Pre-3-day-weekend asparagus risotto

Oh, the glorious 3-day weekend, how I long for you!!! Yes, I do love my job, but it's amazing how much more I love it when I have time off from it. Today was a great 10-hour reminder of the upcoming 3 days of quietness... by 5:30 I was so in need of a vacation I could taste it...

We celebrated tonight with a marinated steak and asparagus risotto. Why risotto? Because the way to Joe's heart is paved with slow-cooked Arborio rice (or something similarly mixed-metaphor-ish). Why asparagus? It was in the fridge. We opted for veggie stock instead of chicken and made it fully vegetarian - then served it up with a big juicy steak. Joe watched this week's Iron Chef America, which was vegetarian, and got all gung-ho about eating veg, which I fully support as long as we're those vegetarians who believe fish are somehow not included in the 'meat' category. So, after I clear out the ground beef still in the fridge, we're gonna temporarily become veget-sushi-arians. Fun!

Mostly, I'm posting because I don't want to lose the risotto recipe, as that is an unfortunate theme in my life. I go back to find that delicious lime-cashew butter dip that I swore I would make at least once a week for the rest of my life, and I can't find the web page, even after 50 Google searches for variations of cashew, peanut, lime, dip... grrr...

About this asparagus risotto... I think the fennel risotto was better. This was quite good, but something was missing. I'm not being at all fair to Mr Asparagus Risotto, though, since I didn't do him any favors by being out of fresh Parmesan cheese and having to substitute low-fat Kraft Parmesan. I would absolutely make this again, but with fresh Parmesan (duh!) and, if we're no longer vegetarians, then with some chicken stock to make it more flavorful and dynamic. I halved the recipe and only had a teensy Tupperware left, which is going to lunch with Joe tomorrow despite my warning that risotto will not be as good on day 2.

Asparagus Risotto

Makes 6 servings

1 1/2 pounds asparagus
5 cups (about) low-salt chicken broth or vegetable broth (we used homemade vegetable stock)
1 cup water
1 tablespoon butter
1 large onion, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
2 cups arborio rice or medium-grain white rice
1/2 cup dry white wine or vermouth
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup heavy cream
Fresh rosemary sprigs (optional)

Trim tough ends from asparagus; discard. Cut off asparagus tips and reserve. Cut stalks into 3/4-inch-long pieces. Place 2/3 of stalk pieces, 1 cup broth and 1 cup water in blender [I just used water for this part]. Puree until smooth. Set aside.

Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and celery and sauté until tender, about 8 minutes. Add rice and stir 1 minute. Add alcohol and cook until absorbed, stirring often, about 2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup broth and chopped rosemary; simmer until liquid is absorbed, stirring often, about 4 minutes. Continue to cook for 15-20 minutes, adding more broth by 1/2 cupfuls and allowing liquid to be absorbed before adding more, stirring often. Add remaining asparagus stalk pieces and reserved asparagus tips and continue cooking until rice is just tender and mixture is creamy, adding broth as needed and stirring often, about 10 minutes longer. Add reserved asparagus puree and stir until absorbed, about 3 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan and cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer risotto to bowl. Garnish with rosemary sprigs, if desired. Serve, passing remaining Parmesan separately.


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