asparagus risotto!

even though you can find asparagus in some markets all through the year, i find myself using it mostly in the spring time, when it’s in season and truly at its best.  this is when i really go for it asparagus-wise: i roast, steam, and grill them, add them to stir fries, fried rice, and salads, and make our favorite {asparagus} soup. by the time the season is over, we’ve had our fill of these beautiful tender spears. when i picked up a few bunches at the market yesterday, i found myself looking for italian arborio rice and reggiano parmesan cheese as well. clearly, i was craving a spring time favorite: asparagus rissoto! this is a simple dish to prepare as long as you commit a good 20-25 minutes of time to standing at the stove, and go for a run (or brisk walk) to burn off the calories. believe me, this creamy, rich, delicious, comforting, slightly crunchy, fresh bowl of goodness is well worth the effort {and calories}. buon appetito!
ingredients for 4 servings (maybe 6 if served as a side dish):

  • 2 shallots (about 1/4 to 1/2 cup), finely minced
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 10-12 asparagus spears (harder ends cut off, tough skin peeled if necessary, rinsed, then cut in 1.5-2 inch pieces-keep the tips in one piece)
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine (can be substituted with 1-2 tbs lemon juice and 3-4 tbs water)
  • 4-5 cups good (preferably home made chicken or vegetable broth)
  • 2 tbs unsalted butter
  • 1/4-1/2 cup good quality grated parmesan cheese
  • sea salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest (optional)

1. divide the butter in half. heat one half in a deep skillet, then add the shallots and brown on med/high heat until tender and translucent, about 3-5 minutes.
2. heat the broth in a saucepan and bring to a soft boil. meanwhile, add the rinsed rice to the skillet with the shallots and allow them to cook together for about 1-2 minutes.
3. add the wine to the rice mixture, allow it to reduce while stirring gently. when the liquid is almost absorbed, add about 1/2 cup of the hot broth to the rice. continue to stir until the broth is almost absorbed, then add more stock-1/2 cup at a time (adding more as the liquid is absorbed, and stirring often) continue the process until the broth is finished (you may have to add more) and the rice is tender, but still firm when you bite it (about 20-25 minutes). *the asparagus is added with the last ladle of broth-see below)*

4. add the asparagus with your last ladle of broth, and stir gently to incorporate.
5. when the liquid is almost completely absorbed (should not take more than 3-4 minutes), add the parmesan cheese, salt & pepper to taste, and remaining butter, then continue stirring (gently), and serve as soon as the butter and cheese have melted and incorporated into the risotto (no more than 2-3 minutes).
6. add lemon zest to the top if you like, then serve immediately.
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