Asparagus Risotto

Rick Cooks Home Asparagus Risotto

This is our favorite of many risotto dishes. We usually use whatever ingredients we have on hand, but if we’re shopping, we buy for this version.

If you can’t get fresh (or frozen) asparagus, use something else. Baby artichokes are good (see the paella recipe) if you live near Castroville and can find them. You can also use fresh corn, sun-dried tomatoes, bell peppers (any color, especially red and yellow), mild (Anaheim) chiles, scallions, or any fresh, seasonal, crunchy, colorful vegetable. (Canned or mushy vegetables don’t complement risotto well.) Chopped mushrooms are a great addition, but be sure to remove dark gills which will discolor the rice.

If you haven’t made risotto before, be advised that this is not a typical starchy rice dish. Risotto is made from a medium grain rice, commonly Arborio, which becomes creamy (not sticky) when cooked. It’s prepared first by sautéing (to prepare it for absorbing liquid) and then by adding a liquid one ladle at a time, allowing the liquid to be absorbed between ladles.

The risotto can be sautéed in either olive oil or butter, or a combination. It’s important to make sure that all the grains are coated with the fat and that they take on a pearly appearance before adding the liquid.

I always finish with a few tablespoons of butter for richness, and serve immediately after the butter and Parmesan cheese have melted.

Risotto, like pasta, is substantial and is is usually served as a first course, not as an accompaniment.

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Asparagus Risotto

*Serves 6*

5 ½ c (l.5 l) chicken or vegetable stock
1 ¼ lb (625 g) asparagus, cut into 1 ½-inch (4-cm) lengths
¾ c dry white wine
2 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 c (440 g) Arborio rice
1 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese
4 T unsalted butter
1 T finely chopped fresh tarragon or 1 t dried
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Fresh tarragon sprigs

1.  In a small saucepan over high heat, bring the chicken or vegetable stock to a boil. Add the asparagus and boil until just tender-crisp, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the asparagus to a bowl and set aside.

2.  Add the wine to the stock and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and keep the liquid hot.

3.  In a heavy large saucepan over medium-low heat, heat the olive oil and sauté the onion, stirring frequently, until it is translucent, about 8 minutes.

4.  To the onion, add the rice and stir until a white spot appears in the center of the grains, about 1 minute. Add ¾ cup of the stock, adjust the heat to simmer if needed, so that the liquid bubbles and is absorbed slowly. Stir until the liquid is absorbed. Continue cooking, adding the liquid ¾ cup at a time and stirring almost constantly, until the rice starts to soften, about 10 minutes. Continue cooking, adding the liquid ½ cup at a time and stirring almost constantly, until the rice is just tender but slightly firm in the center and the mixture is creamy about 10 minutes longer.

5.  Finish by adding the asparagus, Parmesan cheese, butter, chopped tarragon and salt and pepper to taste. Stir to mix well, and until the butter is melted.

6.  To serve, spoon into shallow bowls or onto plates. Garnish with the tarragon sprigs.