Despite me pushing them on her many times before, my wife has recently (finally!) discovered the wonder that is an avocado. Served with simply a dash of salt, its a fantastic thing. Given how many more avocados I’ve suddenly found consumed in our house, it only seemed appropriate that I center a dinner around it. Many ideas came to mind, but it had been awhile since I’d made a risotto, and given how creamy and rich those tend to be, this seemed like a match made in heaven.
The tricky thing with avocados is I think they disappear into a dish very easily, becoming an indistinguishable source of creaminess and I really wanted their unique flavor to be at the forefront. They can also be a bit tricky in that you can’t really cook them. My solution? I began with a lemongrass infused stock for cooking the risotto. I opted to flavor the rice with a good amount of shallots and a variety of peppers (nothing too hot–just strong on flavor) to give a good foundation. Then, I took a bit of inspiration in the form of a mango avocado guacamole/salsa and used it as a last minute mix-in for the risotto along with butter and parmesan cheese. I also studded the rice with thin strips of flank steak, since my wife and I can be very “where’s the beef”ish.
The result was really delicious–rich, creamy, and with a touch of light heat and great pepper flavor. Most importantly though: there was a very prevalent refreshing avocado flavor throughout with a nice, mellow green color. The mango gave a nice sweet counterpoint to both the pepper and the avocado without being too forward or stealing the show. This was a dish where the avocado shone and I loved it.
- 1 stalk lemongrass
- 6 cups chicken broth
- 1 lb flank steak
- 6 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 shallots
- 2 peppers (1 poblano, 1 fresno)
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 2 cups arborio rice
- 1.25 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- ground black pepper
- Avocado Salsa
- 4 avocados
- 2 mangoes
- juice of 2 limes
- 1 shallot
- 3 peppers (fresno, jalapeño, serrano)
- big handful of cilantro
Pour the stock in a pot along with the lemongrass, which you should chop into ~2 inch segments and slit/bruise with a knife all over. Let this simmer over low heat until you need it later.
Cut the steak into thin, bite-sized strips. Rub with salt, pepper, cumin, and nutmeg. In a hot pan with a knob of melted butter, brown the beef on both sides and then remove from the pan, setting aside for now.
Now, onto the risotto. Begin by sautéing the finely minced shallots and peppers for ~8 minutes in roughly half of the butter. Add the garlic for a minute more. Finally, add the rice to the pan and toss it about somewhat actively for a minute or two.
Deglaze the pan with wine, stirring over medium heat until the wine is all absorbed. This begins the usual risotto process: add ~1/4-1/2 cup of warm stock to the rice, stirring periodically, and once its all been absorbed, repeat. Don’t add the lemongrass to the rice (throw it out–its very stringy). This song and dance should take roughly 20-30 minutes.
During all of this, you should prepare the avocado salsa. This is fortunately quick and easy work.
Chop the shallot and peppers, skin and pit the avocados and mangoes, and toss all of this into a food processor with the lime juice, cilantro, and salt. Whiz things to a texture you’re happy with (I ground mine up to be fairly smooth) and set it aside for now.
Finally, once you’ve used up all of the stock to cook the risotto, you’re just about done. Add the remaining butter and grated parmesan cheese. Remove from heat and stir it into the rice as it melts and enriches the risotto. Add the beef from earlier and the avocado salsa. Depending on the size of your avocados and mangoes, you might find yourself with more salsa than you’d like for your risotto, so consider reserving some for another purpose if you think it looks like way too much. Mix things well and promptly serve.
I garnished with sliced fresno peppers and cilantro. Chunks of avocado would also work nicely. Enjoy!