Sunday, March 29, 2009

Asparagus Risotto

It's always nice to end the weekend with some music, wine, and risotto, don't you think? It was creamy and comforting and spiked with tender young asparagus spears and langostino tails (from Trader Joe's). A simple meal to end a complicated weekend. If you've never made risotto before, you need not be afraid--it's not nearly as difficult as some folks make it out to be. The worst part (and I say worst very loosely because I don't really think it is half bad to stand in my kitchen with a wooden spoon in one hand and a glass of wine in the other), is that the rice needs to be tended to every five minutes or so. But preparing risotto is about as challenging as making a pot of Irish oatmeal, and once you get the hang of the basics, you can make any number of different risottos, from saffron to seafood. They all essentially begin the same way: First a little little shallot or onion is sauteed in butter and olive oil. Then the short-grain, arborio rice is added and stirred around until it is glossy. After that you splash a bit of wine in the pot, and wine in a glass for you. And finally, warm broth is stirred in slowly as each previous addition evaporates. Stir and sip, stir and sip. See? It really is that easy.

Asparagus and Langostino Risotto
serves 3ish (though we-my husband and I-can almost eat a whole pot by ourselves)

1 T butter
1 T olive oil
1/2 C finely chopped shallot
1 1/2 C arborio rice
1/2 C dry white wine (something you would drink)
1 quart of reduced sodium chicken broth
1 bunch of thin asparagus
1/2 pound frozen (but thawed), cooked langostino tails (or cooked shrimp)
1/2 C shredded Parmesan cheese

Chop bottom inch off of the asparagus spears and place in a small saucepan, along with the broth. Bring to a simmer. Slice remaining asparagus into 1-inch segments and set aside. Meanwhile, heat a medium sized, heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Add butter and oil and stir until butter melts. Add shallots and a large pinch of salt and saute for about 5 minutes or until shallots are soft, but not brown. Add rice and stir to coat the grains with the butter and oil. Add wine and stir until evaporated. Reduce heat to low.

Remove asparagus stem bottoms from the broth and discard. Add broth, 1/2 C at a time, to the risotto and stir occasionally until evaporated. Continue in this way, until you have almost used up all the broth and the risotto is plump and creamy. It should take about 25 minutes or so. During the last 5 minutes of cooking, add thawed langostino tails and asparagus spears (and remaining broth). The risotto should be still quite moist at this point. You will know when it is done when the grains of rice are tender, but not mushy. Stir in shredded Parmesan cheese. Taste for could require up to 1 t more of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Top with additional Parmesan cheese and serve.

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