It's automatic: Springtime...sun comes out in PDX...warmth...no rain...grill is calling...find piece of animal to cook.........................
But sometimes you need too ignore the siren song, because one of the other signs of spring is fresh, young asparagus that is seemingly calling to you from every stall of the farmer's market, just begging to be cooked in any number of ways. Last night w and I had a very satisfying Asparagus Risotto based on a Mario Batali recipe. Risotto is one of those things that to me always tastes, and feels, so good. The Italian equivalent...along with creamy polenta...of mashed potatoes. Total comfort food. Here's yet one more way to take advantage of spring.....
Adapted from Mario Batali
Time: 45 minutes
1 pound asparagus, peeled, trimmed and cut into one-inch-long pieces, tips reserved (I didn't peel the asparagus and it worked just fine. If you're more patient than me, have at it!- bb)
4 to 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
1/3 medium red onion, diced
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
Salt to taste
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese plus extra for sprinkling.
1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add half the asparagus stalks and cook until quite soft, at least 5 minutes. Rinse quickly under cold water. Put cooked asparagus in a blender or food processor and add just enough water to allow machine to puree until smooth; set aside.
2. Put stock in a medium saucepan over low heat. Put oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large, deep nonstick skillet over medium heat. When it is hot, add onion, stirring occasionally until it softens, 3 to 5 minutes.
3. Add rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is glossy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add white wine, stir, and let liquid bubble away. Add a large pinch of salt. Add warmed stock, 1/2 cup or so at a time, stirring occasionally. Each time stock has just about evaporated, add more.
4. After about 15 minutes, add remaining asparagus pieces and tips, continuing to add stock when necessary. In 5 minutes, begin tasting rice. You want it to be tender but with a bit of crunch; it could take as long as 30 minutes total to reach this stage. When it does, stir in 1/2 cup asparagus puree. Remove skillet from heat, add remaining butter and stir briskly. Add Parmesan and stir briskly, then taste and adjust seasoning. Risotto should be slightly soupy. Serve immediately.
Yield: 3 to 4 servings.