For my birthday, I was blissfully not busy.
For the majority of my life, I’ve spent my birthday traveling, often not with my family and closest friends. So I got to do something I hadn’t had a chance to do in a long time: try a new recipe.
Yes, some people might scoff at cooking for yourself on your birthday, but I’ve been eating out so much lately, and when I have been cooking at home, it’s been simple, tried and true recipes, rather than the challenge of risk of experimenting with a new recipe.
So really, all I wanted to do for my birthday was try out a risotto, something I’ve never made before.
Since asparagus is in season, I bought some gorgeous stalks at the farmer’s market, bought a cheap dry white wine, and headed over to my mom’s house to cook. She’d never tried to make risotto, either, so it was fun to do together. (Plus, when I cook at her house, she cleans up after me, which is an awesome bonus).
Making risotto turned out to be fairly easy, just a bit time-consuming. You can’t leave it unattended on the stove for very long, so it’s helpful to have a second person to help with prep. Otherwise, I recommend getting everything ready in advance.
The rice plumps up and softens as you continually add liquid. Just keep stirring so it doesn’t burn.
After steaming the asparagus and shocking it cold, puree it into a bright green paste.
Stir in the asparagus puree once the rice and asparagus tips are almost done. Add the Parmesan Reggiano once you’ve removed it from the heat, but save a little to sprinkle on the top. For this recipe you want to use the good, high quality cheese; save that powdered stuff for pizza delivery.
adapted from this recipe in The New York Times
- 1 pound asparagus,trimmed and cut into one-inch-long pieces, tips reserved
- 4 to 6 cups vegetable stock
- 2 T extra virgin olive oil
- 3 T butter
- 1/3 C, diced shallots
- 1 1/2 C Arborio rice
- 1/2 C dry white wine
- Salt to taste
- 1/2 C grated Parmesan cheese
1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add half the asparagus stalks and cook until soft, at least 5 minutes. Rinse quickly under cold water. Blend cooked asparagus with an immersion blender, or in a regular blender or food processor, adding just enough broth to allow machine to puree until smooth; set aside.
2. Put stock in a medium saucepan over low heat. I prefer to use Better Than Bouillion.
3. Put oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large, deep nonstick skillet —I use my Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron 5-1/2-Quart Round French Oven—over medium heat. When it is hot, add shallots, stirring occasionally until it softens, 3 to 5 minutes.
4. Add rice and cook, stirring occasionally. After 2-3 minutes, add white wine, stir, and let liquid bubble away. Add salt to taste. Add warmed stock, 1/2 cup or so at a time, stirring occasionally. Each time stock has just about evaporated, add more. Be careful to keep the rice moving so it doesn’t burn, and keep it wet by adding liquid regularly.
5. After about 15 minutes, add remaining asparagus pieces and tips, continuing to add stock when necessary. Cook for about 5 minutes, and taste to ensure that both rice and asparagus are tender but still a bit crisp. When it does, stir in asparagus puree. Total cook time is about 30 minutes.
6. Remove skillet from heat, add remaining butter and stir briskly. Add Parmesan and stir briskly, then taste and adjust seasoning. Risotto should be creamy. Serve immediately.
This was a light, refreshing dish perfect for this time of year when the asparagus is available locally. It pairs nicely with the rest of the bottle of wine you have to open to make the dish, and I recommend strawberry shortcake for dessert.