Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Weekday Meals: Meatless Edition

I was too lazy busy to go to the grocery store yesterday, so I made a mad dash after yoga.  I didn't start cooking until around 8:30 so whatever I made was going to have to be quick.  I settled on one of my go-to meals: risotto.  Yes that's correct, I used "quick" to refer to risotto.  Many people have crazy misconceptions about risotto.  Maybe it's because you can order it a fancy restaurants.  Maybe it's because they don't know what it means.  Who knows?  Truth of the matter is that a pot of risotto can easily be prepared in around 30 minutes, making it a perfect meal to throw together on a Monday evening.

Risotto is a method of cooking a particular type of rice in a broth to a creamy, delicious consistency.  Once cooked, the rice should be liquidy but not soupy.  It should never be stiff, and for proof on that statement check out Wolfgang Puck's statements to Jyll on Food Network Star regarding her risotto.

{Side Note} That was one of the most awkward 5 minutes on television.  In the middle of an 8 course meal, Wolfgang told Jyll verbatim, "This is not really a risotto.  Can I come show you how to make a risotto?  Come with me, in the kitchen.  It has to be liquid, and it has to be on a hot plate."  He then proceeded to walk her into the kitchen and cook a plate of risotto for her.  To make matters worse, when they finally returned to the table (plate of risotto in hand), he sets it on the table and says something to the effect of, look at the beautiful risotto Jyll made.  It was mortifying.  I was cringing the entire time.

{Back to Risotto} Risotto is typically made with arborio rice, although I've seen recipes call for other types.  In case you were wondering, no you cannot use the plain 'ole white rice you have in the pantry.  Arborio rice works because it has high starch levels.  When cooked slowly in the broth, arborio rice will absorb the liquid and release starch.  This results in a ultra rich and creamy end product.

The only tricky part is making sure the broth is heated warm enough and to know when to stop adding the broth.  The broth should be at a very slow simmer.  The first time I made risotto it literally took me well over an hour because my broth wasn't warm enough.  You want the rice to still have a slight bite to it, al dente like.  Once the rice is close to finished, add the liquid in smaller quantities to ensure you don't overcook it.

There are countless variations of risotto, but for this version we'll be making an asparagus and almond risotto.

Asparagus and Almond Risotto
A Summer Original

  • 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
  • 5 cups chicken stock, heated in a separate pot to a low simmer.  You may not use all of it.
  • 1 bunch of asparagus, trimmed to 1/2" and the tops trimmed to 1 1/2"
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp fresh thyme
  • 1 small white onion, chopped into a medium dice


  • Heat your stock in a separate pan to a low and steady simmer.  In another, large sauce pan, heat the olive oil and butter on medium heat.  Once melted, add the onions and cook until translucent.  You just want to sweat them a little, not caramelize them.
This what your risotto setup should look like.

  • In a large skillet heat several cups of water and a dash of salt.  Once boiling, toss in the asparagus pieces.  Do not overcook them.  You only want to parboil the asparagus to the point they're becoming tender.  They will finish cooking in the finished risotto, and virtually nothing tastes worse than overcooked asparagus.  Once parboiled, dunk the asparagus in a bowl of ice water and allow to cool.  Then dry on paper towels.
  • Wipe out the skillet and toast the almonds until golden brown and nutty.

  • Once the onion is translucent, add the arborio rice to the saucepan.  Cook it for several minutes, until the rice has absorbed the remaining oil/butter add around 1/2 cup of the broth.  Stir until the broth has been absorbed.  Continue adding broth little by little until the rice is al dente and creamy.  As you add the broth, the risotto will begin to plump up and become very creamy.  Also, you must stir the entire time.  {I usually sit on my counter to do the stirring.}
The following pictures depict progression of adding the broth.

  • Once the rice is al dente, add the zest of 1 lemon, the chopped asparagus pieces, and the thyme.  Stir until combined and remove from the heat.  The residual heat from the rice will continue to cook the asparagus.

  • To serve, sprinkle the toasted almonds on top of the risotto and drizzle the juice of 1/2 a lemon around the sides.

Start to finish, the entire meal took me 35 minutes.  Not bad for a Monday night.

In other news, this week marks the beginning of OCI, aka On Campus Interviews.  It's basically the law school clerkship battlefield.  I have a whole slew of things to do before the bidding process so posting may be a bit hit or miss this week.  I did happen to make law review(!), so that should keep me in good spirits...until I actually have to start cite checking.  :)


Rebeka said...

Ohh I love making risotto! Especially in the winter months. It is just so comforting.

CONGRATULATIONS on law review! That is super exciting! And that is crazy that OCI is already happening at your school. Ours doesn't start until the beginning of September. Good luck, lady!

SummerBreeze said...

I'm so glad you agree with me on the risotto! Almost everyone thinks I'm crazy for making it a normal meal!

And I guess "OCI season" would be a more apt description of what's going on now. This week is preparation week, bidding starts next week, and interviews are sometime in August. Leave it to SMU to stretch it out for over a month. Ha. And thanks so much for the well wishes! How is your job going these days?

Fashion Cappuccino said...

Wow, this looks so delicious! I can't wait to try this! xoxoxoo

SummerBreeze said...

Thanks! Let me know if you make it! I'd love to know how it turned out!

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