Sunday, April 15, 2012

Spring Risotto

I was broiling some lamb chops I bought at Costco and wanted a special side dish to serve with them. Typically, I would make some garlic mashed potatoes, but just didn't feel like potatoes that day - surprising giving my obsession with potatoes. The orzo and wild rice dish I posted a few weeks ago is another dish I like with these chops. Rice is also a very nice option.

While I make rice quite often, brown especially, as pilafs mixed with vegetables, that seemed too ordinary. It was a rainy, gloomy day which meant I was in the mood to cook, so a classic risotto came to mind. In my refrigerator were a bunch of asparagus, some snap peas and zucchini. Mixed in with a classic, creamy risotto sounded like a perfect accompaniment to the lamb. 

Finding a good risotto recipe among my many Italian cookbooks wasn't a problem, but when I want something a bit more special or unusual, Jamie Oliver's, Jamie's Italy cookbook is my default cookbook. Sure enough, his risottos, though quite classic, used more vegetables to help deliver a more robust, and complex risotto. I used his risotto bianco recipe as a base, adjusting it a bit to suit my taste, and added the nice spring time vegetables at the end to produce this Spring Risotto.

I don't make classic Italian risotto very often. Mostly, because of the dedicated attention it requires at the stove, but also due to the amount of butter and cheese it uses to produce its creamy texture and rich taste. But, since the chops, which I marinated in olive oil, some lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, rosemary, garlic and thyme, just required some easy broiling, I was prepared to give the risotto the abundant amount of time it required.  To save using another pan, and from sauteing the spring vegetables in more fat, I steamed them atop the chicken broth I held simmering for the risotto. That worked out great. I simply added the steamed veggies to the finish risotto right before serving. 

The resulting risotto was full bodied, chock full of great tasting vegetables, and was, indeed, a fine complement to the broiled lamb chops.   

Spring Risotto

32 oz. chicken stock or broth
2 T. olive oil
3 T. butter, divided
1 med. onion, finely chopped
2 green onions, chopped
2 stalks celery
2 cups Arborio rice
2 wineglasses of white wine
4 oz. grated Parmesan cheese

1/2- full bunch of asparagus, cut into 1-in pieces
1/3 lb. snap peas, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 zucchini, diced into small pieces

Heat the chicken stock in a large saucepan.  Place the cut up asparagus, snap peas and zucchini in a steamer basket and place on top of the simmering chicken stock. Steam until just tender. Don't overcook. 

In a large Dutch oven pan, heat the olive oil and 1 T. butter. Add the onions, and celery and saute on medium heat for approximately 10-15 minutes until they soften. Do not let them get brown.  

Turn up the heat and add the rice.  Allow the rice to fry and become slightly translucent.  This will take about 5 minutes or so.  Now add the wine, and season with some salt, and saute till the rice has absorbed the wine fully.

Once the wine has cooked into the rice, turn down the heat to medium and begin adding the chicken stock one ladle at a time.  Allow the rice to fully absorb the stock before adding the next ladle.  Continue to do so until the rice is fully cooked. If you run out of stock before the rice if cooked, add some boiling water to finish the cooking.

When the rice is fully cooked, but not mushy, remove the pan from the heat.  Add 2 T. of butter and the Parmesan cheese. Stir well. Place a lid on the pan and allow the pan to sit for 2 minutes. This allows the butter and cheese to melt into the rice to produce its creamy texture. 

Now add the steamed spring vegetables. Mix together and serve.



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