The pickle man

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Spring Risotto with Asparagus

Aren't these guys beautiful? (I mean the asparagus, really). 

Every food blog and food article I read seems to be obsessed with asparagus right now, so I decided to try some out... in a nice risotto.  The asparagus were wonderful.  The risotto needs work.  Or at least arborio rice.  But more about that later.  

First, I started by dicing 1/2 of a yellow onion and sauteing it in a mixture of butter and olive oil (1 tablespoon of each). 

While that was getting soft and making the kitchen smell delicious, I chopped an orange bell pepper.

My 4 year old is obsessed with orange bell pepper.  I have to hide them in the depths of the shopping bag or they don't make it out of the grocery store parking lot. 
Lest you think I exaggerate... photographic proof! 

Anyway, while the bell pepper and the onion are hanging out and getting to know each other, bring some chicken stock to a boil.  Usually, I keep homemade in the freezer, but I'm out right now.  And already I feel it is too hot to boil a chicken.  So I used this instead.  It was amazing - the first "store-bought" stock I've really been impressed with. 

And then we come to the rice.  I am still conflicted about this rice. First, for risotto, you are supposed to use arborio rice.  It's short grained and makes the dish a lot creamier.  But unfortunately, our grocery store does not stock it.  I've heard Brookshire's on Hwy 165 is the place - but it lacks the selling point of being less than a mile from my house.

Anyway, lacking the proper arborio rice, instead I tried this: 

The resulting dish, while tasty, was NOT risotto.  Not even a little bit.  More like normal, long-grained rice in a flavorful broth.  Again, I'm not knocking it.  But if your local grocery carries arborio rice, could you send me some?  K, thanks :) 

Anyway, saute the rice in the hot oil for 5 minutes or so.  It should begin to smell nutty. 
Then add 1/2 cup or so of white wine. 
And remember these guys?  Add them, too.  (Chop first, please).

Begin adding the hot broth, about 1/2 cup at a time.  Cook it until all the broth is absorbed.  Repeat.  Over and over and over.  

As all of that is going on, get ready for the basil.  Ahh, the basil.
I still can't believe I grew this!  Every year, I think that about the basil.  It is the most rewarding herb I know :) 
So, to properly julienne your basil, stack the leaves, the roll them up
And make vertical cuts until you have pretty ribbons.

Once you have added all of the liquid to the rice (and tasted it to make sure it is not too crunchy and therefore in need of more liquid - if it is, just use wine or water) remove the rice from the fire.
Stir in the ribbons of basil.
Plate and top with a pile of freshly grated Parmesan cheese (no green can, I beg you!).
It is delicious!

p.s.  If your kids are anything like mine, if it is made with rice, they will eat it.  Even if they push all the "green stuff" to the side. 

Condensed recipe (adapted from the Pioneer Woman, Risotto Primavera)

5 cups low sodium Chicken Broth
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, diced
1 large orange bell pepper, diced
1 tsp Kosher salt
1 1/2 cups Arborio Rice (or whatever you have on hand - just don't expect the same creaminess)
1 1/2 cups white wine (I used Chardonnay - just nothing too sweet)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
2 Tbs fresh basil, julienned
Optional other vegetables: yellow squash, mushrooms, zucchini, green peas, etc. 

In a skillet or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil and butter.  Add the onions.  Cook until tender (8-10 minutes).  Add the garlic.  Add the orange bell pepper and the salt.  Cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add the rice.  Cook for 5 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of wine.  Cook until the liquid is absorbed.  Add the chicken broth, 1/2 cup at a time, cooking each time until absorbed.  Add salt as necessary.  
Serve with Parmesan and basil!

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