Sunday, August 10, 2008

Asparaugus and Lemon Risotto

Serves 4 to 6. Takes 1 hour 20 minutes.

Lemongrass broth:
3 cloves garlic, whole and unpeeled
1-inch piece fresh ginger, sliced into 1/4 inch slices
1 small stalk lemon grass, or 1 tbsp dried, chopped lemongrass (if using dried, then tie off a bouquet for soaking)
3 cups vegetable broth
3 cups water
3 tbsp soy sauce


1/3 cup cooking sherry
1 pound asparagus
5 tbsp peanut oil
1 cup basil leaves (Thai preferred), rolled and sliced into very thin strips
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
6 large shallots, sliced thin
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 serrano red chile, sliced very thin, or 1/2 to 1 tsp dried red pepper flakes
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp lime juice
Chopped roasted peanuts and lime wedges for garnish

If using fresh lemongrass, peel away and discard any brown stems from the stalk. Slice in half and cut into 3-4 inch lengths, then slice into matchstick pieces. Lightly bruise the ginger slices with the side of a knife. Crush the garlic with the knife as well, but keep whole. Prepare your boquet garni using an empty tea bag or cheesecloth tripled up.

Place all broth ingredients in a large stockpot and bring to a boil, then lower the heat to medium-low. Simmer for 10 minutes, then strain the broth, discarding the vegetables and herbs. Pour the broth back into the pot, cover, and place over over low heat to keep warm.

Warm the cooking sherry in a separate, small saucepan over medium heat. Slice the asparagus into 1/2 inch pieces, removing any tough parts from the bottom of the stem. separate tips from stems and place each in separate small bowls.

In a medium size heavy bottomed pot, saute the asparagus tips in 1 tbsp oil over medium heat until the tips are bright green and crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Return them to their small bowl. Add 1 more tbsp of oil to the pot and saute the sliced asparagus pieces until crisp-tender, 5-6 minutes. Add the basil and mint, saute for 30 seconds more, removing from the heat, set the asparagus mixture aside in a small bowl separate from the tips.

Add the remaining oil to the pot. Saute the shallots and garlic, stirring occasionally until the shallots are very soft and just starting to brown, 6 to 8 minute. Stir in the chile pepper and rice, and saute for about 8 minutes until the rice smells slightly toasted. Add the cooking sherry and stir constantly until the liquid is absorbed.

Ladle about 1/2 cup of borth at a time into the rice, stirring constantly until each addition is absorbed. Stir and cook until the rice is creamy but still somewhat firm in the center. When the broth is almost gone, stir ithe sugar and lime juice into the last of the broth before adding to the risotto. You may add more water or additional regular vegetable broth in 1/4 cup increments if the broth runs out and the rice isn't cooked enough yet. This will take 35 minutes.

Stir the asparagus stems into the risotto and cook for another 5-10 minutes, until the asparagus has reached desired tenderness. Garnish with sauteed tips, chopped peanuts and lime wedges.

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