Using apples in savory dishes just seems right this time of year. Here, a small amount of hard cider adds fruit-flavored depth to a classic treatment. Pancetta or prosciutto may be substituted for the country ham, which we bought in one thick slice at the deli. If you don't eat pork, use smoked turkey breast instead.
Serve with a crunchy salad of parsley and thinly sliced fennel. Adapted from "An Apple Harvest: Recipes and Orchard Lore," by Frank Browning and Sharon Silva (Ten Speed Press, 2010).
> Apple and Country Ham Risotto
5 cups no-salt-added chicken broth, homemade or Kitchen Basics brand
3 to 4 ounces country ham, preferably in 1 slice (may substitute pancetta, prosciutto or smoked turkey)
4 tablespoons ( 1/2 stick) unsalted butter
A few sage leaves, plus more for optional garnish
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
3/4 cup (half of a 12-ounce bottle) semi-dry hard cider, such as George Hornsby's
1 large firm apple, such as Stayman, Winesap or Rome
1 1-ounce block asiago cheese, for garnish
Coarse salt or Maldon sea salt, for garnish
Freshly ground black pepper
Heat the broth in a large saucepan over medium heat.
Cut the ham into 1/4 -inch dice, to yield 6 to 8 tablespoons.
Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add a few sage leaves, if desired, then the ham and rice, stirring to coat. Add the cider and cook for 2 minutes, stirring, until it is almost evaporated. Add 1/2 cup of the hot broth and cook, stirring, until it is almost absorbed. Repeat with additions of the broth, allowing them to be absorbed before the next round.
While the risotto is cooking, peel (if desired) and core the apple, then cut three-quarters of it into very small dice to yield 3/4 cup. Cut the remaining quarter of the apple into very thin slices.
Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a small skillet or saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the diced apple and cook for 4 to 6 minutes, stirring to brown lightly without allowing the apple to get mushy. Transfer to a bowl and cover. Add the apple slices to the skillet and cook for a minute or two, until they are slightly browned.
Add the sauteed diced apple to the risotto with the last addition of broth; by this time, the rice should be creamy and the liquid should be absorbed. (You might not need all of the broth; this should take 20 to 23 minutes total.) Remove from the heat. Cover; let stand for 3 minutes.
Divide among individual shallow bowls. Use a vegetable peeler to shave a few curls of the asiago cheese over each portion, then treat each one to a sprinkling of salt, pepper and some of the sauteed apple slices. If desired, garnish with sage leaves.