Risotto with Asparagus and Lemon
Risotto is one of my favorite things to make when I have a large batch of chicken stock. This version features fresh asparagus and lemon zest. Its light, fresh and perfect for Spring.
Making risotto is easy but does require technique and timing along with good ingredients in order to produce a restaurant quality dish. Some of the best risottos in my opinion are the simplest with the chosen ingredients shining through. A good risotto has a silky, creamy texture with each rice kernel soft and flavorful on the outside and just slightly al dente in the center. When plated the risotto should have body but still be loose enough to relax on the plate.
2 cups arborio rice
1 – 2 tablespoons butter, splash of olive oil
1/2 cup white wine
6 – 8 cups homemade broth
2 shallots minced fine
1 clove garlic thinly sliced
1/2 cup Parmiggiano Reggiano grated
1 bunch fresh asparagus trimmed and chopped – blanched
zest of one lemon
fresh rosemary micro diced
salt and pepper to taste
Heat stock on stove in a separate pot that you can easily use a ladle in. Keep at a constant temperature, just below simmer.
In a large heavy pot melt butter and a bit of olive oil. Add minced shallots and saute for 1 min, add garlic and rosemary and saute until fragrant. Add rice and saute until all grains are nicely coated and edges appear translucent.
Deglaze with 1/2 cup of white wine. Stir quickly to distribute and until liquid is evaporated.
Now begins the process of adding the hot stock and stirring until each addition is absorbed. The slow additions of liquid and the continual stirring with a wooden spoon is what gives risotto its creamy texture. This is a process that cannot be rushed and generally takes about 20 minutes. Your pan should be kept at as even temperature as possible with a noticeable sizzle when the stock hits the pan but not so hot that it all evaporates instantly. The adding of stock and having it absorb and evaporate while cooking is something that should be an even an unhurried process.
When the risotto has almost reached its desired consistency add in the asparagus along with another ladle of stock and completely heat through. Remove from heat, add additional stock if needed to loosen. Add in 1/2 of the cheese, stir together. Check for seasonings, add salt and pepper to taste then serve.
For service, have plates warmed and portion out risotto onto each one. Garnish with additional cheese, generous amounts of lemon zest and a drizzle of olive oil.
Tips for a great risotto:
- Choose the right rice. I always use Italian Arborio rice which can easily be found in most grocery stores. Other varieties of rice for making risotto include baldo, carnaroli, vialone nano, and Calriso which can be found at specialty markets. All of these varieties are a short grain rice which is what you want.
- The pan should have a large surface area and distribute and retain heat evenly. I use large enameled cast iron pot.
- First saute your shallots or other aromatics to soften but do not allow them to color. Then add your rice and saute until each kernel is coated and the outside edges become translucent. This step will give each kernel a protective outer shell that will ensure the outside becomes perfectly cooked while the center remains al dente.
- Your first addition of liquid should be wine. This produces a more flavorful rice.
- Each addition of stock (1/3 to 3/4 of a cup at a time) must be hot. This to ensure the correct absorption and releasing of the starches. Have this in a pot on the stove and keep just below simmer at all times.
- After each addition of liquid, stir your rice until almost completely absorbed but not dry. Adding the stock slowly and stirring until each addition is absorbed ensures the rice releases its starches slowly, thereby cooking at the correct speed and developing the creamy consistency.
- Any additions (vegetables, seafood, meat) should be already cooked and folded in as the final additions of liquid are being added.
- If using cheese this should be the last addition.
- Taste and season throughout. Check for flavor and doneness as you cook.
- Use really good ingredients. For me this means homemade stock and good cheese that I grate myself. If budget allows I use Parmigiano-Reggiano if not, then a Domestic Parmesan. This is not the time for any pre-grated powdery stuff in a plastic container. If using any herbs I like to use fresh.
- Risotto must be served and enjoyed right away to be at its best. Have your wine poured and your favorite dinner companions at the table. Enjoy!