I think it’s easy and rewarding to make asparagus risotto. The season of asparagus is, I suppose, over (one website says it starts mid-April and ends two months later; which, using my calculator, means: it’s over) but you can still find it in your grocery store, I bet. I did. So can you. And you should buy some because this risotto’s pretty easy and fun to make. Maybe this picture will entice you:
The recipe comes from The River Cafe cookbook (the one in London, not the New York one) and you’ll need the following:
2 lbs asparagus, trimmed
1 qt Chicken Stock (though I wish I had just a drop more)
coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 small red onion, peeled and very finely chopped
2 Tbs unsalted butter
3 Tbs olive oil
1 1/2 cups risotto rice (Arborio rice is what I used)
1/3 cup vermouth
3/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan
(1) So heat the chicken stock and check for seasoning. You don’t want to bring it to a boil or it will evaporate while you do everything else. Just warm it up. But make sure to season because if it’s not salty enough, your risotto will be bland.
(2) Cut the tips off the asparagus and keep to one side. Chop the tender parts of the stalks into approximately 1-inch pieces.
(3) Blanch the asparagus tips for 2 minutes (in boiling salted water) and then blanch the stalks for about 3 minutes. In a blender pulse the stalks with a ladle of stock:
(See, I really like this step because instead of having those unattractive stalks in the end product it gets all mushed up and incorporated into the risotto itself.)
(4) In a heavy saucepan, cook the onion in half the butter and the olive oil over a low heat for about 10 minutes until soft.
(5) Add the rice and cook gently, stirring, for 2 minutes to coat the rice with the oil.
[So here’s your set-up for what follows. You should have your risotto rice pot right next to the heated broth and have your ladle ready. The next part is what separates the men from the boys, the ladies from the girls and the transgendered from the bi-curious.]
(6) Start to add the stock, ladle by ladle, stirring constantly, allowing each ladleful to be absorbed before adding the next. Continue until the rice is al dente, usually about 20 minutes.
[Here’s where I entered a bit of a crisis: about 15 minutes in, almost all the broth was gone and the rice wasn’t nearly cooked enough. I somehow was able to save the day by lowering the heat a lot and rationing off the rest of the broth (that was the only broth I had) but if I were you I’d have more broth on hand. Make sure to taste as it gets close to 20 minutes to see how cooked the rice is.]
(7) So once the rice is al dente, add the stalk puree, vermouth, asparagus tips, the rest of the butter, and the Parmesan. Stir a bit and it turns a fun green color:
That’s it! Now just plate it up and grate some more Parmesan on top. Here it is up close:
It really captures the essence of asparagus; what more could you want from a risotto? Plus it goes great with white wine. And tomorrow, with the leftovers, I might make fried risotto balls. Pending cholesterol results, naturally. (Are you tired of me talking about that yet?) Happy risotto making!