I almost titled this ‘Luxuriant Asparagus Risotto’ because the final result is just that – luxuriant. The characteristic risotto creaminess has been amped up to 11 with the additions of butter and a dash of cream at the end. This richness means that it is definitely a meal that pairs well with a crisp green salad. Having said that, the recipe is open to easy tweaks (I’ve listed some below) and it can be made as decadent as you deem fit for the occasion.
A combination of asparagus and green peas would make a lovely alternative to an all asparagus affair. In fact, if you’re short of the listed quantity of asparagus then green peas would be a great makeweight. Frozen green peas are godsend for many a risotto and this recipe is no exception.
Not keen on the diary? Not a problem. Substitute oil when sauteing the onions, add margarine at the end, use nutritional yeast instead of parmesan, and a non-dairy cream in place of the cream (or none at all). This is a very easy recipe to make vegan.
A quick word on stock. I would recommend either vegetable or chicken stock for the risotto (depending on your disposition). A good stock can make a difference to the final dish, but if all you have is oxo cubes – don’t worry. Don’t feel that you have to use homemade stock either. Ultimately the stock needs to support the asparagus and not compete with it. If using stock cubes or granules, feel free to adjust the amount used so that the stock doesn’t overpower the dish. Heck, you can even use just water (I have in past risottos!). Work with what you have in the kitchen and what makes you happy.
Many risottos call for white wine (the alcohol cooks off), but if the use of wine isn’t an option then it can be easily substituted with more stock.
- 1 pound asparagus
- 4 cups of light stock
- 3 ounces butter
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 cup of arborio rice
- 1/2 cup of white wine (I prefer a dry white)
- 2 tablespoons of cream
- 1 ounce of parmesan cheese, grated
- Salt and black pepper (to taste)
- Prepare the asparagus: snap the asparagus off at the woody base where it naturally breaks. Break (or cut) into bite sized pieces and set aside.
- Heat the stock so that it is gently simmering.
- Melt half the butter in a large saucepan. Over medium heat sauté the onion till it is soft and translucent.
- Add the rice and stir into the butter-onion mixture so that the rice glistens in a buttery coat.
- Add the wine and stir until it is absorbed but not sticking to the pan. Add a ladleful of stock to the risotto and stir until it is absorbed (don’t let the rice stick to the pan). Continue to add the stock in this manner until half the stock has been added to the risotto.
- At this point, add the asparagus to the risotto and then continue to add the stock as before.
- Once all the stock has been added (the whole process takes about half an hour), check that the rice is cooked al dente. If the rice isn’t quite cooked then use extra water (heated in a kettle) – or stock if you have it – until the rice is cooked.
- Add the remaining half of the butter and the parmesan. Crack in black pepper (I’m quite generous!) and stir till it’s all combined. Check seasoning and add any salt and/or black pepper to taste.
Nerd Notification: Food Science
According to McGee1, there are two traditionally recognised sub-species of rice (oryza sativa). Indica rices produce a long, firm grain and a large amount of amylose starch. These are generally grown in lowland topics and subtropics. Japonica rices produce a shorter, stickier grain and substantially less amylose. They do well in both the tropics and temperate climates.
Arborio rice is a medium-grain (where the rice is 2 -3 times longer than it is wide) japonica rice. The process of slowly adding stock while continually stirring rubs and removes the starch from the rice which in turn thickens the stock creating risotto’s characteristic creaminess. At the end of the cooking process the rice is soft but with kernel of chewiness (al dente). The drawn-out process of adding stock slowly and continually stirring results in the endosperm (the white, polished part of the rice grain) being dissolved into the stock, whereas if the dish is only stirred at the end of the cooking this breaks the softened rice grains apart rather than removing the surface layer.</p align=”justify”>
1 McGee on Food & Cooking, Harold McGee, Hodder & Stoughton, 2004 (p.472-475)