Risotto, risotto. It’s one of those things where it makes you go all mushy inside with a bite. One of the main reasons why restaurants charge for it so dearly is because it takes time to make risotto. It’s not a dish to make in advance, unless your intention is to use it to make arancini or risotto balls. It’s not a dish to make if you’re in a hurry. Risotto is a dish that is all about taking your time and using only the freshest ingredients – and then you reap your reward when you savor a mouthful of silk with a nice-bodied bite in each grain of rice. A properly cooked risotto is a delicacy.
I had a pint of cremini mushrooms and a bunch of young asparagus bought from the farmer’s market. And I knew both these items were locally produced somewhere in Compton, QC. I don’t know about you but I find that vegetables/produce that has the shortest route from farm to market tastes so much better; the asparagus were amazing eaten raw. I swear I could have eaten all of it before I started cooking. But that didn’t happen, so it’s all good. The combination of mushrooms and asparagus is like umami-heaven. When you put them on top of a basil and garlic based white risotto, it’s like they were meant to be and you want to scream – OMG WHERE WERE YOU ALL MY LIFE?!
For the risotto:
1 cup of arborio rice
2 cups of vegetable broth, more if needed
1 glass (approximately 4oz) of white wine
1 tablespoon of chopped basil
2 cloves of garlic, minced finely
1 teaspoon of butter
1 teaspoon of olive oil
1/2 teaspoon of salt
For the mushrooms and asparagus:
1 pint of cremini mushrooms, finely sliced – you can use any other types of mushrooms as well as long as they are fresh and not canned
1 cup of asparagus, cut into 2 inch lengths
1 clove of garlic
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon of lemon rind
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
For the rice, in a heavy bottomed pot, heat up the butter and oil and roast the rice for a minute or until a nutty fragrance permeates through. At this point, add the garlic and saute until the garlic turns slightly translucent. Careful to not burn the garlic.
Add the white in and stir. You will be doing a lot of stirring – after all that is what making risotto is about. And when you see that the liquid from the wine is quickly reducing, add the vegetable broth in 1 ladle at a time – to which you have to stir so that the bottom does not get burnt.
After about 20 minutes, the liquid from the vegetable broth will start to turn creamy but each grain of rice is still while with a slightly opaque center. Taste it – is the center of the rice too hard? Cook for another 2 minutes and taste again. The rice must be creamy on the outside and al dente on the side like a perfectly cooked pasta. Once that is attained, your risotto is good to serve. Toss in the chopped basil at this point.
For the roasted mushroom and asparagus, heat up a wide pan with olive oil and butter. When the butter is completely melted, add the garlic and mushrooms in and saute until they are brown around the edges. It is important to not crowd your pan with too much mushrooms or it will never brown. Nothing is worse than boiled mushrooms – at which point any kind of mushroom will surely be ruined. Boiled mushroom tastes and smells like rotting wood; it is not good eating, for sure.
Once your mushrooms are browned, add the asparagus in and saute for a minute or two. At this point, you want to drizzle your balsamic vinegar around the pan so that they will trickle down the pan that way. The reason why I drizzle the vinegar around the pan like this is because it allows the acidity to cook off as it travels to the center of the pan leaving a lovely trail of sweetness that balsamic vinegar is known for. Add the lemon rind, salt and pepper to taste and cook the asparagus until they turn a nice bright green and at this point, it’s ready to be used over the risotto.
Plate the risotto and add the mushroom and asparagus topping. Grate a bit of lemon rind over the top and do a small drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Finish off with some salt and pepper and it’s ready to eat!