This week, the I Heart Cooking Club is concentrating on ingredients that are 'in season' where ever we are in the world. Well, here in New England the potato crop is mounded up in cool storage for the winter. It's getting colder by the day and we are settling in for warm 'stick to your ribs' suppers. Potatoes will be getting full treatment in the weeks and months ahead.
Last night, sweet potatoes got the royal treatment in a beautiful Italian supper.
One classic dish that makes its way into my kitchen at this time of year is risotto. With little cubes of sweet potato and some jazzy bits of pancetta and crispy sage leaves, Donna Hay has tempted me to make her version of this Italian classic. It fits beautifully with this week's theme, as my pantry drawer is filled with both sweet and white potatoes and I have a sage bush out the back door that must have its branches snipped before the hard frosts finally 'do it in' for the season.
So ... here's Donna's take ... with my spin on things. I did change her recipe a bit, as I am a complete brat about my risotto. Donna Hay wants you to bake the risotto with all the chicken stock added at one time. I just can't bring myself to not cook the risotto on top of the stove, as I really think that the stirring process frees up the creamy starches in the rice grains far better than a sedentary baking method. I also added the shallot and white wine into the beginning preparation of pan. Building the bank of flavour for the arborio to absorb is a big thing for me when making risotto, so I couldn't let go of that step. Finally, I nixed the final drizzle of butter because I'd opted to use the pancetta fat at the beginning of the cooking process ... and let's be serious... I don't need that much more fat in my dinner.
This was a killer batch of risotto ... little sweet bites of potato, crunchy hits of sage and pancetta, and all that cheesy creaminess of the rice ... Fall perfection! Donna Hay has a nice collection of flavours here ... we gobbled the risotto with a side of roasted Brussels sprouts and glasses of spicy light Gewurtztraminer wine. With the fire going in the stove and the candles lit, it was a cozy night in the grey cottage last evening!
Donna Hay’s Pancetta, Sweet Potato and Sage Risotto
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into small cubes
1 tbsp. olive oil, plus a couple more teaspoons for other use
4 - 6 slices pancetta, cut to slivers about ½ inch wide
2 tsp. butter
¼ c. fresh perfect sage leaves
1 shallot, minced
1½ c. Arborio rice
½ c. white wine
4 c. warm chicken stock
⅔ c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt and black pepper
melted butter for drizzling
- Preheat the oven to 365° F. Toss the prepared sweet potato with the tablespoon of olive oil and some salt and pepper. Plop on a cookie sheet and roast for about 25 minutes – until the pieces are softened and golden. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- Use a small fry pan to brown the pancetta slivers until crisping at the edges and some of the fat is rendered out.
- Remove the pancetta slivers to a plate and add the butter to the pancetta fat that remains in the fry pan.
- When the fat bubbles, add the sage leaves and ‘frizzle’ them to crispy golden edges. Remove them to the plate with the pancetta.
- Scrape the butter and pancetta fat to the bottom of a heavy saucepan. Heat the pan over medium heat and add the shallots, cooking them to a soft white sweaty shine.
- Add the Arborio and toss a couple minutes to toast and coat with the shallot juices and the fats.
- Add the white wine and stir it in well, letting the rice absorb almost all of it.
- Then, begin adding the warm stock, stirring frequently.
- As the stock is almost completely absorbed, add more stock – a soup ladle at a time until almost all the stock has been used. Then … begin tasting to judge the ‘bite’ of the rice. Add the salt and black pepper, to taste.
- When you like the consistency of the rice, stir in the Parmesan cheese to melt it.
- Toss in the sweet potato, trying to keep the cubes intact.
- Turn the risotto into a warm bowl and sprinkle the pancetta and sage over top.
- If you like, drizzle a bit of melted butter over all and serve piping hot.
Now it's time to see what others in IHCC have contributed to this week's 'In Season' challenge!
Head on over to I Heart Cooking Club to see what's what! Then, head out to your local farmers market and pick up some of the best of what's in season in your neck of the woods! Enjoy!