“You know, when you get your first asparagus, or your first acorn squash, or your first really good tomato of the season, those are the moments that define the cook’s year. I get more excited by that than anything else.”
~Mario Batali
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Yes, I know asparagus is a spring vegetable and recipes abound in April and May, so I’m a bit late to the party here.  But that’s fashionable, isn’t it?  I can find good asparagus all summer at my neighborhood market. It may not be local, but it’s good.  That’s lucky for us, because this recipe makes such a nice, light summer meal.  If risotto is on the menu at a good restaurant, I usually choose it as a side dish,  but in this instance I added the shrimp and let it shine as a main course.  I realize seafood risottos don’t usually include cheese, but we like it this way.  All of us here prefer to eat a little lighter in the summer and this dish was fresh and delicious, but had enough substance to really satisfy.  The Mister said it was “freaking awesome.”  What more can I say?  The recipe is adapted from one by the Gourmet Trading Company.
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A few words about risotto.  You can’t rush it.  It needs to be stirred gently and almost constantly, which creates the creamy consistency.   It also should take at least 30 minutes to absorb the broth.  If it’s going too quickly, turn the heat down.  You don’t want to end up with crunchy risotto.  It can’t sit around either, because it will continue to cook and firm up.  You need to serve it immediately.  The little extra time and care are well worth it!

Asparagus Risotto with Shrimp
Serves 3-4

1 pound fresh asparagus, cut on bias, 2″ long.
5 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves finely chopped
1 1/2 cups aborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
1 pound peeled, deveined raw large shrimp
sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon minced fresh herbs, such as basil, chives and parsley

Warm the broth in a saucepan over medium heat.  In a large saute pan, heat the oil over med-high heat.  Saute onion and garlic briefly.  Add the aborio rice and cook, stirring constantly, for about 2-3 minutes.  Add the wine and cook until the liquid is absorbed.  Add the broth, about a 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and waiting until it is absorbed before adding more.

Meanwhile, in a saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Saute asparagus about 2 minutes until bright green.  Add shrimp and cook for 1 more minute.  When the risotto only has 1/2 to 1 cup of broth left to be stirred in, add the asparagus and shrimp and let finish cooking in the risotto as you stir in the last of the broth.  When the broth is completely absorbed, season to taste with salt and pepper and stir in the Parmesan cheese.  Serve immediately.

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