Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Asparagus Risotto

Such a happy time of year -- birds nesting and the farmers' markets are stocked with cherries, apricots and bright green asparagus. I get so tired of apples and kale and chard that seeing peas and asparagus return each year is like greeting long lost friends.
Today I took my precious bunches of fresh asparagus and turned them in to a filling risotto for James' dinner.
First I cut the asparagus into 1" pieces and put most of the thicker stems (not the very woody parts I cut those off and threw them in the compost) into a pot barely covered with water and let them come to a boil and bubble away until soft -- about 5 minutes. Meanwhile I finely chopped the white and light green of one young leek, about 1/4 of a small red onion and two cloves of garlic.
I started a skillet with 2 Tb of olive oil and 1 Tb of butter. When the oil was hot and the butter melted I added in the chopped aromatics and let the onion mixture cook for about 3 minutes until just soft and translucent. Next I added in 1 1/2 cups risotto rice (I used arborio but there are several varieties of short grain starchy rices that work well) and let the rice toast in the oils for another 3 minutes or so. When the rice was shiny I added 1/2 cup of champagne. Now usually I would use white wine but we didn't have any handy and I found several bottles of bubbly on the shelf so champagne risotto it is. I let the wine cook down until almost gone and then started to add the chicken stock about 1/2 cup at a time. Each time letting the stock cook down until just about gone and then adding my next ladleful. While the rice was cooking I puréed the cooked asparagus in the blender. After 15 minutes I added in the pieces of asparagus I had not boiled in the saucepan and kept adding stock for about another 7 minutes until the rice was tender and creamy and the asparagus cooked through.
With the risotto off the heat I stirred in about 1/2 cup of the purée from the blender, 2 TB of butter and a healthy handful of grated parmesan. When the butter melted into the creamy rice I served James' dinner topped with piquant shavings of pecorino cheese.
Spring in the kitchen.

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