Asparagus Lemon Risotto

I got very excited about this next chapter in the unfolding journey through the foods of the world that is IMBB (Is My Blog Burning?) The subject was Around the World in a Bowl of Rice and I had thought about my favorite basmati pilau with cardamom, cumin, coriander seeds and onion, or a soft, rich creamy rice pudding with raisins, or…

Then I got laid off (made redundant) on Tuesday and KABOOM! went my sunny mood.

Fortunately, the guilt of making the promise and not fulfilling it; the lack of anything interesting to do with my life apart from hunt for work, desperately renovate the house in case we need to sell it and get in a few huge familial fights because of…well we won’t go into that. Where was I? Oh yeah – I got over it and decided to do my Asparagus Lemon Risotto which is particularly interesting because you can make it in a rice cooker. No – it isn’t THAT easy, but it doesn’t need constant stirring. Note: I got the basic idea for how to do this from The Ultimate Rice Cooker Cookbook, but I like this risotto better than the ones they listed and it works better for me than their recipes. Which is not to say that it is a bad cookbook – the EXACT opposite. If you have a rice cooker and want to do more with it than make plain steamed rice then get this cookbook ASAP!

You can make many other risottos using the same basic technique, but I really like the delicate spring taste of this one and plus where I am it is asparagus season.

Asparagus Lemon Risotto

You will need a bunch of asparagus (about 12 spears or 3/4 of a pound) and a fresh, clean lemon. Three cloves of garlic. Two cups of chicken stock and two cups of a nice crisp white wine (Pinot Grigio is good and put the rest in the fridge to have with your risotto). Four tablespoons of butter. One and a half cups of arborio rice (you can probably use one of the other short, fat risotto rices like carnaroli but I find arborio just fine). Parmesan or pecorino romano cheese to taste (up to 1/3 of a cup).

Cut off the tough woody ends of the asparagus and slice the rest up into one inch pieces. Carefully grate the zest of the lemon and put it aside. Squeeze out the juice of the lemon and put that aside too. Peel and finely chop the garlic.

Turn the rice cooker on and set it to start cooking – even though it is empty – and leave the lid off – this is important. Now add three tablespoons of the butter and as it starts to melt, add the garlic. About a minute later add the asparagus and stir thoroughly and let cook for another couple of minutes. Now add the rice and the lemon zest and stir thoroughly again to coat all the rice with butter and whatever juices have come off the garlic and asparagus. Keep cooking for another five minutes stirring occasionally. If the rice cooker turns itself off during this time just leave it off but wait out the five minutes and stir occasionally.

Now add the two cups of chicken broth and two cups of white wine and the lemon juice and stir once and at last put the lid on the rice cooker. Cook until it dings that it is done.

Carefully decant into a nice serving bowl and stir in the last tablespoon of butter and the cheese. Actually you can use other cheeses here rather than the classic parmesan or romano – but nothing overwhelming. A soft creamy goat cheese might be interesting to melt into the risotto.

Hope you all like it and don’t be put off by risotto in the rice cooker – it works!

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