These days you can find asparagus in the market all year round but, for me, they signify Spring. This most noble of Spring vegetables can be made in an infinite variety of ways but perhaps my favorite is as a Asparagus and lemon Risotto, or risotto agli asparagi e Limon. I like the flavour of asparagus so much that my preferred way to make Asparagus Risotto is entirely vegetarian, using the asparagus itself to make the broth.
To cook the asparagus
– 1 onion
– 1 carrot
– 1 stalk celery
– Spring fresh parsley
– 1 bunch asparagus
For the risotto
– 1 medium onion, finely chopped
– 300-500g (3/4-1 lb) Arborio or carnaroli
– Butter and/or olive oil
– 100g (3-1/2 oz) grated Parmesan cheese
– 1 lemon
– White wine
To cook the asparagus
1. Make a kind of vegetarian broth beginning with the usual aromatics — onion, carrot, celery and parsley. After say 15 minutes of cooking, adding your asparagus. Cook for only 5 minutes or so, and fish the asparagus out of the simmering broth.
2. Cut the asparagus into three parts: the fibrous bottom third goes back into the pot, to continue cooking and lending its flavour to the broth. The middle third gets chopped up, and the tips are held back as a garnish.
For the risotto
1. Make a soffritto: You begin by gently sauteeing chopped or finely sliced onion in butter and/or or oil. you can add a pinch of salt and a drop of water to soften the onions as they cook to make sure they don’t burn.)
2. Toast the rice: Then add the rice and let it ‘toast’ in the soffrito for a few minutes— just until the grains turn a chalky white color. add the chopped asparagus and allow it to insaporire for a few minutes
3. Add wine: Then add a splash of wine—almost always white,
4. Add broth ladle by ladle: Then add broth, ladle by ladle, allowing each ladleful of broth to evaporate before adding the next ladleful, stirring often. Repeat until the rice is ‘al dente’, which should take around 20 minutes.
5. ‘La mantecatura’: When the rice is cooked, you take the risotto off heat and, for most risotti, add a generous amount of grated parmesan cheese and, if you like, a bit of butter ,mixing vigorously to create a creamy consistency. Ad a squeeze of lemon and the zest. (This last step is called la mantecatura—which I might loosely translate as enrichment, the idea being that by adding cheese and butter and agitating the rice kernels and releasing their starch, you give the risotto a rich, creamy texture.)
6. (Optional) Rest: You should normally serve your risotto immediately. But for a slightly firmer risotto, you can cover and let it sit for a minute or two. If conversely the risotto is too stiff for your taste, stir in a bit of hot water, broth or cream to loosen it up.
You can make Asparagus Risotto with either thick or thin asparagus. The thick variety needs to be peeled; the thin kind can be used as is. And, as noted above, don’t trim off the bottom as you would normally do for other dishes—use it for the broth! I have not tried white asparagus for risotto, but I’m sure it’s also very good.
Savour the rich flavours of authentic Italian dishes at Talavera, at the Radisson Blu St Helens. Made from fresh, local ingredients, these dishes are created under the supervision of Giancarlo Anselmi, Talavera’s renowned executive head chef. Giancarlo’s simple philosophy guides the preparation of every meal: the best dishes marry flavours from high-quality ingredients to create an exciting gustatory sensation.
Talavera provides seating for 120 guests and includes private dining areas that can accommodate groups of 15 or more.
After an evening of fine Italian dining, return in the morning for the hotel’s Super Breakfast Buffet. Each morning talavera features cold and warm buffets with fine meats and cheeses, Irish breads, fresh fruits and juices. Pair a delicious hot coffee and tea with a flaky, freshly baked pastry.
For more information visit www.radissonblu.com.