I love risotto, and I don't know why I don't make this more often. I think of risotto as comfort food, and it's so versatile in what ingredients you can use. I always have homemade chicken stock in my freezer, and white wine is pretty much a staple in my fridge. I had purchased a lovely bunch of asparagus, and so I decided to make this dish that Ina had on her show a couple of weeks ago. I was intrigued by the addition of mascarpone cheese.
My dilemma was that I didn't have mascarpone cheese! I quickly surfed the net and I found several recipes on how to make my own mascarpone-- using cream cheese, sour cream and heavy cream. Once again, I usually keep these ingredients on hand, so I was in luck.
I think that this mascarpone substitute recipe is a winner, and much cheaper than the real
deal -- like a fraction of the cost!
The next step for me was to start a pot of water boiling and I blanched the fresh asparagus for 2-3 minutes. I wanted a bright green color and then I plunged the asparagus into an ice bath, to stop the cooking process...
Then I got busy with the rest of my mis en place-- that would be "ingredient's prep". This is how I roll, because there is nothing worse than finding out you're missing a key ingredient and you've already started cooking! I didn't photograph the chives, because they are growing right outside my kitchen window!
I am thankful to have a lemon tree that is providing this beautiful zest. I decided to use only one lemon, instead of the two that Ina recommends. I read recipe reviews and many people said that two lemons was too overpowering-- you decide!
Risotto isn't hard to make at all! If you've never made risotto, just remember that you need to use Arborio or Carnaroli Rice-- because you want a starchy rice. Plain ole white rice just doesn't work. Trust me.
Traditional risotto uses chicken stock (heated up) and white wine. I had to adapt the recipe a
bit -- Ina's recipe uses fennel, but I didn't have any. Truth be told, I'm not crazy about fennel so I wasn't going to race to the store for any. I didn't have leeks, and I do love them. I did have shallots, so I decided to substitute with those. Either way would be great.
Using good olive oil and butter, I sauteed the shallots and then the rice-- and then I began adding the heated chicken stock a few ladles at a time, stirring constantly.
You can see that there is still some liquid left in the pan, but the rice has released a lot of starch. This is when I added my fresh lemon zest (from my wonderful lemon tree) and I seasoned the rice with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.
I don't like overcooked asparagus, so I only allowed 5 minutes of cooking time once I added the blanched asparagus, thawed peas, mascarpone cheese, fresh Parmesan and fresh chives (as opposed to Ina's instructions to cook this for 15 minutes).
The beauty of living in California is that I can make a spring risotto in late summer! As Ina would say, how good is that?
Now, that's comfort food! (Pssssssst, you can always serve this as a side dish)
I have missed my food blogger friends, and I cannot wait to see what all of you have been up to!