We hosted my mom for dinner recently and we wanted to make something simple, cozy, and ultimately not too fussy. He roasted a beautiful spatchcocked chicken, I dressed some boxed salad greens. I knew asparagus needed to make an appearance on the plate as well.
Of the many ways I am becoming my mother's clone, the absolute devotion to asparagus is one of the best. We cringe at the passive voice inherent in the "Spring Has Sprung!" announcement and prefer to track the number of consecutive days that we are afflicted with Asparagus Pee to mark the changing season. A pair of demure and delicate flowers, the two of us.
Asparagus is abundant this time of year and is perfect in risotto. I took the "spring" theme another step with the addition of fresh peas and started the whole thing off with some baby portabello mushrooms. Now, I know - I said above that we didn't want anything fussy. Risotto is inherently fussy in that you have to stand in front of the stove adding scoops of hot chicken (or vegetable) broth little bits at a time.
Quick food lesson - stock and broth are related but not the same. Both include boiling meat in water with vegetables or other seasonings, but stock is typically just bones while broth includes bones and meat. Either way, the terms are used pretty interchangeably. We love making home made broth (using meat/skin/whatever else remains) after we make a whole roasted chicken so that's what we used, but we almost always refer to it as "stock". Go figure.
Can you see it at the very top of this last picture? Always bring your stock or broth to at least a simmer before you start in on your risotto. While that heated up, I sautéed a diced onion and mushrooms in butter and olive oil. Once they started to release some juices, I added in a cup of Arborio rice.
After toasting the rice for a few minutes, I poured in about half a cup of chardonnay I had leftover in the fridge. Once the fluid absorbed, I began the tedious stock adding process. All in all, I used about 10 - 12 cups of hot stock.
Risotto isn't hard. It just chains you to the stove. But it's worth it.
Once all the liquid was absorbed, I tossed in about a cup of frozen peas that I'd run under some hot water. I dealt with the asparagus by roasting it while the chicken was in the oven, about 10 - 15 minutes, tossed with some olive oil, salt, and pepper. I mixed it into the risotto right before serving.
That, boys and girls, is one spectacular springtime plate.