for most of the country this time of year means spring. warm days, cool nights, new blossoms pushing up throught the earth, a sense of renewal spewing up from your pores. but for those of us in texas, we had that feeling about 2 months ago and have now forged on to blood-boiling heat like you would not believe. we haven’t hit 100 degrees yet, but when you factor in what temperature it “feels like”, we’re up to about 104, i think. i also think i forget to move back to california every year when this happens. but this week, and this week only, we got a reprive. the last vestige of spring is upon us and, mercifully it has been in the 80’s during the day and in the unheard-of 50’s at night.
to help celebrate this, i present to you aspargus risotto. y’all know risotto, right? that dish that you have to stand over and stir for hours on end? well, after this week it’ll be no-can-do with our weather. but if you live in a place where you won’t get arrested for startin’ up the stove after april, you should give this a whirl. it is a simple, but very satisfying meal in itself. it is also a method for which, from here on out i will provide a step-by-step guide. a method just basically means once you get, you get it, and you can substitute solids and liquids freely. as long as you stick with the rules, o’ course!
it is best made with a short grain, starchy rice called arborio.
heat your butter/olive oil combo. remember this combo not only allows you to saute at a higher heat than just with butter alone, (because oil has a higher flashpoint than butter, meaning it won’t burn as fast) but it is also a very rich combination.
add in your onions or shallots, saute for a few minutes, then add your rice. but whatever you do, do not brown the mixture.
like i did.
then add your wine–at least a decent drinking wine please. if you don’t embibe or like the flavor, you can leave this step out and just start with adding broth to the rice.
at this point, you’ll want to stir and stir and stir the mixture. this not only allows the wine to infuse into the rice, it also releases the starch from the rice which gives risotto it classic creaminess in the final product.
start adding the stock, one cup at a time and repeat the process.
don’t forget when you get the wine out for the risotto to go ahead and pour yourself a glass. after all, you’re already finished with all the prep work and sharp implements, so enjoy youself!
when the risotto is about 5 minutes away from being al dente (tender on the outside, firm to the bite on the inside), add your asparagus, or other veggie to the mix.
taste it to see if you like the consistency of the rice and veggies, then remove from heat. then add the reason we’re all really here, the butter and cheese.
just look at it glisten. it should a bit loose but not too soupy. plate it up and add a drizzle of good quality olive oil, and another good helping of parmesan cheese. omg. i’m going to go make some more of this right now.
creamy aparagus risotto (serves 4 as a main, 6-8 as a side dish)
2 tbsp olive oil (plus more for drizzling)
4 tbsp butter, divided
1 cup arborio rice
4 shallots or 1 medium onion, chopped as fine as you like
1/2 c white wine
4 cups chicken or veggie stock (this is the time to get out the good stuff, the flavor of this depends greatly on your choice. hey, no pressure!)
1 pound fresh asparagus, woody ends removed and reserved, sliced into 1/4 inch slices on the bias (see picture-it makes it pretty!)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese (plus more for serving)
set 4 cups stock of your choice in a small sauce pan with the woody ends of asparugus, bring to a slow simmer and remove asparagus after 3-4 minutes. leave stock on very low to keep warm.
heat oil and 2 tbsp butter in large saute pan over medium low heat. add shallot or onion and saute about 2-3 minutes until softened, but not browned, like i did. then add arborio rice and saute an additional minute or so. add white wine, if using. simmer, while stirring until wine is almost absorbed into rice. then add stock 1 cup at a time, each time stirring almost contantly until liquid is absorbed between additions. do not overcook rice. the whole process should only take about 18-20 minutes. after you have added your last cup of stock, or about 5 minutes before rice is al dente, add asparagus and stir with rest of mixture, taking care not to overcook or break apart the delicate tips. take off the heat and add remaining 2 tbsp butter and 1/2 cup parmesan cheese. gently stir until butter and cheese have melted. serve topped with a drizzle of good quality olive oil and a bit more parmesan cheese.