Nothing says spring more loudly and clearly than Asparagus. Years ago in Georgia I had an asparagus patch, and I eagerly awaited the tiny, spindly shoots of asparagus that seemed to appear overnight. Sometimes you can find a skinny wild asparagus at farmers markets and specialty grocers … but mostly asparagus is fatter and juicier. In France and Belgium you can find gorgeous fat white asparagus during a very brief time of the early spring. The white asparagus has been grown under tarps to keep the sun from photosynthesizing it and turning it green.
Fresh Goat Cheese (aka chevre) is another springtime treat because this is the period of the year when goats have babies and “freshen” and there is an abundance of milk to use for making fresh chevre.
So I have combined these two quintessentially spring-time products into a risotto. This recipe calls for the commonly-found asparagus that you can find at your local grocery store. The Fresh Goat Cheese is a soft, creamy, mild cheese that melts into the risotto.
1 pound fresh asparagus
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided use
1/2 small onion, minced (1/2 cup)
1 cup arborio rice
1 cup white wine
2 cups chicken broth, heated
4 ounces fresh goat cheese
2 ounces grated Montasio or Grana Padano (1/2 cup)
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Cut off the tough ends off the asparagus and discard. Peel the remainder of the stalks using a vegetable peeler. Cut the stalks into 1-inch pieces and reserve the tips separately. Set aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat in a heavy, two-quart saucepan. Add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes, until tender but not brown.
Add the rice and stir well to coat each grain of rice with the butter. Sauté the rice for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring constantly, or until it begins to become golden. Add the wine. Stir as necessary to keep rice from sticking. Add 1 cup stock when the wine is almost completely absorbed.
After 10 minutes of cooking and stirring, add the asparagus stalks. Continue adding the remaining broth for another three minutes. Add the asparagus tips. Stir well and cook for 2 to 3 minutes longer. (The total cooking time should be about 15 minutes and the risotto should be somewhat runny at this point.)
Check a rice grain to see if it is cooked by biting it, or by cutting it in two with a knife. It should be al dente and there should be a small, thin white line inside the grain of rice. When the rice is ready, stir in the remaining butter and the goat cheese into the rice. Add 1/4 cup of the Montasio. Season with salt and lots of fresh black pepper. Stir again and let the risotto rest for one minute. The excess liquid will be absorbed.
To serve, spoon the risotto into shallow bowls or onto serving plates. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup Montasio over the risotto or pass separately.
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