The end of winter means, unfortunately, the end of risotto season. Personally, I’d eat it year-round — I love risotto — but I don’t think I’d get many takers if I served it in sweltering summer heat. Not exactly the sort of dish that you want to eat on the patio. No, risotto is best on a wet and chilly autumn day, one where you can watch rain stream down the windowpane, then enjoy another warm, satisfying bite. Good risotto is like a hug for your stomach.
Actually, not only do I love eating risotto, but I love making it, too. It’s probably one of my favourite things to cook as I find the process (not to mention the resulting dish) immensely satisfying. I know a few people who like baking because of its transformative nature — how you can put something into the oven and then remove a beautiful, finished product — that sense of accomplishment. Personally, I don’t get that; I find baking not only finnicky, but impersonal, almost sterile. Mix everything together before you even start cooking, and then leave it alone while it cooks — no involvement. Add the fact that I don’t like sweets and it means I don’t do a whole lot of baking.
Making risotto, on the other hand, requires constant involvement in the form of half an hour of constant babysitting, stirring and ladling over and over. But your labour is handsomely rewarded with a house-filling aroma and a pot of lustrous, creamy rice. It’s the same sense of transformation as in baking, except you get to feel like you were the one who did the work — not the oven. From sautéeing onion, to toasting the rice, to the shot of wine releasing its heady steam, to the addition of stock and all that stirring, to the final handful of cheese to bind it all together, it’s your effort that makes the finished dish — a dish that truly is greater than the sum of its ingredients.
And as you can probably tell, I still haven’t put my risotto urge to rest for the season. So I’m planning on making one last batch — a bacon risotto I’ve done twice already this year — using Cumbrae’s double-smoked Berkshire bacon. It’s rich and smoky and it’ll be finished with seared scallops and still more bacon. The original idea for the dish came from this image that I came across on Flickr — but I think I like my version better.