Saturday, March 21, 2009

Asparagus risotto

I first learned to make risotto, embarrassingly enough, with a look and cook book back in the day. I have never had the pleasure of cooking risotto in a professional kitchen. When I did my stage at Cube, (like an internship for cooks), I witnessed a Sous-Chef being told by the Chef that his risotto was too loose. The maker of the risotto in question agreed as he he slammed his pan back on the stove in frustration. It was a tense moment but Cube didn't let anything out into the dining room unless it was perfect. At home making risotto doesn't have to be such a tense endeavor. It's a dish that is hard to mess up and doesn't require much skill beyond stirring. I like my arborio , (the rice traditionally used for risotto), soft and not a little al dente as is often called for.

Asparagus is one the best spring vegetables for a risotto dish. It has a lot of character and marries well with the cheese in the dish. When Parmesan cheese is called for in a risotto recipe I prefer Pecorino Romano for it's intense and fruity flavor, a perfect accompaniment for the more neutral taste of the rice.

For an issue of the now defunct Cucina etc. an Italian cooking magazine published in Quebec we devoted and issue and the cover to risotto. I made a lot of risotto that week in studio. The cover in question accompanies this blog post.

Here is a classic recipe from Bon appetit for the dish in question:

Asparagus risotto
  • 1 1/2 pounds asparagus
  • 5 cups (about) canned low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cups arborio rice or medium-grain white rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • Fresh rosemary sprigs (optional)


Trim tough ends from asparagus; discard. Cut off asparagus tips and reserve. Cut stalks into 3/4-inch-long pieces. Place 2/3 of stalk pieces, 1 cup broth and 1 cup water in blender. Puree until smooth. Set aside.

Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and saute until tender, about 8 minutes. Add rice and stir 1 minute. Add wine and cook until absorbed, stirring often, about 2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup broth and chopped rosemary; simmer until liquid is absorbed, stirring often, about 4 minutes. Continue to cook for 15 minutes, adding more broth by 1/2 cupfuls and allowing liquid to be absorbed before adding more, stirring often. Add remaining asparagus stalk pieces and reserved asparagus tips and continue cooking until rice is just tender and mixture is creamy, adding broth as needed and stirring often, about 10 minutes longer. Add reserved asparagus puree and stir until absorbed, about 3 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan and cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer risotto to bowl. Garnish with rosemary sprigs, if desired. Serve, passing remaining Parmesan separately.

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