Asparagus and Shiitake Risotto

  Tonight’s recipe is one that I was a little hesitant to try on my own.  Risotto has a reputation for being easy to screw up if you don’t pay enough attention to it.  But, I’d bought a bunch of asparagus and it needed to be used up, so I thought I’d try it and see if the scary rep was earned.  My risotto wound up a touch salty for my taste, but other than that, I’m calling risotto’s bluff.  It took a bit of time, but this was easy.

  Here’s what you need:
  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 pound asparagus, chopped (tips left longer)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 3/4 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms quartered
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese
  Looking at the recipe, at least part of my super-salty problem is that I didn’t use unsalted butter.  Oops.  I might suggest low sodium broth as well, but we’re not big on salt at our house.  I used about half shiitake mushrooms and half baby bellas.  I’ve found I’m not a huge fan of shiitakes, and they’re kind of expensive, so I think in the future I’ll just sub in other mushrooms.
  The recipe has us start by heating a pot full of watered broth to simmering (5 c. broth & 1 c water), cooking the chopped asparagus for about 3 minutes (until it’s bright green), removing it from the broth and immediately putting it in a bowl full ice water.  That ice sounds like the kind of step I’d skip, but it’s actually important.  Putting just cooked veggies in ice water stops them from cooking, which means it keeps them from getting mushy.  You don’t want mushy, do you?  Once your asparagus is cooled, drain it and dry it off.  Put it aside in a bowl.
  Next it’s time to saute our mushrooms.  Melt a tablespoon of butter in a large, high sided skillet.  We’re going to be making the rest of our dish in this skillet, so make certain it’s big enough.  Keep your broth warm, but turn it down so it’s no longer boiling.  When your butter is melted, saute your mushrooms for about four minutes (until browned).  Remove them from the pan and set aside.  I put mine in the same bowl as my asparagus.
  Add two more tablespoons of butter to the pan and saute your onion until it’s softened (about 3 minutes).  Then add your rice and stir for about a minute until it gets a chalky look.  Pour in the wine and stir constantly until it’s evaporated (about a minute).
  Now we’re going to start ladling in the broth.  Start with one cup and stir until the broth is absorbed or evaporated.  After the first addition, add about 1/2 cup at a time.  You don’t need to stir this whole time (your arm would get very very tired!), but you do need to stir fairly often or the rice will burn to the bottom of your skillet.  This process will take between 15 and 20 minutes.  Call a friend, put it on speakerphone and get comfortable.
  When the broth is all added, turn off the heat, add the mushrooms, asparagus, remaining tablespoon of butter and the cheese.  Stir well until the cheese melts.  Cover with a lid and let sit for a minute.  Serve immediately.

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