Ahhh, this dish is a taste of Spring with fresh lemon and crisp asparagus, which is only in “season” for quite a short window from about late April to about late June. Asparagus is like a little sign on our foodie calender that Spring has arrived, almost the food equivalent to seeing tulips blooming in the garden and the magical Easter bunny hop hop hopping away. This recipe is a one of our family’s absolute favorites after and the perfect Spring time meal spent with the ones you love. We hope you enjoy it. Happy Spring and Happy Cooking!!
LEMON AND ASPARAGUS RISOTTO
This may seem like a lot of work for risotto, however, trust us that the end result is well worth the effort. The gorgeous asparagus flavor is layered throughout the dish since we use the stems to make our stock. Nothing is wasted here. As for the risotto rice, there are 3 different types of Risotto rice to choose from: Vialone, which is the smallest grain of the three, Carnaroli, which is sized somewhere in the middle, and Arborio which is the most commonly used and the largest of the three. We’d suggest using either Arborio or Carnaroli for this particular recipe.
1 LB. fresh asparagus, thoroughly washed and pat dry
4 1/3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
3 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. butter, slightly salted
2 shallots or 1 small yellow onion, finely diced
1 1/3 cup Arborio or Carnaroli risotto rice
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
- Trim the hard ends of the asparagus and discard. Using a vegetable peeler, gently peel off the rough skin on the lower part of the stem. (Start about half way down from the tip)
- Discard the peelings and cut each stem in half across the middle.
- Roughly chop the lower half of the stems you’ve just cut. We’ll use this to make our stock.
- Divide the chicken stock between 2 medium saucepans and bring both to the boil over high heat.
- Once boiling, add the chopped stalks and a pinch of salt to one of the pans. Return to boil.
- Cover and turn heat to low and simmer until stems are tender, about 10 minutes, depending on thickness and size.
- Meanwhile, keep the other pan of stock simmering gently on medium low heat until needed.
- In a large sauté pan with deep sides, heat the olive oil and garlic over low heat.
- Add in the shallots and fry gently until soft, about 4 minutes.
- Cut the tips off the remaining uncooked asparagus and slice the stems into small, pea-sized pieces.
- Add both the tips and round pieces, butter and a pinch of salt to the shallots and cook a further 3 minutes.
- Now add the rice into the pan with the shallots, stir well to ensure all the rice is well coated.
- Fry for 2 minutes before stirring in 2 to 3 ladles of the plain stock that has been simmering.
- Stir the risotto mixture constantly. Add the remaining stock, 2 ladles at a time, until the rice has absorbed all the liquid. This should take 8 – 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, pour the chopped asparagus stems and stock from the other saucepan into a blender and CAREFULLY blend until smooth, almost pureed in appearance. Place a kitchen towel over the lid and firmly hold down when blending as hot liquids expand and tend to want to shoot out the top. Making risotto to eat not wear!
- Stir the pureed mixture, the lemon juice and zest into the risotto pan, mix well and cook a further 20 minutes uncovered over medium low heat, stirring occasionally. You want all the stock and puree mixture to be absorbed. The rice should be cooked but maintain a slight, al dente bite. It should NOT be mushy.
- After the 20 minutes, stir in the grated parmesan with a generous bit of pepper and more salt if desired.
- Turn of heat and serve immediately. Drizzle a bit of extra virgin olive oil on the top before serving. (Optional)