Simply Spring Ham and Pea Risotto

A savoury and hearty meal on a warm spring day

Being married to a chef has its advantages, and I’d like to think that I have gleaned a small fraction of his culinary knowledge in the process. Left to my own devices, I’d probably still be eating warm, buttery baguettes, soup and tomato salad for dinner every night. I was taught how to prepare risotto early on in our relationship, and I am always grateful for the ability to create a delicious one-pot meal in 30 minutes or less.

This risotto recipe has been made time and time again in our house, and you can vary the ingredients to suit your particular tastes. For springtime, we love using English peas and ham, two staples we always have stocked in our refrigerator.  We also enjoy making this dish using mushrooms and scallops: there is a limitless combination of protein-vegetable options!

Ingredients:

1/2 bag (or box) of Arborio rice
20 English pea pods
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 cloves of garlic
Salt/pepper to taste
32 oz./900g chicken stock
White wine
1/2 stick of butter or 4-6 T. of olive oil
Chopped, cooked ham
1 onion

Tools:

Large saucepan
Your favourite sharp paring knife
Microplane or cheese grater
Wooden spoon

The first step is to decide if you will be using butter or olive oil in your risotto.  This is very important because you cannot ‘mix’ the two ingredients; if you start off with butter, you must finish with butter, and the same holds true for olive oil.  Begin by shucking your pea pods and placing the peas in a small bowl. Next, dice your onion and garlic and toss them into a saucepan over medium heat.  For our recipe preparation, we heated them in the pan along with a 1/4 stick of butter.

Sweat the onions and the garlic until they have a lovely limp texture.

Add half a bag (or box) of Arborio rice to the pot.

Toast the rice along with the onions and garlic for at least 30 seconds, stirring all the while so the ingredients do not burn.

At this point, you can add a bit of white wine to de-glaze the pan, before you begin adding your chicken stock.

Add enough chicken stock to cover your rice, and do not stop stirring the ingredients!

Repeat this process several times. You should never be able to see the bottom of the pan without any liquid – if you do, you know it is time to add more chicken stock!

Grate your parmigiano-reggiano cheese and place aside in a bowl.

After about 15 minutes, taste a small bit of your risotto to check if the rice is cooked. If the rice is still firm, keep adding your chicken stock and stirring until you reach the desired texture. Once the rice is done, add your peas, chopped ham and the remainder of your stick of butter.

Toss your cheese on top and stir together thoroughly.  Spoon into a bowl, finish with some more grated cheese, and enjoy!

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