For a moment there, I kind of felt like I had died and gone to food-lover’s heaven.
After a conversation with my brother a week or so ago about risotto, I haven’t been able to get the dish out of my head. I love it, but I don’t make it often; I’m not sure why, except that it is kind of fiddly, with the boiling and stirring and everything. Some beautiful asparagus I found yesterday, however, pushed me over the top, and I decided to make risotto incorporating it.
Asparagus makes me think of ham and lemon. I don’t know where the association comes from–maybe from an eggs benedict dish I had once that had asparagus in it. Whatever the reason, I decided to go with it.
This was the finished dish, and it was so good I thought I’d write about it here, even though I don’t have a real recipe for it. I’ll walk you through the steps, and I’ll provide the measurements I think I used, though I didn’t measure. I used my knowledge of how a risotto is put together to add ingredients until it looked and tasted right.
Asparagus Risotto with Ham and Lemon
(again, all measurements are approximate)
To begin, get all the ingredients ready, because as you are stirring you won’t want to be stopping to chop ham or something.
First, pre-cook about 10-12 spears of asparagus. I cooked mine yesterday, and I left them crisp-tender, the way I like to eat them. They won’t get much cooking time in the risotto. Cut the asparagus into bite-sized pieces. Bring about 3 1/2 cups of chicken broth to a simmer in a small saucepan. I had some homemade chicken stock in the freezer and that’s what I used, but you could use canned as well. Chop about a quarter of an onion. Dice about a cup of ham. Zest one lemon, and squeeze the juice into a bowl.
Now you are ready to begin. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, warm 2 tablespoons olive oil, then add the onion. Cook the onion until it is transparent. Pour in 1 cup Arborio rice–the type of rice is all-important. You want a short grain rice that will absorb the liquid and become creamy, and Arborio is the rice of choice for that. Stir to combine it with the olive oil-onion mixture. Add about 1/2 cup dry white wine–I’ve seen and made risottos without the wine, so if you don’t have it you can leave it out. Stir in the zest from the lemon. Stir constantly until the wine is all absorbed. Then, in 1/2 to 3/4 cup increments, start to stir in the simmering chicken broth. Stir constantly over moderate heat until the broth is all absorbed into the rice. Continue to add the broth in 3/4 cup increments, stirring all the while. After two or three additions you will see that the risotto is starting to become creamy, and tasting a grain of rice you will notice that it is starting to get soft. About halfway through, add the lemon juice and some salt.
After the risotto is almost to the consistency you like it, but perhaps still a little on the underdone side, add the asparagus and the ham. Stir constantly until the risotto is finished. You may not need all the broth, or you may need a little more–it just depends on the consistency you like the final product. I wound up adding about 3 1/2 cups for 1 cup of rice.
Put the risotto in a bowl, and grate over some fresh Parmesan cheese and perhaps some good black pepper. You will be very happy.