Lemony Risotto with Asparagus and Shrimp
Risotto. Whenever I heard of this dish in my younger years, images of a myriad of chefs, both experienced and young burgeoning ones, came to mind with hands clapped about their heads lamenting the failure of their risottos. Never having had risotto myself before, just the stories of such culinary horrors was enough to dissuade me from trying it in my kitchen.
About 2 and a half years ago, I had my first experience with risotto. I was vacationing in St. Maarten and I was recommended by a number of sources to dine at an Italian restaurant on the French side called Spiga. I had ordered a prosciutto wrapped chicken breast served with a side of vegetable risotto. Guys, this was a little piece of heaven. The succulent chicken aside (that should be a post all unto itself), the risotto it was served with was creamy, flavorful, with a great luscious texture, and absolutely delicious! I was immediately and irrevocably under its spell.
After several successful attempts, what I learned is that making risotto isn’t exactly the hefty and arduous task I was led to believe. A few main principles to remember and you too will be off and running with your risotto in no time! First, always saute your rice with butter until it’s translucent. This may take a mn, it may take 5. Just keep stirring until the rice grains are no longer white. Second, always ALWAYS have your stock in a separate pot next to your risotto skillet and keep it at a simmer. You want the broth to be hot, not ever cold. Thirdly, stir and stir and be patient. Risotto is a culinary labor of love in my humble opinion. The more you stir,t he creamier your end result risotto will be. Lastly, cook till just al dente. A good risotto needs to “rest” for a few minutes on a plate before actually served. Carry over cooking while its resting should take it to being done without overcooking.
Now that you have the basics, risotto easily lends itself to being highly adaptable. This recipe I include for you below is no exception. We had tender asparagus available at the market, a quick run to the seafood counter and some lemons later, we were all set with a great meal! The lemon makes this risotto a refreshingly light and lovely meal highlighting the fresh asparagus. The tender shrimp rounds this dish out by adding its own sweetness and marrying perfectly with the zest of the lemon.
Lemony Risotto with Asparagus and Shrimp
Adapted from Gourmet, May 2009
Yields 4 main courses or 6-8 side dish servings
3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
3/4 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 shallots, 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
1/4 cup grated parmesan
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Lemon juice (optional)
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 shallots 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, until translucent, about 3 minutes. 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.)
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.)
Before serving, spritz with some fresh lemon juice if desired. We found that we liked it better with a little extra kick.