfect match for the mushrooms. So, I picked a handful of leaves. (It’s actually OK for students and staff, and even visitors to pick vegetables in the garden, as long as they leave plenty for others.)

They're enjoying the warm weather.

My harvest.

The thing about kale is that it can be a bit dirty and buggy, so it’s important to rinse it off carefully. First, I cut it up into smaller pieces. The greens will wilt down quite a bit during the cooking, but you still want it to be bite-sized.

Chop into strips inch strips.

It's important to soak it to get the snails and dirt off.

When I started gathering the ingredients this evening, I also had the great idea of adding a little bacon. I mean, really… bacon makes everything better, right? When we were at the butcher last weekend, we picked up some thick-cut nitrate-free bacon.

We scored some delicious bacon from the butcher!

These are just medium-sized portobellos that we get from Trader Joe’s. They have so much more flavor than crimini mushrooms, and they’ve pretty much become a staple in my kitchen.

I love portobellos!

When the bacon is done, let it cool and then chop it into small-ish pieces.

I always cook a little extra, to snack on while cooking.

I save my bacon fat for sautéing, and find it is especially delicious with onions and mushrooms. So, that’s what I used. I put about two tablespoons of the hot bacon fat in the bottom of my pan and added the chopped mushrooms and yellow onion, and stirred it up so all the pieces were coated. Then, I let the mixture sauté over a medium heat until the onions were translucent and the mushrooms had softened a bit.

Smells so good!

I added about one and half cup of Arborio rice and let it sauté in the fat until the grains started to be translucent.

Stir in the rice.

Then I added about half a cup of white wine. You can also use water or skip this step if you don’t have any wine. I like the citrus-y flavor the wine gives it, but it could be good without it.

Keep stirring!

I stirred it while the rice soaked up most of the liquid, and then added the kale, which I’d strained out of the water. It’s OK if the leaves are still a bit wet, as they’ll steam as you stir them in.

Yummy kale!

And, of course, add the bacon!

Yummy bacon!

At this point, I couldn’t take pictures anymore, because I had to keep stirring the mixture while I added in stock slowly. I put in a total of four cups of ham stock, one cup at a time, stirring each time until most of the liquid was absorbed.

I tasted a bit of the rice to test it for doneness. The key is for the rice to be soft, but still al dente. Once that’s the case, I served it up, with some shredded Parmesan cheese. Soooooo good!



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