Nothing says spring like asparagus.  I love asparagus and the fresh flavor they bring.  I bought 3 bunches of organic asparagus the other day and I was looking for something to make with them.  I had been notified at the last minute about a lunch with Malian presidential candidate

Yeah Samake

On my speedy drive to work I was trying to think of what to make for lunch, and thought of asparagus risotto with a light fish (branzini).  I don't make risotto that often because it has the tendency to be a bit heavy.  And working in restaurants it seems like every place I worked had it on the menu and I got a bit tired of it.   Not having much time to really contemplate my decision I decided to just go with it (hardest thing for a chef, in my opinion, is making a decision on what to make and sticking to it).  It is about the only benefit of not having a lot of time, you don't have the time to change your decision.   I had just enough time I thought to stop and pick up the fish but on my way I was told that the guests had already arrived.  "Great", I said sarcastically because now I had to make risotto which takes anywhere between 20 and 30 minutes to cook.   Well luckily they stayed busy enough while I butchered the fish, juiced asparagus, made risotto, and a sauce, all in about 30 minutes.  

Rachel Ray

would of been proud.

Recipe

3 large bunches of asparagus, cut the tips off and juice the stalks

1 cup of aborio rice

2 shallots minced

2 garlic cloves minced

4 tbsp of olive oil

1/3 cup of white wine

1 cup chicken stock or water

4 oz of parmesan cheese

1/4 cup of heavy cream

3 tbsp of butter

Salt and Pepper

(Mint or Basil optional)

For the risotto,

First thing you need to do is make your "stock".  Take the asparagus and cut just the tips off and reserve for later.  Take the rest of the asparagus stalks and juice them in a vegetable juicer.  Bring the asparagus juice up to a boil with a pinch of salt.  You want your "stock" hot because it will slow down the cooking time of the rice if the stock is cold.

For the asparagus tips simply bring a pot of salted water to a boil and blanch the tips.  Set them aside until ready to use.

 Meanwhile get the risotto going.  In a small sauce pot add olive oil, shallots, and garlic.  Sauté for a minute and then add your rice.  Toast your rice for 2 to 3 minutes and then deglaze your rice with white wine.  Cook the wine until there is hardly any wine left at all.  Then ladle your asparagus juice over the rice just enough to cover it.  Stir occasionally so the rice doesn't stick to the pan.   I am a believer in not having to stand and stir the rice every second because you have the tendency to break the rice kernels by over stirring.  You stir enough so that there is liquid and that the rice doesn't stick and burn.  Once the first round of juice has cooked and evaporated then repeat the first step.  You will probably do this 3 to 4 times unitl your risotto gets close to the point of finishing.  You want to add a little salt into the liquid and rice so that it is seasoned and not bland.  The rice should take on a green color and flavor of asparagus.  I added a cup of chicken stock or water just in case you don't have enough asparagus juice to finish the risotto.   Once the rice starts turning an opaque color with a little white (raw rice) in the middle your getting really close to your rice being done.  Risotto should be al dente, with a little bite to it.  Other wise you will have an over worked mushy rice, which no one wants to eat.  

Finish your risotto by add the cream and asparagus tips.  Cook for a minute and then add your butter and parmesan cheese.  The rice should be nice a creamy now and you want to finish with salt, pepper, and optional herbs of either mint or basil.    Finish with a little parmesan on top and serve!

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