Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Asparagus Risotto

A while ago, a couple of the blogs that I follow posted recipes for asparagus risotto. I've never made a risotto before--well, not a REAL risotto--and I absolutely love asparagus, so of course I absolutely had to make it. I went searching for recipes all over the place. Though I didn't really know how to make a risotto, I felt very strongly that it should include more than a tablespoon of cheese and/or cream, yet that seems to be how most recipes write it. I finally found a satisfactory-looking recipe over on Epicurious, modified it a teensy bit, and got cooking.

This was my first experience that caused me to realize how much I've come to love cooking from blogs and sites like Recipezaar (now Food.com), where people who aren't professionals make the dish and write it up. The instructions are clear to those of us who didn't go to culinary school, and if we have a question, we can easily ask. Things like "turn the burner from medium to low" don't usually get left out. While I'll probably make this again sometime, I'll make it from the recipe I'm typing up here, not the one I followed the first time.

RECIPE: Asparagus Risotto

-1 1/2 lbs asparagus
-4 cups chicken broth (one box)
-1 tbsp butter
-1 large red onion
-2 cups arborio rice
-1/2 cup white wine
-2 tsp chopped fresh sage
-1 cup freshly grated romano cheese
-1/4 cup fat-free half and half
-water (about 2 cups)

1. Wash and trim the asparagus. Cut off the tips and set them aside. Cut the rest of the asparagus into inch-long pieces.
2. Combine about 2/3 of the asparagus with one cup chicken broth and one cup water in a blender. Puree and set aside for later.
3. In a large saucepan, melt the butter and sauté the onion over medium heat until tender. Add the rice and lower the heat to medium-low. Once the pan has cooled down a little, add the wine and stir until absorbed. (This should take about 4 minutes. If it takes less time than that, lower your heat more. If it takes longer, turn the heat up a little. The original recipe doesn't say anything about changing the heat so my first half cup of wine just cooked off immediately and I ended up using a whole cup and it was perfectly delicious, so if it cooks off too fast and doesn't actually absorb, don't worry about adding a little more.)
4. Add 1/2 cup broth and the chopped sage, again stirring until absorbed. Continue to add broth but the half cup, allowing each one to be absorbed before adding the next half cup. After about 15 minutes, add the asparagus pieces that you didn't puree, and continue adding half cups of broth. Once you've run out of broth, add two half cups of water in the same manner.
5. Increase the heat (back to medium) and add the asparagus puree. Stir often until absorbed.
6. Add the cheese and cream, stir thoroughly, and serve! Garnish with fresh sage if you would like.

Step 2. I took about 12 pictures of this and this was the least blurry one. Sometimes I think my camera hates me.

The rest of Step 2. It looks like those green smoothies that I buy at the store, but I wouldn't drink this. Just set it aside for now.

The rest of the asparagus, after 2/3 of the stalks were pureed. The only reason to separate the tips is to not puree them, so if you want to toss them in the bowl together now, that's okay. You probably don't even need a separate bowl to begin with.

Step 4. I loved how the red onion had a nice pink color that contrasted with the sage (and, later, asparagus) but most of the color disappeared after cooking for so long. Oh, well--it tasted delicious.

Still step 4--this is right after I added the asparagus. I'm glad I used the hugest pan I had, this made a TON of food!

Step 5: Asparagus/water/chicken broth puree added, and I'm now very worried that my pan will overflow if I stir too vigorously. Epicurious seems to think this takes 3 minutes to absorb. Like I said earlier, I like to have some direction about the heat. Mine did well after taking a while to absorb, so I guess it's okay.

Everything is added! It's ready! WOOOOO! Notice how the onions don't look nearly as pink anymore? After some refrigeration they lost their color completely.

The 'eat' step. It was rich and thick with plenty of asparagus flavor but it didn't overpower the grilled chicken that we ate it with. It's very warm and perfect for a cooler evening.

So, there's my first risotto! I was pretty happy with it, and I had leftovers for quite a while, which was nice. One night my mom and I had the leftovers with poached eggs, thanks to Kevin over at Closet Cooking. (I forgot where I'd seen it when I decided to try it, but went and found his post afterward. He deserves credit for such a perfect combination!) My mom was skeptical; I was not--the runny yolk complemented the creamy risotto perfectly and made for a great light meal. (Not that the risotto itself doesn't make a delicious light meal, of course.)

Given the amount of risotto I had left over, unless you're serving at least 6 people, I would probably recommend cutting this recipe in half or freezing half of your leftovers--the last of mine went bad before I could eat it! I was very sad about this. Now, though, I have a bag of arborio rice and an idea of how to make risotto, so I'll be looking for more tasty recipes. I think it would be fun to make this with three colors of asparagus--green, white, and purple. It would be so pretty!

Okay, so I've voiced my opinions about where I like to cook from. How about you guys? I'm assuming that if you're reading this you're not averse to cooking from blogs, but do you have difficulty with cookbooks or "professional" recipe sites? I'm sort of nervous about using epicurious again; both recipes I've followed have been less than ideal in the way of instruction, and I'm not sure there's anything I'd want to make that couldn't be based on something in one of the blogs I read. What do you think?

Oh, and I've also started a new thing with the comments. I'm not quite sure how it works, but I've enabled commentluv, which means that if you have a blog and leave a comment it'll link back to your most recent post with a title. I think it will also let me reply to comments directly, but I'm not sure. Let me know how you like it!

Asparagus (  蘆筍 in Traditional Chinese) on Foodista