Risotto alla Milanese is a perfect springtime dish. It really flatters green early spring produce. The creamy texture and bright saffron color form a perfect backdrop for green spring vegetables such as peas and asparagus.
This week was a big week for spring asparagus. Fresh, juicy with a green “mineral” flavor. Also this week, we fielded an SOS call from a Princeton woman. She had 15 guests at home for a pre-Mother’s Day luncheon and no food. We quickly put together a “take away” lunch: vegetable antipasti, risotto Milanese with spring asparagus, flounder in beurre blanc and a cappuccino cheese cake.
Lunch was a great success and all the ladies asked for the risotto recipe. So here it is, use it with asparagus or green peas. Happy Mother’s Day!!
Read more about asparagus and get an old-favorite asparagus recipe here.
Risotto alla Milanese with Asparagus
2 cups Carnaroli or Arborio rice
1-1/2 cups white wine
2 large pinches of saffron
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
3-4 cups chicken stock; water; or a vegetarian stock made of carrots, celery, onions and spring vegetables, kept on a simmer
1/2 to 3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 bunch fresh local asparagus, crowns separated from stems, stems cut into ½ inch pieces
Keep the crowns of the asparagus and the stems separate. Blanch stems and then crowns. drain well and set aside (see note below).
Heat the wine until warm and add the saffron. Let steep for a about 10 minutes (the saffron will leach out its color).
Finely chop onion. In a 2-1/2 to 3-quart heavy saucepan cook onion in 2 tablespoons butter over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened.
Add rice, stirring to coat with butter.
Add saffron wine and cook, stirring constantly and keeping at a simmer, until absorbed.
Continue cooking at a simmer and adding broth about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting each addition be absorbed before adding next.
Cook until rice is tender and creamy-looking but still al dente at the cebter, about 18 minutes total. (There may be broth mixture left over.)
Stir in Parmesan, blanched asparagus stems, remaining tablespoon butter, and salt and pepper to taste and cook over low heat until heated through, about 3 minutes.
Divide into individual plates and top with the blanched asparagus tops.
To Blanch Spring Vegetables:
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Prepare a colander and a large bowl filled with ice water. The idea is to cool the vegetables quickly. Boil the vegetables for a minute or two, drain in the colander and then immediately transfer to ice water. Cool in ice for a minute or so and drain.