My friend came to DC via Phoenix for a long weekend of good old-fashioned hanging out and some wedding dress shopping. For her first night in town, I wanted to treat her to something semi-local and really delicious. I’d bought some leeks and ‘gus (that’s asparagus in case you didn’t know) at the Dupont Farmers Market which, to me, just screamed, “PUT ME IN ARBORIO RICE THATS BEEN DRINKING CHICKEN STOCK!!!!”
And that’s just what I did.
I sautéed the leeks in butter and olive oil and just as they had sweat out their tasty juices I poured in the arborio rice. From there it was stir, pour chicken stock, stir, pour chicken stock…repeat about six times.
Give or take forty minutes later, we had some extremely tasty and *bright* risotto. The lemon zest in the recipe really makes it. I’ve used lemon to brighten flavors before but never have I ever experienced such a change to a dish like this! Don’t. Skip. The. Lemon. Zest. Don’t.
I didn’t follow Ina’s recipe to the “T” though. Hers called for mascarpone cheese and parmesan. Listen. I like love both of these cheeses…clearly. But I was in a time crunch, and frankly, I didn’t feel like splurging on more mascarpone. The stuff can get expensive! I’ll tell you – I’m sure the risotto would have been that much more decadent by adding the cheeses. But! Keeping it simple really allowed for the flavor of the leeks and the ‘gus and the lemon to be showcased. And risotto is never need in more creamy-ness. It’s always plenty creamy.
I hope you guys enjoy making this as much as I did. I love risotto…primarily because you just stand and stir with one hand and sip from your glass of vino with the other…and voila!! Dinner! I remember the first time I made risotto I was so nervous about it, too. Why, I’m not sure. Especially since it’s virtually impossible to mess up. So, take the dive…buy the big box of chicken stock…and get this risotto started!
Adapted from Ina Garten
- 1 1/2 tablespoons good olive oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (2 leeks)
- 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
- 2/3 cup dry white wine
- 6 cups simmering chicken stock, preferably homemade
- 1 bunch of asparagus, ends cut off
- 2 lemons, zested
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Heat the olive oil and butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the leeks and fennel and saute for 5 to 7 minutes, until tender. Add the rice and stir for a minute to coat with the vegetables, oil, and butter. Add the white wine and simmer over low heat, stirring constantly, until most of the wine has been absorbed. Add the chicken stock, 2 ladles at a time, stirring almost constantly and waiting for the stock to be absorbed before adding more. This process should take 25 to 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut the asparagus diagonally in 1 1/2-inch lengths and discard the tough ends. Blanch in boiling salted water for 4 to 5 minutes, until al dente. Drain and cool immediately in ice water.
When the risotto has been cooking for 15 minutes, drain the asparagus and add it to the risotto, then add lemon zest, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Continue cooking and adding stock, stirring almost constantly, until the rice is tender but still firm.
Set aside, off the heat, for a few minutes, and serve hot with a sprinkling of Parmesan if you like.