I’m a bit of a risotto snob. Reality television cooking shows have fostered this arrogant “I know what risotto should be like” attitude, but I can’t seem to help it. When a congealed scoop of risotto was served to me at the Pearl Room last weekend, I could imagine a red-faced Chef Ramsey (from FOX’s Hell’s Kitchen) turning to a line cook and yelling “rubbish” while smashing the plate on the floor. Risotto should have some fluidity and movement on the plate. It should be al dente and creamy without being too cheesy—most of the “creaminess” comes from the starch of the pasta. This I know from watching reality television.
The thing is, I don’t remember ever actually making risotto. But the Pearl Room’s pasty globule only spurred my appetite for a well-prepared version, so I decided to make my own.
This recipe was a lot of chopping and stirring for a weeknight, and I somehow managed to dirty every single dish in Geoff’s kitchen, but it turned out better than I could ever have hoped. It was creamy, not overly cheesy, firm to the bite but cooked through. The vegetables were the best—cooked but still crisp. It tasted like spring, and the sentiment was the same: Finally!
I always like fish with rice dishes. I think any white fish would go well, but I used Flounder fillets to round out this meal. I sprinkled on some salt and pepper, patted on some flour and pan fried them for a few minutes on each side.
Risotto Alla Primavera
Adapted from Bon Appétit.
6 1/2 cups (about) chicken stock or broth
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 medium leek (white part only), sliced crosswise into thin rings
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups arborio rice or carnaroli rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 to 2 cups 1-inch pieces thin asparagus
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms (Baby Bellas worked well)
1/2 cup freshly shelled small peas or petite frozen peas
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus additional for serving
Heat up stock or broth in a saucepan until it’s simmering. Then cover and keep it warm over low heat.
Melt 1 tablespoon butter with the olive oil in a heavy large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onion, leak, and garlic, and sauté until it’s almost tender (about 6 minutes).
Add rice and stir until rice is translucent at edges but still opaque in center (about 3 minutes). Add wine and simmer until almost all of the liquid is absorbed, stirring often. (This will only take about 1 minute.)
Add broth 1 cup at a time until rice is about half cooked, allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding next and stirring often (about 9 minutes). Stir in asparagus, mushrooms, peas (if you have fresh), and parsley. Continue adding broth by cupfuls and stirring until rice is almost tender (about 6 minutes longer). Add peas (if using frozen). Cook until rice is tender but still firm to bite and mixture is creamy (about 2 minutes longer).
Remove from heat. Add 3/4 cup cheese and 2 tablespoons butter. Stir until cheese and butter melt. Season with salt and pepper.