Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Searching for the Perfect Risotto...

My absolute favorite dish while I was studying in Italy was the Asparagus Risotto at a tiny little family-run restaurant near the Santo Sprito bridge - - which is somewhat mind boggling since asparagus is one of my least favorite veggies! The risotto was the ideal combination of creamy cheese, prefectly-cooked rice and yes, asparagi. In the five years since I returned home from Florence I've been searching for the dish. I've scoured restaurants and recipe books, magazines and online forums. Usually the recipes are intimidating, the restaurant versions sometimes pretentious or good-but-not-quite-it.

There have been many botched attempts (perhaps a result of a recipe with 600 steps?). Many times, the risotto stuck to the bottom of the pan like superglue. This usually resulted in some sort of crunchy fried rice thing and a call to a local pizza shop. I've had mushy rice that looked more like paste than anything you'd want to consider eating.... But tonight, I've finally gotten it! This recipe, adapted from, was delicious! I'm looking forward to experimenting with it more - - trying different herb combinations, various stocks and cheeses. And if I, the queen of risotto mishaps can do it, I'm pretty much convinced anyone can. I'd love to hear how it works out for you and the different combinations you come up with as well.

To balance the heartiness of the risotto, I added a side of fresh tomato salad. This weekend, we'll be posting our favorite tomato dishes, so check back for that recipe. It's a summertime staple in our family.

Mixed Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto

Rinse 1 1/2 cups of arborio rice. In medium sauce pan, cover rice with 1 1/2 cups of water. Cook over high heat, stirring frequently, until water is absorbed. Rinse rice with cold water and set aside. (Rice will be underdone).

In a large skilled, heat 1 tbsp. butter and 2 tbsp. olive oil. Add 1 cup of diced onion and 2 cloves of garlic (minced). Saute over high heat until onions are caramel colored. Add 1 1/2 cups of mixed mushrooms (baby bella, shitake and oyster) and 10 spears of Asparagus (diced into 1/2 inch pieces). Toss in 1 tsp. of dried oregano, a pinch of kosher salt, pinch of pepper and 1 tsp. of dried basil. Cook about seven minutes.

Add boiled rice to the pot and stir. When rice begins to stick to the bottom of the pan, add 1 1/2 cups of brown beef broth. Cook until beef stock is absorbed by rice and then taste the rice. If it's still not done, add more beef stock and cook a few more minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup of freshly grated parmesan-reggiano cheese. Scoop into shallow bowls and enjoy!

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