March 02, 2010

Week 2: Asparagus and Robiola risotto.

For week 2 of my cooking project, I made an asparagus risotto with a dollop of Robiola cheese in the middle. This dish was inspired by a risotto we had at Beretta. It's been on our to-do list for quite a while, waiting until spring when asparagus would come back in season. Since asparagus has started to show up on menus again, I decided it was time to make it.

Robiola is not something I've seen at the corner stores, so I figured I'd have to do a little hunting for it. Fortunately, they had some at our closest cheese shop, the 24th Street Cheese Company. They're a short walk away and have a good selection of cheeses. The Robiola turned out to be a little more expensive than I expected, but once I got it home and sampled it, I decided it was worth the price. Yes, it smells slightly of gym socks, but it's incredibly rich, creamy, and tangy.

Although I improvised the recipe, I did take a look at one in Boulud's book. He took asparagus risotto in a slightly different direction, inflecting it with lemon and lime juice, but I did follow his suggestion on how to cook and introduce the asparagus to the dish – peeled, blanched, and warmed in butter. My educated guess would have been to blanch them and add them to the risotto for the last 2 minutes of cooking, but you can't go wrong with butter. My changes included shortening the blanching time, because I had skinny asparagus, and cutting the stems on the bias rather than into coins to give them a fun shape. And I'm still wondering if I should have caramelized them in a hot skillet instead just reheating them in butter.

For the risotto itself, I used shallots and arborio, deglazed with dry vermouth, and cooked with court bouillon. I finished it with parmesan and a squeeze of lemon juice. At Emily's suggestion, I also mixed in a little of the Robiola. Then I added the reheated asparagus and plated it with a dollop of Robiola in the middle.

We were very happy with the results, but I think I'd add a bit more asparagus next time. We've got more Robiola, despite my snacking, so we'll be making another batch soon.

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