Risotto is one of my favorite foods. Like a grown-up version of macaroni and cheese, it’s warm, flavorful, and incredibly comforting. It can be varied almost infinitely and makes a great “pantry meal” to use up whatever random ingredients you might have in your fridge. Many people are turned off by the long and somewhat involved preparation time, but that’s one of my favorite parts. On a day where nothing has gone right, the simple act of standing in front of the stove and stirring the rice, adding liquid, and stirring some more is a manageable, controlled aspect of life. (Yes, I have control issues. Yes, that’s probably a large part of the reason I love cooking so much.) This particular risotto variation includes asparagus and shallots. Here’s what you’ll need: butter, olive oil, a shallot, a green onion, stock, rice, asparagus, and some good parmesan. And yes, I forgot to put the green onion in this picture. I’m deeply sorry.
First, melt your butter and oil together in a nice big pan. Emphasis on “big.” Use a bigger pan than you think you’ll need. Trust me. While the butter melts, chop up your shallot and green onion and then sauté them for a few minutes. It’s best to have your stock warm, so if you’re using canned or refrigerated stock this is a good time to pour it into a stockpot and heat it.
After the shallot and green onion are tender, stir in the rice and mix well. This is one of the unique aspects of risotto- before getting cooked, the rice is toasted in the butter/oil mixture for extra flavor.
Give it a few minutes, then add in your first 1/4 cup of liquid. Many recipes call for white wine at this point- feel free to use that if you’re so inclined. After you add the liquid, stir the rice until the liquid is absorbed.
After that first 1/4 cup of liquid is absorbed, pour in 2 more cups of liquid and stir until absorbed. It’s not necessary to stir the entire time the risotto is cooking, but stirring is an important part of the process so you’ll want to stir it for almost the entire cooking time. I stir for a few minutes and then take a quick break to chop asparagus or grate parmesan.
Once all the liquid is absorbed, add two more cups and continue stirring until you’ve added all the liquid. When you’ve added about half the stock, go ahead and mix in the asparagus.
If, in the course of this process, you discover that your pan is a bit too small, feel free to switch it out for a bigger one. I won’t say ‘I told you so,’ but only because that’s exactly what happened to me.
Keep adding liquid in 2-cup increments and stirring until your risotto looks about like this:
You’re almost there! See the lovely, creamy sauce that’s begun to form? Grab yourself a fork (or a spoon) and give it a taste. You’re checking for just the right texture here- the rice should be cooked but not mushy. If there’s still a little bite to the rice, add more stock and keep going. If the texture is just right, you’re done! Add salt and pepper as needed; then sprinkle a good handful of parmesan over the top to finish.
This makes a great side for fish or chicken. You can also top with a poached egg for a vegetarian meal.
The sky’s the limit when it comes to risotto variations! Think of that creamy rice goodness as a blank canvas over which you can paint any number of delicious flavor combinations. Try it with green peas, pumpkin purée and crab meat, goat cheese and herbs, or black beans and salsa.
Asparagus and Shallot Risotto
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 small shallot, diced
- 1 green onion, diced
- 2 cups rice (Arborio is best but Jasmine or plain white rice will do)
- 1/4 cup white wine (optional)
- 6-8 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 1/2 pound asparagus, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 2/3 cup Parmesan cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
- Melt butter in a large pan over medium-high heat; add olive oil. Add shallot and green onion; cook until tender. Heat stock to a simmer. Pour in rice and stir until coated with butter/oil mixture, let cook for a few minutes. Pour in 1/4 cup of stock (or white wine); stir until liquid is absorbed.
- Add about two cups of stock to pan, stir until liquid is absorbed. Continue adding liquid and stirring. After about half of the stock has been added, pour in the asparagus. Continue to add stock and stir until the stick is all added and/or the rice is tender.
- Sprinkle parmesan cheese over top; add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
Serves 4 as main dish, 6-8 as side.