It's Groundhog Day, if you live in the US. Well, it's Groundhog Day if you live in the UK, too, but Groundhog Day isn't a holiday here, probably because we don't have groundhogs.* Also probably because there is NO CHANCE at all in the history of ever that spring would come to the UK on 3 February. There will ALWAYS be at least 6, and probably closer to 12, more weeks of winter, minimum. Now that it's February, though, we're buckling in for the long-haul of this winter. It's still snowing at least every other day, Holtzmann still has to wear her wee tartan jacket every time we go outside, and the park across the street has been ankle-deep in mud since Christmas. Might as well embrace it and make some risotto, right?
Risotto is one of those foods (along with mussels and, most of the time, duck) that I will always get if it's on the menu at a restaurant. Paired with mushrooms and truffles, or shrimp, or pecorino and leeks, or bacon and an egg or even cabbage, I don't care: I'm into it. I'm also not scared to make it despite how it's always treated like a really difficult dish, I just really like it. But I was wary of this particular risotto because, well, pork? And olives? Anyway, this is why I sat on this recipe for so long, and now I am sad that it took me so long to cook it because it was great. Salty pork shoulder cooked for ages until it's fall-apart tender, sweet green peas to contrast with it, and all on a bed of tender risotto cooked in pork broth? Yes, please.
I'm not going to try to foist the olives on you because I, too, was wary of them, and the truth is that this risotto would work just fine without them. The flavour from the pork and peas is enough to carry the dish, but if you're feeling daring, give it a try with the olives. I tried to get away with sprinkling them on top so we could easily scoop them back off if they were terrible, but then I remembered the rules and went ahead with it and... they were nice. With the olives, the whole dish has a nice variety of briny-sweet-umami with the risotto holding it all together, but you can definitely get away without them and no one will notice because no one would ever think that a bowl of risotto was supposed to have olives in it because the year is no longer 1962. However you make it, make it soon while the days are short, the weather is iffy and you have nowhere better to be than your kitchen, because this is hibernation food of the first order and you're not going to want to eat this in May. Unless you live in the North Pole, or maybe Australia.
*We DO, however, have hedgehogs (I have not seen one of these since moving here), foxes (I DID see one of these on my way home from a girls' night, drunk, when we first moved here- Judson still doesn't believe me, but it happened and it was awesome) and badgers (also haven't seen one of these but did you know they are huge and carry tuberculosis?).
4 spoons out of five. This recipe was really easy, especially by risotto standards, which usually require gradual adding of liquid ingredients, constant stirring and a lot of other faff. I knocked off one spoon because getting hold of pork shoulder is a bit of a pain, and trimming it once I got it was difficult, but this dish is awesome, and goes super well with a bright winter salad (endive, oranges and walnuts for us, but you do you!).
One year ago: Party Mix
two years ago: Garbanzo bean soup
Trim pork from bones if needed (I had the butcher do this) and trim off as much fat as possible.
In a deep-sided pan, brown meat in oil or fat on both sides.
Sprinkle ½ of salt over meat, add ½ of water, cover and cook over very low heat for 40 minutes, checking every 10 minutes to be sure water has not boiled off (if it has, add remaining water, a little bit at a time).
Remove meat from pan and set aside.
Stir rice, onion and thyme, if using, into pan drippings, turn heat up to medium-low and stir until rice has absorbed the liquid.
Add chicken broth in 2 batches, allowing rice to absorb most of liquid before adding more.
Add any remaining water and frozen peas and bring to a simmer.
Once peas are warmed through, add pork along with any liquid it has released, cover and simmer until any remaining liquid is absorbed, about 5 more minutes.
Stir in olives, taste and adjust seasoning, then serve with a glass of white wine and a crisp winter salad.
2 lbs (1kilo) pork shoulder, trimmed of fat and cut into large bite-sized chunks
2 tbsp olive oil or goose fat
2 tsp salt
1 c (235ml) water
1 c (200g)risotto (uncooked)
1 yellow onion, chopped coarsely
2 c (470ml) chicken broth
1 ¼ c (200g) frozen peas
1 pinch dried thyme or leaves from 2 sprigs fresh thyme
¼ c (30g) small green olives, pimento-stuffed or plain