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Pressure Cooked Risotto with Pancetta and Kale

Risotto is a popular dish in our house.  It's creamy, it's warming, it involves a bottle of wine to drink while you slowly stir the rice. And since it takes on flavors so well, it has endless possibilities for how it's prepared.  But is there a quicker way to make it that yields that same result, but doesn't involve continuous pouring and stirring?




The Traditional Way to Cook Risotto

Risotto is really as much a method as it is a finished product. Cooking risotto in the traditional way will involve at least 20 minutes of slow and steady stirring.  Unless you either work in a laboratory and have access to a magnetic stirrer or have an eager 9 year old, you'll probably be standing in front of your stove for a while.

As far as the technique goes, nearly every traditional risotto recipe will start the same way.  Cook the onions (and garlic) in butter (or oil) until they're just translucent and then add the arborio rice so that it becomes lightly toasted.  You'll notice the nutty smell coming off the pan.  And then slowly stir in flavorful stock until the liquid is fully absorbed

For some extra flavor, I like to start with pancetta instead of butter.  Cooking a few pieces of pancetta will leave a nice amount of pork fat in your saucepan.  Depending on how much is left, I'll supplement with Olive Oil so that there's about 2 tablespoons worth left behind, and then add the onions.  You'll save the pancetta and reintroduce it at the end.

After the grains have toasted a bit, and before adding the stock, I like to add in a bit of white wine.  Not a lot, maybe half a glass or so.  And it can't be that half empty bottle that you've had in the back of the fridge since for the past who knows how many weeks.  The general rule for cooking wine is: If you wouldn't serve a glass of the wine to a guest, then by no means should you cook with it.  And as a bonus, you now have a nearly full bottle of white wine to keep you entertained while you stir.

In the pot, the wine will reduce, intensify in flavor and be absorbed into the rice.  All good things.

Next you'll start the process of adding small amounts of warm stock to the rice and stirring until it's fully absorbed.  This action ensures the stock is absorbed uniformly and will also help the rice release as much of its starchy goodness as possible.  This is what gives risotto the wonderful, creamy texture.  Near the end is usually when I add in all of the extras.

End to end, it's probably about a 45 minute exercise.

The Modernist Cuisine Risotto Technique


Most of the recipes in the Modernist Cuisine at Home (MCAH) book either introduce time saving techniques or take you in an extreme direction to produce the absolute best possible dish.  Their risotto recipe was a bit of a letdown as it didn't really save any time (actually took longer), was more cumbersome and wasn't really the best risotto I've ever had.

The MCAH recipe is a variation on a popular restaurant technique for cooking risotto at scale.  If you think about it, a line cook can't exactly be spending 30 minutes stirring a pot and still expect to get other orders out.  The premise is that you par-cook the grains, refrigerate them on a sheetpan and then finish cooking them later.  The refrigeration on a frozen sheetpan is supposed to help with the starch release so that the finishing time is shortened.

So you start cooking in one pan, drain the rice through a cheesecloth to get out the excess liquid, spread is all out on a sheetpan for refrigeration and then put it all back into the pan to finish.


And were I making risotto for 50 guests, ordering it at 25 different times, it'd probably work beautifully.  Doing it for 2, not so much.

The Pressure Cooker Risotto Recipe


So here is where I landed by creating not only a great risotto....but I also saved some time and effort in the process.  And it wasn't nearly as laborious as the other ways.

The pressure cooker basically cut the time by a third and eliminated the stirring.  If you're thinking about buying a pressure cooker, check out my handy pressure cooker buying guide.

The rest of the recipe is pretty much identical.  I started out with the pancetta in a little bit of olive oil over medium high until it was cooked on both sides.  If you have a stainless steel PC'er, and aren't used to cooking in stainless steel, you might be fretting over having quite a mess in the bottom of the pot.

Don't worry, this will all quickly clean up once the onions go in.  The onions, and later the white wine, will deglaze the pan beautifully and pull up all of the delicious fond that's accumulated.

When you add the stock, instead of going in 1/2 a cup at a time, you'll add it all and start the pressure cooking process.

After a quick release, add in your other ingredients and you're all set.



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Pressure Cooked Risotto with Pancetta and Kale
A great overall risotto recipe whether using a pressure cooker or not
Prep time: Cook time: Total time:
Ingredients
  • 1/4 Pound Thick Slided Pancetta (or bacon)
  • 1 Tablespoon Olve Oil
  • 1 Medium White Onion
  • 2 Cloves Garlic
  • 1/2 Cup White Wine
  • 1 Cup Arborio Rice
  • 2 1/4 Cups Chicken Stock
  • 1/4 Cup Green Peas
  • 1/2 Cup Kale (cooked)
  • (Optional) Grated Parmesan
Instructions
  1. Add the olive oil to the pressure cooker over medium heat and wait until it begins to shimmer.
  2. Carefully add the pancetta and cook for about 6 minutes, remove to a plate and cut into small pieces. Try not to eat all of it before the rice is done.
  3. Add the onion & garlic and gently scrape up the pancetta fond in the bottom of the pan. Cook for about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the arborio rice and stir well to mix with the onion and garlic. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes until the grain starts to give off a nutty aroma
  5. Slowly pour in the white wine. It should reduce and be absorbed into the rice after a few minutes of stirring.  This should also help release any other fond in the bottom of your pan.
  6. Slowly pour in the stock, seal your pressure cooker and cook for 7 minutes when pressure has been reached  
  7. Alternate: If you aren't using a pressure cooker, you'll need 4 cups of heated stock and will slowly pour in about 1/2 cup at a time and stir until it is absorbed)
  8. Use your cooker's quick-release method to carefully remove the lid and return the pot to the stove
  9. Keep the pot over medium low heat and stir in the pancetta, peas and kale. Adjust the consistency by adding more stock or allowing any excess to reduce