About two years ago, when I got my Traeger smoker, I experimented with everything I could get my hands on. Every piece of meat or fish you could think of. But the most surprising was tomatoes. Smoking them brings out a wonderful, rich flavor that’s surprising and delicious.
If you don’t have a smoker, you can use a gas grill, for instance. Directions are at the end of the recipe.
1 onion, diced small
2 ham hocks
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 Tbs. olive oil
pinch of crushed red chile flakes
1 cup arborio rice
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 Tbs. smoked paprika
1/2 cup fresh Parmesan
First, smoke the tomatoes. Turn the smoker to 225 degrees.
Remove the cores from the tomatoes. Brush them with a little olive oil and salt them. Place them on a small pan and place the pan on the grate. Don’t put the tomatoes directly on the grate - you’ll want to collect the juice that seeps out of the tomatoes.
It should take roughly 2 hours to finish the tomatoes, a little longer if they are large. They should be soft and weeping when they are done.
While the tomatoes are smoking, cover the ham hocks with the broth in a saucepan. Simmer on low, with the lid on for the time it takes the tomatoes to finish.
When the tomatoes are done, place them in a strainer/colander over a bowl and press the tomatoes so the juice goes through to the bowl. Discard the skin and solids that are left.
In a heavy pot on medium-low heat, cook the onion and garlic until softened but not browned. Add the paprika and chili flakes.
Add the rice (don’t rinse the rice when you make risotto - the starch adds to a creamier risotto). Increase the heat to medium and toast for about three minutes.
Add the juice from the smoked tomatoes until it’s almost evaporated.
Remove the ham hocks from the simmering broth and take the meat off the bone and cut into bite-sized pieces. Set the meat aside.
Using a ladle, add one ladle-full of the broth to the rice. When that’s absorbed, add another ladle of broth. Keep repeating that process until the rice reaches your desired doneness, adding the ham at any time near the end. This should take about 25 minutes.
Taste the broth. Depending on your tastes, you may want to add more chili flakes or paprika for heat or smokiness.
To serve, top the risotto with a little shaved or grated Parmesan.
To Make Your Own Smoker
Use wood chips, rather than chunks.
Cut a 12” sheet of foil.
Add pre-soaked wood chips to middle of foil rectangle.
Fold the foil in half to cover the wood chips completely.
Fold the foil edges inward and press down.
Flip package over and poke several small holes in the top to allow smoke to escape.
Place packet on grill near the food.