After a cursory query on Twitter, I got a lot of great suggestions about potential beers to use in place of wine in a risotto. In the end I decided get a bottle of Orval with a few months on it, hoping to get the sharper, funkier flavours without too much bitterness. Unfortunately my regular stockist was out of Orval, so instead I went with a slightly more left field option suggested: a smoked dark wheat beer, in this case the brilliant Freimann’s Dunkelweiss by Hackney’s Pressure Drop Brewing. Check out the Twitter thread in the link above to see other suggestions. Popular choices included saisons, sours and amber ales.
Essentially, you’re using beer in place of wine in the risotto-making process, but you also need less stock as your beer is helping to act as that too. Pick a beer that – alcohol and carbonation aside – has flavours you would like in a sticky, comforting risotto. My recipe has bacon in it because bacon is amazing, but you could just use more mushrooms instead if you want. Also, I really wanted to put the smoky flavour of Freimann’s in the mix with some smoked, streaky bacon. Ingredients and method below.
The below makes a portion for 1 person, so scale up as you wish:
- 100g Arborio (risotto) rice
- 2 rashers smoked streaky bacon, chopped
- 1/2 an onion, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 2 mushrooms (optional), thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp butter
- 15g Parmesan, grated
- 125ml beer (in this case Freimann’s Dunkelweiss)
- 125ml chicken stock
- Salt and pepper
- Parsley, finely chopped, to serve
Cooking time: 40-45 minutes
1. Melt the butter in a large, heavy frying pan and gently fry the onion and garlic for a few minutes. Once softened, season with a little salt and pepper. I’ll be honest with you, I’m fairly free with butter in cooking, I daresay, like many people, I used what looked to be ‘enough’ to gently fry the onion.
2. Add your rice, stirring as you do and coating it all with the butter, onion and garlic. Fry this for about 3-5 minutes on a medium heat until the rice starts to go translucent.
3. Now it’s time to add the beer, but do so gradually, as if you were swigging mouthfuls from the bottle (hey stop! Well, ok, maybe a little) Add a bit of beer, stir and let the rice absorb it, and then some more, and so on. If you’re using a smoked beer, this amazing toasty, fruity aroma should be filling your kitchen. Keep the pan on a medium heat. The alcohol will boil off and all the sticky goodness will be left behind. The rice will take on a slightly darker colour now, depending on the beer it has absorbed.
4. Next, do the same thing again but with your stock (no swigging!) with just a splash at a time, stirring and allowing the rice to absorb it. The grains should gradually fatten up and the liquid thicken. Again, just a medium heat is enough. The beer and stock adding part of the process can take up to half an hour. It pays to be patient and steady. When about half of your stock is left, get a small non-stick pan with your bacon and mushrooms going on a medium-to-high heat. Add a splash of oil if you want, but if it’s streaky bacon you probably won’t need to.
5. Take care to keep an eye on your bacon and mushrooms, stirring them occasionally between adding stock to the risotto. When all your stock is used up and the risotto has absorbed almost all its liquid, take the pan off the heat and stir in your parmesan. After that, add your bacon (crispy, not crunchy) and mushrooms. Give it all a big stir and serve into bowls with parsley sprinkled on top.
Whilst the full-on smoky fruitiness of Freimann’s was perfect to use in the dish, I wanted something slightly less intense but still smoky and flavoursome to serve alongside it. I’ve recently fallen in love again with Anspach & Hobday’s Smoked Brown, which was a perfect match and would even make a good candidate for a beer to use in the recipe. The beer is fairly sweet with a rounded, oily bitterness and a clever, deep and smooth smokiness that brought the dish to life, and had the body and carbonation to cut through the fattiness and enhance the rich flavours. Lovely comforting nourishment all round.
If you’ve done a risotto with beer as an ingredient, share your successes in the comments below. I’m really keen to try this again with some different beers, and if you’re patient it’s a really easy and tasty dish to make. Cheers!
4 thoughts on “Recipe: Beer, Bacon and Parmesan Risotto”
Mmmmmmm dribbling at my work desk! Might give this ago… although I have a nice little risotto set at home I can never be bothered with making one! Will give this a go soon! I am all for the beer cooking though my only post is http://thehalfpintgentleman.com/2013/12/08/oscar-wilde-mild-beefy-goodness/ my instructions and measurements are a bit more Jamie Oliver and bung it all together haha!
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That looks pretty good! I must admit, the quantities here are in some cases estimated because I am also very much a ‘by eye’ cook. Thanks for sharing your recipe. 🙂
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My Holy Cowbell-bacon-and-courgette-spiced-with-cumin risotto worked pretty well actually. The fear that it could be too hoppy for a risotto (leading to unwanted bitterness) with was dispelled when I had a taste of it beforehand. We perceive it as, potentially, being ‘too hoppy’ purely because it is actually hoppy for the style (if we are calling the style ‘stout’), but in fact it isn’t all that bitter. Anyway… it contributed a very pleasant dry roast flavour and sensation to the risotto. Definitely worked for me. I paired mine with Black Betty, roast with roast, plus the smoke of the bacon = win.
On that note, I think that even Black Betty _might_ work because although it has more bitterness it also has a fantastic savoury caramel (like you get from a properly caramelised steak) in its flavour profile. It would depend what meat you wanted to use, maybe some pork which has undergone some caramelisation.
And on a risotto (with or without beer) note, I always cook whatever meat I am using _before_ I start with the onion and garlic because then you have pre-existing flavour in the pan. So in this case I fried the bacon then removed it to a bowl to add back in at the end, resulting in plenty of bacon fat for softening the onion and garlic in. I love the versatility of a risotto. I’m definitely looking forward to more risotto with beer in the future.
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Glad the Holy Cowbell worked – it is *very* roasty as you say, so I can see how it would work nicely.
I was going to do the bacon first and set it aside, but after I’d decided to do mushrooms, I decided to them together separately (mainly to improve mushrooms). If doing it without mushrooms then yeah I would probably do bacon first to have flavoured fat. I normally do that for carbonara etc. making things taste of bacon is fun AND important.
As for Black Betty – great call I think. Like you say, that caramelised steak sticky sweetness is a great flavour to have in there. I reckon it could go nicely if you used Chinese char siu pork perhaps? So much deliciousness to ponder.