I have had an on again off again relationship with risotto. Sometimes I like it, sometimes it taste like gruel. So this month’s Daring Cooks challenge hit me hard. I wasn’t sure I was up for the challenge.
The 2010 March Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Eleanor of MelbournefoodGeek and Jess of Jessthebaker. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make risotto. The various components of their challenge recipe are based on input from the Australian Masterchef cookbook and the cookbook Moorish by Greg Malouf.
There’s only one risotto I really like. It happens that it’s from Food52 co-founder and New York Times food writer, Amanda Hesser. Amanda wrote a charming cooking memoir, Cooking for Mr. Latte, with a recipe that did a lot to change my mind about risotto. So, for this challenge, I went right there, and made Creamy Risotto with Lemon.
And I used a new chicken stock – one I’ve been testing for Food52 this week.
Finally, because I am still a little ambivalent about risotto – I started thinking about what I might add to this rice dish to make me happy. There were tiny little new asparagus at the market this morning, so they had a place, certainly. Then, I had a brainstorm. You see, I am a crunch lover. Not so big on the creamy ricey thing – too much like porridge.
Here’s what I came up with. To the lemon risotto, stir in some chopped tiny new asparagus, spoon this into a baking dish, and cover with breadcrumbs chopped up with parsley and garlic, then moistened with a little melted butter.
This wonder of wonders emerged from the oven crunchy on the top and creamy inside. Yum Yum.
Baked Risotto with Asparagus & Lemon
For the risotto:
1 T olive oil
1 T butter
5 c excellent chicken stock, simmering in a pot (I made thirschfeld’s Stock Under Pressure from Food52)
1 c arborio rice
1 medium onion, chopped
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1/4 c creme fraiche
1 small bunch asparagus, blanched and chopped into 1″ pieces
1/4 c grated parmesian cheese
For the topping:
1.5 c breadcrumbs
1/2 c chopped parsley
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 Tbls butter, melted
Make the risotto:
In a large, heavy stockpot or saucepan (at least 3 qt), heat the olive oil and butter. Add the onion and saute until starting to get toasty brown on the edges. Add the rice and stir, toast for a couple of minutes. Add the lemon juice and scrape up any brown tasty bits.
Turn the heat to medium low.
Add the chicken stock one ladleful/about a 1/2 c. at a time and stir until the liquid is absorbed each time. Be patient. Stir Stir.
When you’ve added all but a cup or so of the stock, taste the rice to see if it’s done. It should be slightly al dente. If you need more liquid, add the stock and taste again. If you need more, use water. Keep cooking until the rice has a nice bite.
Take it off the heat, stir in the asparagus, cheese, creme fraiche and lemon zest.
Lightly butter a gratin pan. Spoon in the risotto until filled.
Make the topping. In the food processor, blitz the bread crumbs, parsley and garlic clove. Add the melted butter. Press the topping on the risotto and bake, uncovered, at 350 for 35 minutes.