Corn and Bacon Risotto with Wisconsin Cheese Curds and Paprika Oil

In the middle of Iowa, there’s a fairly short period of time when sweet corn comes fresh from the cob, and this dish, from Denver and Boulder Chef’s Table, is full of Midwestern goodness.  It incorporates bacon, sweet corn, and cheese curds (preferably from Wisconsin — luckily only an hour away from here, so Wisconsin cheese curds are plentiful).  This recipe was a little time-intensive, and a little heavy for the hot summer day when I made it, but the flavor was great.  I also love a cheese curd and incorporate them all the time into things, but if you find a great one, you’ll hear the curd squeak as you eat it, so something to watch for when purchasing your curds.  While not Wisconsin, one of my favorite local cheese curd purveyors is WW Homestead Dairy.  With fresh sweet corn, leftover milk from my ice cream making adventures this summer, and some bacon ready-to-be cooked, I knew it was time to make this recipe.

Corn and Bacon Risotto with Wisconsin Cheese Curds and Paprika Oil.jpg

Corn and Bacon Risotto with Wisconsin Cheese Curds and Paprika Oil

Paprika Oil:
2 fluid ounces canola oil
1 tsp smoked paprika

Roasted corn:
2 ears sweet corn, shucked
1 Tbsp canola oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Roasted garlic puree:
2 heads garlic
1/2 c canola oil

Corn puree:
3 ears corn, shucked
1 quart milk
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme

Risotto:
1 quart chicken stock
1 Tbsp canola oil
1/4 c finely diced yellow onion
1 tsp minced garlic
1 c Arborio rice
1/2 c white wine
salt to taste
1 medium red bell pepper, deveined and diced small
3/4 c Wisconsin cheddar curds
6 strips, bacon, cooked until crispy, divided
2 Tbsp chopped chives, divided
Salt and pepper to taste

To make the paprika oil: Pulse the ingredients to combine in a blender, pour into a small container or squeeze bottle, and let sit until the paprika settles.  Strain and reserve.

To prepare the roasted corn: Slice the kernels carefully off the cob with a knife.  In a pan with canola oil over medium heat, lightly saute them until tender, about 3 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

Next, roast the garlic: Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Slice off the tops of the bulbs so that the tips of the cloves are showing.  Place top-down in a shallow baking pan and pour oil over the top.  Cover the pan with aluminum foil and place in oven until tender and golden, about 1 hour.  Remove and let cool, reserving the oil in the refrigerator for future use (it’s great on bread or in pasta sauce).  hen ready to handle, press the roasted cloves out of the bulb and mash them with a fork or use a food processor to grind them into a paste.  Set aside.

To make the corn puree: Slice the kernels carefully off the cobs.  Add them along with the milk and herbs to a small saucepan and, over medium heat, bring to a simmer.  Cook until tender, about 10 minutes.  Strain the kernels, reserving the milk but discarding the herbs; place in a blender and puree, adding milk as necessary (use as little as possible) until the consistency is smooth.  Cover with wax paper or plastic wrap to prevent the formation surface skin and set aside.

Begin the risotto: In a medium pot, bring the stock to a simmer.  Add canola oil to another good-size pot and sweat onion and garlic over medium-low heat.  Add rice and toast until translucent.  Deglaze with white wine.  Add 3/4 c stock to the risotto, stirring continuously.  When the liquid is almost gone, add another 3/4 c and keep stirring.  Repeat until rice is tender yet still has tooth, about 20-25 minutes.  (You will likely use all the stock, though a little less or more may be needed to ensure the proper al dente texture.)  Salt to taste.

When the risotto is finished, fold in the roasted corn kernels, 2 Tbsp of roasted garlic puree, 4 Tbsp corn puree, diced red pepper, cheddar curds, 4 pieces of bacon crumbled into small pieces, and 1 Tbsp of chives.  Heat a few minutes until the cheese begins to melt.  Season to taste.  Ladle into four bowls and garnish each with a half piece of the other two bacon slices, remaining tablespoon of chives and paprika oil.  Serve at once.

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Braised Bacon Rice

Recently, I have been flipping through a few random cookbooks where I had recipes flagged.  One such cookbook was done by a Top Chef contestant and is called Smoke and Pickles.  It features an updated take on southern cooking, an area of cooking where I have not done much experimenting, but was eager to try.  I found this recipe for braised bacon rice, and while I didn’t see a photo in the cookbook of the recipe, it looked yummy.  I was also pleased because I had the opportunity to incorporate some more cayenne pepper into my cooking, something that this midwestern gal is sometimes apprehensive to do, to say the least.

I was delighted by this recipe.  It had great flavor and with the hint of spiciness at the end of the dish.  It was nice and creamy, almost comfort food-like, and in the heat of the summer, it was a great option for on the stovetop.

Braised Bacon Rice

Braised Bacon Rice

8 oz slab bacon, cut into 1/4 inch dice
1 1/2 c chopped onions
1 c chopped celery, plus 2 Tbsp chopped celery leaves
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
4 c chicken stock
1/2 c tomato juice
1 c long-grain rice
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Cook the bacon in a large pot over low heat until it has rendered most of its fat, about 5 minutes.  Add the onions, chopped celery, and the garlic and cook about 6 minutes, stirring constantly to avoid burning the bottom of the pan.

Add the mustard, cayenne, and paprika and stir, then add the chicken stock and tomato juice and bring to a boil.  Add the rice, stir, and lower the heat to a slow simmer.  Let the rice cook, uncovered, for about 16 minutes, or until most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Add the chopped celery leaves, butter, and salt and pepper to taste to the rice.  Turn off the heat and let the rice stand for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.  Serve hot.

Wild Rice Stuffing

Being the day after Valentine’s Day and a couple months away from Easter, we’ve got a lot of holiday cooking which sticks out.  It’s still winter, and so I am still thinking a little bit about some of my favorite winter holiday recipes.  Although this recipe was first found in a Cooking Light magazine at Thanksgiving time a few years ago, it has become one of my favorite rice side dishes.  It is often a more fall/harvest-inspired recipe, but that wouldn’t stop me from making it at just about any time of the year.  Sometimes it’s nice to have a side dish that isn’t potoato-based.  In those days, wild rice pilaf is a nice addition.  It doesn’t hurt that like me, wild rice is a major crop in Minnesota.

I’ve also brought this recipe for potluck meals. Cooking it the night before, I’ve reheated it the next day in the crockpot with an additional cup or two of chicken stock.

Also, instead of separate wild rice and brown rice, I generally use Uncle Ben’s long grain rice & wild rice blend and cook that separate while sautéing the celery, onion, garlic, etc.

Wild Rice Stuffing

Cooking spray

1 1/2 cups chopped celery

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup uncooked wild rice

2 garlic cloves, minced

4 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth

1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage

1 cup uncooked long-grain brown rice

1/2 cup dried sweet cherries

1/2 cup chopped dried apricots

1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add celery, onion, wild rice, and garlic to pan; sauté 3 minutes. Stir in broth and sage; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 25 minutes. Stir in brown rice, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and cook for 30 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat; let stand, covered, 10 minutes. Stir in cherries and remaining ingredients.