One of my very favorite things about Readerville is the food thread. It's not just the always entertaining (and often annual) discussions about things like the best way to hard boil eggs and the To Brine or Not to Brine controversy. Over the years, I've discovered fabulous recipes I wouldn't have known about otherwise, even in this era of Epicurious and thousands of food blogs. (I'm thinking particularly of Karen Templer's pumpkin bars, but there are many others, including Lisa's fabulous oatmeal cookies.)
This particular recipe that I'm going to write about now was actually in the May 2009 issue of Gourmet, which has been sitting in a pile of magazines and papers in my kitchen since it arrived in mid-April. I'm behind on the New Yorker and behind on various Sunday New York Times sections, and I'm definitey behind on Gourmet (which I like but tend to read somewhat erratically). So, if it hadn't been for someone linking the recipe on Readerville, I wouldn't have discovered it til well after asparagus season was over. (What I love is that one person links it and then a whole bunch of people all over the country make it for dinner that night, and the world feels like a much smaller and friendlier place for a little while.)
The first time I made this, there was only one comment up at Epicurious. The second time, there were nearly 20. None were of the "I used brown rice instead of Arborio and Brussel sprouts instead of asparagus and texturized vegetable protein instead of shrimp, and I don't understand why it didn't turn out the way the recipe said it would," but several did say that they thought it was too bland and/or that they used a lot more asparagus and shrimp than the recipe called for.
This was one case where I thought the original recipe really worked pretty well. The first time I made it, I used leftover stock from asparagus soup, and the second time I made it, I used leftover stock from the spinach and green garlic soup, so there was no lack of flavor from that quarter. And I thought the amounts of asparagus and shrimp were just about right. I may have used a bit more than the recipe called for, but not a lot, and I thought there was plenty of asparagus and shrimp both. (The first time, I used frozen shrimp--all I could find in the closest store--and the second time I used fresh shrimp--it was fine both ways.) The first time I made it, I used the zest of two lemons because it didn't taste lemony enough initially, while the second time, one was enough. (I never bother to measure out lemon zest exactly unless it seems vital for some reason, and that wasn't the case here.) And I used an ice bath for the asparagus for the first time and discovered that it does indeed keep its color that way.
The thing with the risotto, of course, is that there's a lot of stirring involved. I listened to an audio book on my iPod, which helped. Here's the risotto in the early stages:
And then towards the end:
Even though risotto loses its texture when it sits overnight in the fridge , this was still good as leftovers. I ate it just heated up and I made it into risotto cakes as well. The first time, I just fried little patties of risotto in a bit of butter--it was very tasty but didn't hold together as cakes at all. The second time, I added a beaten egg to the leftover risotto and then dipped the cakes into panko, and they were much more cake-like--or, at least they didn't instantly fall apart.
The bottom line--definitely worth the stirring and definitely to be eaten during asparagus season, which, thanks to this cool spring, should go on for a little while longer.
Lemony Risotto with Asparagus and Shrimp
Adapted from Gourmet, May 2009
- 3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth (or vegetable stock or shrimp stock)
- 2 cups water
- 3/4 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 1 1/4 cups Arborio rice
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 3/4 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (the zest of one or two lemons)
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan
- 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Bring broth and water to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Add asparagus and simmer, uncovered, until just tender, about 4 minutes. Transfer asparagus with a slotted spoon to an ice bath to stop cooking, then drain. Keep broth at a bare simmer, covered.
Cook onion in 2 tablespoons butter with 1/4 teaspoon salt in a 4-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.
Add rice and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Add wine and simmer, stirring constantly, until absorbed.
Stir in 1/2 cup broth mixture and briskly simmer, stirring frequently, until absorbed. Continue adding broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next, until rice is creamy and tender but still al dente (it should be the consistency of a thick soup), about 18 minutes. (There will be leftover broth mixture*.)
*(I had no leftover broth mixture either time.)
Stir in shrimp and cook until just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes.
Stir in asparagus, zest, remaining 2 tablespoons butter, parmesan, parsley, and pepper to taste. (Thin risotto with some of remaining broth if necessary.) (I skipped the butter here and didn't miss it.)