Risotto

with Bacon, Asparagus, and Shitake Mushrooms
Oh sweet jesus but I love this dish. Once you've had it, other risottos just seem, well, not as good.

For 2

Ingredients

½ # Bacon
6 Shitake Mushrooms (sliced)
4 - 5 Cloves of Garlic (sliced)
½ Onion (loosely chopped)
10 Asparagus Stalks (cut into thirds)
1 T Fresh Thyme
Salt
Pepper
Dash+ of Red Pepper Flakes
½ T Dry Mustard
2 T Butter
½ Cup Dry Vermouth
½ Pint Heavy Cream
¾ Cup Risotto (Italian Arborio Rice)
2 Cubes Knorr Porcini Stock
2½ Cups Water
  (if you can't find Porcini stock cubes, drop the water and use 2½ cups of mushroom stock instead)
4 oz. Italian Four Cheese Blend (or, 2 oz. Grated Parmesan and 2 oz. Grated Romano)
Mixed Greens (for serving)

Directions

Place the two cubes of porcini stock in stock pot with 2½ cups of water, and set over a low flame and whisk to break down. If you weren't able to find the porcini stock cubes, put 2½ cups of mushroom stock in a stock pot over a low flame to heat it up.

Cut your bacon into approximately 1 inch pieces, and put them in a sauté pan over medium high heat. While the bacon is cooking, slice your mushrooms, dice your onion, and chop up your garlic (I like to cut it into slices rather than diced for this dish). Keep an eye on the bacon, to make sure that it cooks evenly and on both sides. When it's good and crispy, remove it from the pan and set it aside, but keep the bacon grease in the pan.

Put 2 T of butter in the sauté pan that has the bacon grease in it, and set the heat to medium - medium high. Add in your mushrooms, garlic, onion, fresh thyme, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. You'll want this to cook for around five minutes or so, browning and cooking the mushrooms. After five-ish minutes, pour in your dry vermouth, and stir/scrape the bottom of the pan to deglaze it and get all the extra goodness from the bacon that has stuck to the bottom of the pan. Turn the heat down to medium.

Next, take your asparagus, chop off about an inch or so from the bottom of the stalks (as it's bound to be a little tough). Now cut the asparagus into thirds, so they're more bite-sized. Add this to your pan.

If you're waiting on guests, or simply want to put dinner into a holding pattern, this is the best place to do it - kill the heat on both the sauté pan and the stock pot, have a few cocktails or some wine...

OK - now that you've had a couple of drinks, it's time to finish up your risotto! Turn the heat up to low/medium low under the stock pot and your sauté pan, and add your bacon back into the sauté pan. Pour in your risotto, and stir it in to your mixture. Now pour in about half of your porcini stock and half of the heavy cream, and add in the ½ T of dry mustard. This is going to cook for about a half hour, until the risotto is cooked and the liquid thickens up. After about 15 minutes, add the rest of your stock and cream, being sure to stir it every few minutes so it doesn't stick. When there's about 5 minutes left to your half hour, add in your cheese, and stir it into your risotto.

Nearly there! Put a nest of greens on two plates, and spoon your risotto into the center of each plate. To garnish, sprinkle some grated cheese over the top and around the greens, and dust the top with some red pepper flakes and black pepper.

Enjoy!

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