The idea for this dish came from something I ate at brunch several years ago. Although the restaurant has since shut down, I still recall this meal every once in a while. (And I love that you can add pancetta to risotto and suddenly it’s acceptable breakfast fare.)
This dish was actually served with a farm fresh/uncooked egg yolk, and I wasn’t really a fan of that. It’s honestly taken me a long time to come around to egg yolks in general. It’s crazy, I know, but ever since I was little, I always preferred whites, whether they were hard-boiled or pan-fried. I never went gaga for a runny yolk like so many seem to do, so obviously I was not particularly interested in poached eggs. But lately, I’ve given them another chance and I really enjoy them in certain applications. They are especially great here because not only do they really make this more “breakfasty,” the runny yolk mixed with the creamy risotto makes this almost carbonara-like in texture, and that’s certainly not a bad thing.
When I first decided to try making poached eggs at home, I was incredibly intimidated. Imagine my surprise when I followed Deb’s tutorial and my very first egg turned out perfectly (unfortunately, the dish I topped it with that time was not perfect, which is why it was never blogged; hah!). So, if you’re intimidated by trying to poach eggs at home, or have tried in the past and failed, have faith in Smitten Kitchen.
I’m sure there are endless adaptations to this dish. I thought of doing a sausage and cheddar one, myself. Or what about chorizo and Chihuahua cheese? Vegetarian with goat cheese? The possibilities are endless.
1 qt. chicken broth
2 Tbsp. butter, divided
3 oz. pancetta, chopped
1 shallot, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup arborio rice
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
Poached eggs for serving
Pour the broth into a saucepan and set it over medium-low heat. Keep the broth warm (but not boiling) as you make the risotto.
In a heavy-bottomed skillet or smaller Dutch oven, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the pancetta and cook until it has crisped and rendered its fat. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Melt the remaining butter into the pan, and then cook the shallot until tender. Stir in the garlic just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the risotto, coating with the butter and toasting the kernels until they are translucent, about 2 minutes.
Add the wine to the pan. Scrape up any browned bits and allow nearly all of the wine to be absorbed by the risotto. Add a ladle-full of warm chicken broth to the rice. Stir frequently and do not add another ladle of broth until the first is almost completely absorbed. Continue to stir frequently, adding broth by the ladle, until the rice is creamy and has just a slight bite in the center when you try it. This will take about 25 minutes and you may or may not use all of the broth.
Off the heat, stir in the cheese and pancetta. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately with poached eggs on top.