Seriously, don't test me...I have a fork.
Unlike tomatoes and avocados and other bewildering plant products that vacillate daily between fruit and vegetable allegiances, bacon has always stayed true to its original vegetable classification. Possibly this is because I plug my ears when people talk about it as a (LALALALAICAN'THEARYOUhey can you pass the bacon, please?)
The secret to this most heroic of vegetables is Niman Ranch. Niman Ranch bacon is kind of like other bacon, only approximately six times more bacony and amazing and smoky and delicious. Which means that instead of six strips of bacon in a risotto like this one, you only need two to produce a doubly wonderful, rich, applewood-infused, creamy risotto with deep bacon undertones and silky mushroom overtones and...well, you should really just go make it yourself, and then we can rave about it together.
2 strips Niman Ranch applewood smoked bacon, sliced crosswise
28 oz chicken and/or veggie broth
1 shallot, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1 rounded cup Arborio rice
Few sloshes sherry
10 oz crimini mushrooms, sliced
5 oz shiitake mushrooms, sliced a bit thicker than the crimini
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup (1-2 oz) grated Parmesan cheese
3 oz baby arugula
1 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
Heat a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook about five minutes, stirring occasionally, until it starts to turn golden brown in places. Remove with a slotted spatula onto a plate lined with a paper towel. Use another paper towel to soak up a bit of the extra bacon grease, so that there's about 1-2 tbsp left in the pot.
Add 1 tbsp olive oil and the shallot and saute for a minute, then stir in the garlic, about two-thirds of the thyme, and a pinch of salt and saute for a couple minutes more. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains. After another minute, add a slosh or two of sherry and cook, stirring, until the rice soaks it up.
Begin adding broth by the ladleful, stirring routinely until the excess liquid is gone before adding more and adjusting the heat down a little if necessary (you want a definite simmer when you stop stirring, with small bubbles here and there, rather than a full-on boil).
Meanwhile, heat a wide pan over medium heat. When hot, add a glug of olive oil, then the smashed clove of garlic. Let simmer in the oil for about a minute. Add the mushrooms (you can add half now and half in a minute if the pan's a little too small for all at once) and stir to coat. Saute, stirring occasionally, for a couple minutes until the mushrooms start to brown a little. Add a pinch of salt, the rest of the thyme, and some freshly ground black pepper, and a little more olive oil if the pan has gotten dry. Continue to saute until the mushrooms start to release their juices. Add a slosh of sherry, stir to coat, and turn off the heat.
When the broth is nearly gone and the risotto is al dente, add the Parmesan, arugula, bacon, and mushrooms to the risotto and stir to combine. Turn off the heat, add just a little more broth, and adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot, sprinkled with parsley and garnished with a bit of baby arugula around the sides.