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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Spring Vegetable Risotto

I didn't discover this Italian comfort food until about 10 years ago and I'm sorry I didn't become acquainted sooner.  There are numerous variations and I haven't run into a variety I haven't liked. This version is particularly nice at this time of year.


Spring Vegetable Risotto

Source:  Cook's Illustrated Magazine
Serves 4-5

To make this dish vegetarian, replace the chicken broth with vegetable broth.  Onions can be substituted for the leeks but use 1 roughly chopped medium onion (1 cup) as a substitute for the leek greens in the broth and 2 minced medium onions (2 cups) in the risotto. At the end of cooking, you may have up to a cup of broth left over.

For the Gremolata:

2 T minced fresh parsley leaves, stems reserved
2 T minced fresh mint leaves, stems reserved
1/2 teas finely grated zest from 1 lemon

Combine ingredients in small bowl and set aside.

For the Risotto:

1 pound asparagus, tough ends snapped off and reserved, spears cut on bias into 1/2-inch thick pieces
2 medium leeks, white and light green parts halved lengthwise, washed, and sliced thin (about 4 cups), and
2 cups roughly chopped leek greens, reserved
4 c low-sodium chicken broth
3 c water
5 T unsalted butter
Salt and ground black pepper
1/2 c frozen peas
2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teas)
1 1/2 c Arborio rice
1 c dry white wine
1 1/2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese (about 3/4 cup), plus extra for serving
2 teas juice from 1 lemon

Chop tough asparagus ends and leek greens into rough 1/2-inch pieces. Bring chopped vegetables, reserved parsley and mint stems, broth, and water to boil in large saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover, and simmer 20 minutes. Strain broth through fine-mesh strainer into medium bowl, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Return strained broth to saucepan; cover and set over low heat to keep broth warm.

Heat 1 T butter in large Dutch oven over medium heat. When foaming subsides, add asparagus spears,  a pinch of salt, and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, until asparagus is crisp-tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Add peas and continue to cook 1 minute. Transfer vegetables to plate and set aside.

Melt 3 T butter in now-empty Dutch oven over medium heat. When foaming subsides, add leeks, garlic, 1/2 teas salt, and 1/2 teas pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until leeks are softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring frequently, until grains are translucent around edges, about 3 minutes. Add wine and cook, stirring frequently, until fully absorbed, 2 to 3 minutes.

When wine is fully absorbed, add 3 cups hot broth to rice. Simmer, stirring every 3 to 4 minutes, until liquid is absorbed and bottom of pan is almost dry, about 12 minutes.

Stir in about 1/2 cup hot broth and cook, stirring constantly, until absorbed, about 3 minutes; repeat with additional broth 3 or 4 times until rice is al dente. Off heat, stir in remaining tablespoon butter, Parmesan, and lemon juice; gently fold in asparagus and peas. If desired, add up to 1/4 cup additional hot broth to loosen texture of risotto. Serve immediately, sprinkling each serving with gremolata and passing Parmesan separately.

Notes from Colette:

I recommend that you use Parmigiano Reggiano if you can swing it. Using the stuff in the can would seriously compromise the flavor.

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