Cindy Pawlcyn, the owner of Napa Valley's new Brassica calls her executive chef, Darren McRonald, "the best risotto chef in the United States." We might question such high praise if we hadn't sampled McRonald's leek and pancetta risotto. The dish, which appears seasonally at Brassica, is both creamy and surprisingly light. Plus, the addition of a fried egg on top is a genius touch.
Leek and Pancetta Risotto with Fried Egg
Recipe adapted from Cindy Pawlcyn and Darren McRonald, Brassica, St. Helena, CA
Yield: 6 servings
Cook Time: 40 minutes
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 leeks, cleaned well and finely chopped
1 cup finely chopped pancetta
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
½ cup finely chopped yellow onion
3 cups Arborio rice
⅓ cup dry white wine; at room temperature
5 to 6 cups hot chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
6 large eggs
1. In a medium skillet set over medium heat, heat olive oil. Add the leeks and cook until soft, about 2 minutes. Remove the leeks to a bowl and set aside. In the same pan, add the pancetta and cook until it begins to render its fat and is soft but not dried out or crispy, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the pancetta to the reserved leeks. Set aside.
2. In a medium saucepan set over medium-low heat, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the rice and cook, stirring, until all the butter has been absorbed, about 4 minutes. Add the wine and reduce until dry, about 2 minutes.
3. Add enough stock so that the fluid level rises just above the rice. Continue to simmer, stirring frequently. Continue adding stock as it is absorbed so the stock just covers the top of the rice. Continue cooking until the rice is al dente, about 12 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in a bit more stock and the Parmesan. Remove from the heat and set aside to rest while you fry the eggs.
4. In a small skillet set over low heat, melt a tablespoon of butter. Crack the egg into the pan. Fry over low heat until the whites and yolk are set, about 5 minutes. Repeat with the remaining 5 eggs.
5. To serve, stir the reserved leeks and pancetta into the rice, divide the risotto among six bowls and place a fried egg on top of each serving. Serve immediately.