After a few months of eating out nearly every meal, I’ve turned towards homecooking again. I dreaded the return to the kitchen–it was so nice to be pampered, sit at a different table most meals, and have my meal brought to me, without a mess to clean up afterwards. But necessity drew me back to my beloved kitchen.
My love for cooking returned the instant I turned on the burner and heated up some butter, watching it bubble, filling the house with the rich and comforting smell of browned butter. I had forgotten the chemical, physical shifts of ingredients and how the process piques my curiosity and all my five senses. In this case, the smell tickled my nose, the butter’s transformation from a semi-solid cream colored square to a liquid brown, and its sizzling spatter made me feel so…alive. (No, I did not TOUCH the butter while it cooked–it would have been quite hot).
I was cooking a Spring asparagus risotto, an ode to the season, and an accompaniment to roast chicken. It was a practical choice, but it soon became one filled with fancy, at least in my own mind. It started out with chopping the asparagus–I diced the woodier stems into flat cylinders, falling into the rhythm of consistent shapes and sizes. I was soothed to no end. I left the spears intact, their characteristic heads in contrast with the chopped stems. Soon, I had a pile of asparagus that delighted me with its beauty.
Really, I thought it was beautiful.
As with most dishes, I began to improvise throughout the process–I walked out into my yard and spotted the last lingering fruits on the meyer lemon tree. The deep yellow citrus fruits beckoned to me, “Take me! Pick me!” And so I did. But what would I do with them. One sniff of the fruit gave me an idea: zest the rinds for the risotto. Aha. (And I would juice them later for a nice hot lemon and honey drink).
The end result was a beautiful asparagus risotto–with shallots, parmesan and lemon zest.
My recipe follows…
Christine’s Asparagus Risotto with lemon zest
3 shallots, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon dried basil (or fresh)
3 cups (uncooked) arborio rice
1-2 cups white wine
3-5 cups chicken broth (have it simmering)
1 bunch asparagus, chopped (chop the stems into flat cylinders, leave the heads intact–TIP: before you begin chopping, snap the asparagus stem at its natural point. throw away the side without the head, which is woody and not so edible. the side WITH the head is the part you use.)
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/2 cup milk
salt to taste
Melt and heat butter in large pot/chef’s pan. Add shallots until they turn translucent. Add basil. Add arborio rice. Stir until the rice turns translucent (but don’t let it brown).
Add wine…stir while the rice absorbs the wine.
Then add broth, 1 cup at a time, as the rice aborbs it, and turns just tender. Add asparagus in the very last stages.
Stir parmesan, milk and salt to taste into the risotto and cover risotto and let stand.
Serve when asparagus is tender.