Yes, you read that right. And it was over-indulgently good. All things in moderation including moderation?
This was another case of me looking around the pantry, by which I mean in the cupboards, refrigerator, freezer, and the vegetable bins on the counter.
Once I had it in my head, I had to make it. Just to see.
Now, to honestly qualify it — and I’m putting myself out there and being vulnerable here — my wife who does not care at all for beer in general and is not a huge fan of bacon outside of breakfast said, “I can tell this is probably very good to other people.” I took that as a compliment and nodded several times. (For dramatic flair.)
The genesis was an innocent trip to the store for some red wine and as I walked down an aisle this very nice lady said to me, “Would you like to try a free Guinness?” (See, I told you she was a very nice lady!)
I couldn’t resist that. I fell in love with Guinness in a pub in Liverpool, England, many years ago. And I’m not a huge Guinness in a can fan. I prefer it on draught, chilled properly, and poured properly (the Guinness fans out there will understand). But I’ll settle for bottles in the meantime and she had a bottle … and these little plastic shot glasses. Ah, well, TANSTAAFL.
But she poured Guinness 200th Anniversary Export Stout. Limited edition. “Toffee and caramel with slight chocolate notes,” she said.
Sorry, where was I?
Risotto’s one of those foods that so many people don’t bother with because they think it’s difficult to make. Or they’ve never had it. Or they’ve only had the instant-risotto-in-a-box variety and weren’t thrilled.
To be honest, if you get it too far wrong it’s not terribly good. But the margin of error is pretty forgiving if you’re prepared and patient.
If you search the internet, you’ll find lots of shortcut, in the oven, pre-bake, pre-cook, whizbang wonders of risotto methods to make this quick and dirty. At one of the restaurants where I cooked, we’d cook it half-way and then spread it on sheet pans to cool. When someone ordered it, we’d finish cooking a portion. Was it as good? It was good enough for a busy kitchen.
At home, myself, I enjoy the half hour meditation of making it. (And don’t neglect the background music or better yet, when you have it, casual conversation with someone.)
The key to a rich and creamy risotto (and that is what you want) is a rice that puts out a lot of starch during the cooking. The goal is soft but still a tiny bit al dente. Like good pasta. It might sound like a contradiction but you’ll know it when you taste it. If you’ve never had it and you get the opportunity, order it in a good restaurant, i.e. one you trust to cook it right. That way you’ll know what it should taste like before you try to cook it. There is a good measure of technique involved here.
Arborio is the easiest to find at the grocery store (organic if possible). Carnaroli is fantastic too if you can find it.
Grate your cheese now. Use a fine grater not ribbons or large shreds. You want the cheese to melt easily, not clump. Set this aside to let it come up to room temp.
Dice your onions. Some people aren’t diced-onion texture people (I know, I raised one, though he’s starting to outgrow it) so you can grate this as well or just finely dice.
Gently clean and then quarter the mushrooms. If you have very small ones, just halve them.
Put the stock over medium heat in its own pan. Ideally, the heat should be the same between your two pans as you cook. I’m using my homemade beef stock but chicken or vegetable will work fine too.
Use a reasonably wide pan that conducts heat well. Not a skillet but not a skinny pan either. I like an enameled cast-iron pan (like this one) best but I’ve also used a stainless steel pan with higher sides and a slightly-curved bottom many times.
Medium heat. Cook the bacon careful not to burn it. If it starts to burn, turn down the heat a little. If it’s very lean then a few drops of oil works wonders.
Once it’s well on its way and a fair amount of the fat has rendered out of it, toss in the onions and stir to coat. Slowly let those start to caramelize and soften. At least 5 minutes, stirring to keep anything from sticking or burning.
Now toss in the mushrooms. Let those cook until they soften too and a good amount of the water has come out. Call it another 5 minutes.
Did I mention stir? A good risotto is all about gently stirring.
Now add the rice. Coat it with the fat left in the pan and let it toast a bit. Just a few minutes.
Here’s where you’d traditionally deglaze the pan with a half-cup of white wine. Use the beer instead. Scrape loose the good stuff that’s stuck on the bottom of the pan then let it cook down until the liquid is mostly gone.
Now, a couple ladles of hot stock. Keep gently stirring. Once it’s mostly gone, add more. Keep doing this until you’ve used up all of your stock. It should take about 20 minutes. If it seems to be going faster, reduce the heat a bit.
At the end, after you’ve tasted it for doneness, kill the heat and stir in the knob of butter and the cheese. Taste it again. Does it need salt? Maybe a few grinds of pepper? You do you.
Garnish with a bit more cheese if you’d like. Maybe a little parsley for color.
Under the right circumstances, knowing how to make dishes like this can be one of your superpowers. You’ll know when that time comes.
With great power comes great responsibility. Cook wisely and with kindness.
See you next time!
Guinness Bacon Mushroom Risotto
Guinness Bacon Mushroom Risotto is as good as it sounds. It's a tad overly-indulgent, perhaps, but all things in moderation including moderation. Visit suppertimeblues.com to learn more.
- 1-1/2 ounces bacon, cut into 1/4 inch sticks
- 1/2 cup diced onion
- 8 ounces cremini or baby bella mushrooms, quartered
- 1 cup risotto rice (arborio, carnaroli, etc.)
- 1/2 cup Guinness (or other dark beer)
- 3 cups beef stock, preferably homemade chicken or vegetable can substitute
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
- salt and pepper as desired
Prep all ingredients before the cooking starts. Bring the stock to medium heat in a separate pan.
Over medium heat, render the bacon for a couple minutes.
Add the onions. Cook until they start to caramelize and soften, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add the mushrooms and cook down until they start to soften, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add the rice, stir to coat, and let it toast for a few minutes.
Deglaze the pan with the beer. Scrape to loosen the fond stuck on the bottom of the pan. Let it cook until the liquid has mostly evaporated.
Add one or two ladles (depending on how big your ladle is) at a time, gently stirring continuously, until the liquid is mostly gone. Then repeat. Do this until all of the stock is used. It should take about 20 minutes.
Remove from heat. Stir in the butter and cheese and mix well.
Taste and adjust for salt and/or pepper as desired.