After the doldrums of winter, each new week of spring is like a food reawakening for me. In the past few weeks, a number of my favorites have started popping up again at the farmer’s market, and as I always do, I tend to overindulge as if these vegetables won’t make a reappearance at the same time again next year. Today’s meal focuses on one such vegetable: asparagus.
Risotto has become something of a go-to meal for me (and if you’re afraid of making it, don’t be–trust me, its easy. Try this. Now). Its fairly easy to make and provides a rich, makes-you-feel-so-good canvas to work with, no matter what the goal. I thought creamy, cheesy goodness was the perfect place to highlight asparagus.
The risotto packs a double punch of asparagus: a lightly boiled asparagus puree is mixed into the rice (also adding a nice green tint) and the tender tips are steamed by the rice in the final moments of cooking, lending a well-rounded asparagus flavor profile.
As for the other supporting characters: I love Swiss chard. I add it to many things I cook–it adds a nice pungency and a great bit of color (from the stems). I also thought green garlic would make a great addition (a spring-time treat: garlic before it matures into the papery garlic bulb we all know and love. Milder, sweeter, and semblant of a small leek) to add a sweet pungency. Finally, the poached egg. I’m generally a sucker for eggs, and asparagus and runny-yolk eggs just go together beautifully, so why not have a runny, stream of gold dripping down the risotto as a garnish?
In case customization is your thing, some ideas for how to riff on this dish further: consider adding some seared scallops. Or, if you’re of the vegetarian persuasion, it should be fairly obvious how to tweak this one to accommodate your diet (e.g. substitute vegetable stock for chicken stock, perhaps pass on the poached egg) without much in the way of disheartening substitutions/compromises. A sharp, acidic Riesling would be a great wine to pair with this, as would a good French rosé (I’m partial to those from the Rhône region).
My original inspiration for this recipe.
- ~1.5-2 lbs asparagus
- 2 cups arborio rice
- 6-7 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup dry white wine (I’m always partial to Sauvignon Blanc)
- 6 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 2 shallot
- 2 stalks green garlic
- 1 bunch Swiss Chard
- ground black pepper
- 1 poached egg (per plate)
Begin by sautéing the finely minced shallots and the chopped stems from the chard for ~10 minutes in roughly half of the butter. 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. In total, this should take you somewhere around 20-30 minutes.
During all of this, you should do all of the final prep work. For instance, the asparagus. Chop off any woody ends, and then chop the stalks into 1-2 inch segments.
Boil roughly half of the asparagus (the lower portions of the stalks) for 5 minutes, drain off the water, and puree this in a food processor/blender. Set this aside.
When you forecast that there’s roughly 5 minutes left of risotto cooking time, add the remaining asparagus and diced Swiss chard leaves. Since green garlic was in season when I made this, I finely chopped the green garlic (including a good portion of the upper part of the stalks) and threw it into the mix at this point as well. If you’d prefer, you can use normal garlic, but I would add that earlier (after you sauté the shallots).
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. Season to taste and mix in the asparagus puree from earlier.
Finally, the last step: the poached eggs. Heat up some water in a pot (not actively boiling or bubbling–you want it hot, but tranquil in there) and gently crack the eggs into the water (and absolutely do not crowd them). Let this sit undisturbed for about 3 minutes before you fish them out and drain off any water. Place an egg carefully atop each portion of risotto and enjoy!