Asparagus is on sale all over town. What is a good price? Well right now, 1.89-1.99 is a good price. 2.99-3.99 is fairly standard and not a terribly good buy. Beware a couple of false deals on Asparagus when shopping: 1) Priced by the bunch. These bunches are usually quite spare. If as a woman you can grip it around, it is not a full 'bunch'. 2) Old. The Asparagus spearheads should be tight. If they are opening and looking like they are flowering, pass. 3) Woody. Pick up the bunch and take a look at the bottom. They are pink or rose quite a bit the ways up the spear or if they are cracked and dry, pass. The rose hint is not that easy to tell. Just try snapping one. If it snaps too far up from the bottom, more than 2- inches. It is too woody and you will not have much eatable Asparagus left after the trimming. Stick to 1) and 2) at the least when shopping.
Asparagus and Crimini Mushroom Risotto
1 2/3 c Arborio Rice
1.5 l Vegetable or Chicken Broth
1 Shallot minced
2-3 T Olive Oil
1 bunch Asparagus, trimmed
15-20 or 2 c Crimini Mushrooms, brushed and trimmed
1 c dry White Wine
1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese, additional for garnish
2 T butter
In a small sauce pan, bring the broth to a boil and then reduce to low low simmer.
In a extra-large fry pan, not non-stick, heat some butter or olive oil, 1 T on high. Fry all the mushrooms. Spread out as much as you can. You don't want to steam them and that will happen if you crowd them. Your pan can be full but try to have a single layer. Sautee for 5-10 minutes until browned. Set aside on a plate nearby to keep sort of warm.
For the asparagus, you can either sautee them for 3 minutes, really quick or as D did, microwave them for a mere 2 minutes. They will cook more in the risotto and just do not want them raw raw. Cut into thirds and set aside.
In the same pan, heat another 1-2 T olive oil on medium high. Sautee the shallot for a minute to soften slightly. Add the rice, stir so that all the grains are glistening with oil. Sautee for a minute or 2 to brown ever so slightly.
Pour the wine all over the pan. Turn the heat down to medium. You do not want simmering or bubbles. You want steam wafting but no much more than that. On a scale of 10, 4.5-5 is good, but play with it for your own stove. When most of the wine is absorbed, add 1 ladel or 1/4 c of the broth.
Stir. The love in a Risotto comes from the stirring, with a wooden spoon. Stir and talk. Stir and talk. Again, when it is nearly all absorbed, meaning that, when you run a wood down the middle of the pan like parting the Nile, the broth does not immediately flood back in and cover the line. Repeat until you are 2-3 ladels from the end, or 35 minutes or so. Taste the rice. If it tastes like it is just about done proceed to next steps.
Add a ladel and the asparagus and mushrooms back. Stir and talk. Stir and talk. Season to taste. This will depend on how much salt is in your broth. When that ladel is nearly all absorbed. Add the parmesan cheese and stir. Add a few pats of butter spread out over the pan. Add the last ladel or 1/2 ladel and cover and set aside for 10 minutes.
Serve with more parmesan cheese and truffle oil (Optional but can really bring your mushrooms to life if you are using simple ones like button. Or just because Truffle oil is awesome.)
We drank a beautiful Delta Vineyard Pinot Noir 2006.