Every Spring, I eagerly await the return of seasonal foods, and asparagus season is absolutely my favorite! I love how every restaurant excitedly declares “Spargelzeit!!” on their menus, with all kinds of asparagus creations popping up.
Probably my favorite way to prepare asparagus is a simple grilled asparagus, spritzed with lemon and a little charred in parts. So. Good.
However, I woke up to SNOW on Sunday morning, so the asparagus in my fridge was definitely not headed to the grill. I decided to make a comforting asparagus risotto instead. And since I had some ingredients like mint from my Rhubarb Cobbler, and some lemon, and Pecorino cheese from a recent catering event, I was sure they’d end up in there as well. In my recent cooking course with chef Jacques Pourcel during the W Verbier Hotel’s Haute Cuisine 4.0, I learned that cooking the woody stems of the asparagus would enhance my broth, and that fits in perfectly with my motto to have less food waste. And sometimes the chopped asparagus can overwhelm the ratio of rice-to-asparagus per bite, so removing 3/4 of the cooked, chopped stems, and pureeing them, adding the puree back in when the rice was cooked, made for a tasty, less cluttered dish. (My son loved the “green rice”!)
What dishes are you making with fresh asparagus this season?
Cut off the woody stem ends from each asparagus spear but don’t discard them.
Put the broth and asparagus ends in a pan, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, remove the stem ends and discard.
Keep broth warm over a low heat.
Heat the oil and butter in a medium-size pot, add the shallots/onions and stir over a medium heat for 5-6 minutes until soft but not browned.
Add the rice and stir well until all the grains are coated in the oil and butter.
Add the white wine and simmer gently, stirring, until it has been absorbed.
Add a ladleful of the warm stock and stir until all the stock has been absorbed before adding another ladleful.
Continue this way for about 20-25 minutes, stirring frequently, until the rice is creamy and tender, but still has a little bit of bite. You might not need to use all the stock.
While you are adding stock to the risotto, prepare the asparagus.
Cut the tips (about an inch/3cm) off the asparagus spears and set to one side.
Roughly chop the stalks, drop them into a pan of lightly salted water and cook for 6-8 minutes until very tender.
Lift out with a slotted spoon, saving 1/4 of the stems to the side, and put the rest into a food processor or blender, and blend to a smooth puree. Set puree aside.
Drop the asparagus tips into the boiling water and cook for 2-3 minutes until just tender. Drain, immediately rinse or soak in very cold water until completely cooled, then dry. Keep in fridge to maintain color.
Shortly before the risotto is cooked, finely chop the mint leaves (don’t chop them sooner or they will turn black).
Stir the asparagus puree into the risotto with the cream, lemon zest, mint and pecorino, followed by the reserved one quarter of the asparagus stems and 3/4 of the tips.
Spoon the risotto into shallow bowls, scatter the rest of the tips on top of each plate, and shave over a little more pecorino to serve.