Asparagus Risotto

When I was a child, I thought asparagus was wild. It grew along ditch banks and fencerows. We went out with paring knives and returned with big, brown bags full of spring spears. We cooked it simply and ate plates of tender asparagus slathered with home-churned, salty butter. Little did I know then what a bounty I had.

Now we see asparagus in the supermarket all the time. In the winter it’s shipped in from Peru with floppy tops and woody stems. We should all know better than to buy that out of season produce when May and June bring us the best asparagus in the world from nearby farmlands. This is the time to eat asparagus everyday, in every way we can think of. We’ll have our fill now and pass by the sorry  imported variety the rest of the year.

After a couple weeks of quickly cooked, crisply sweet plain asparagus drizzled with just a touch of butter or good olive oil, I’m ready for an asparagus risotto. Asparagus, rice, chicken stock, butter and Parmesan cheese all come together for a classic, comforting supper.

Asparagus Risotto

12 oz. fresh asparagus (no woody ends)

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 oz. peeled onion (3/4 cup chopped)

2 minced cloves garlic

1 cup Arborio or other round grain rice

1 ½  cups chicken stock + 1 ½ cups water

¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste

chopped fresh mint or parsley

Cut the top 1½ inches off the asparagus and set aside. Cut the rest of the spears into ½ inch slices (should have 1 ½ to 2 cups).

In a heavy pot melt 1 tablespoon butter and the olive oil. Gently sauté the chopped onion (cover with butter wrappers to encourage softening).

Bring the stock and water to a boil. Add the reserved asparagus tops, cook 2 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and set lightly cooked tips aside; keep the stock hot.

When the onion has softened, add garlic, rice, sliced stems and a generous pinch of salt. Stir and cook 2-3 minutes. Use a 4 oz. ladle or a ½ cup measure to add stock to the rice mixture, one ladle at a time. Stir in the stock and allow the rice to absorb all the liquid. Stir from time to time. Once the stock has been absorbed, add another ladle and repeat this process until most of the liquid has been used and the rice is almost tender. (It’s not necessary to stand over the cooking rice but stir occasionally.)

The rice is done when there’s still a slight bite at the center (after about 20 minutes).  It should not have a hard core, nor should it turn to mush. When the rice is ready, stir in the asparagus tips. Add the last tablespoon of butter and half the Parmesan cheese. Turn off the heat, fold in the butter, cheese, asparagus, mint or parsley and loosen the mixture with the last of the hot stock. Taste for salt. When serving, make sure the rice is tender and loose (add a bit of hot water if all the stock’s been used). Mound the risotto letting a little broth pool at the edge. Twist over some freshly ground pepper, sprinkle with grated Parm and chopped mint. Serves 2 as a main course and 3-4 as a side.

Note: For a satisfying simple soup, thin and simmer leftover risotto with chicken stock. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and some more mint just before serving.

                                                                              Mary Jo’s cookbook is available at Amazon.com    http://amzn.to/9lOnZv

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One Response to “Asparagus Risotto”

  1. Sally Says:

    sounds good…I’ll give it a try.

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