Monday, April 18, 2011

Asparagus and Shrimp Risotto

With Easter just around the corner, it's the time of year we all get together to share a lovingly prepared meal with family and friends. If you have notions of shaking things up a bit and making something a little different than the traditional holiday menu, try this recipe for Asparagus and Shrimp Risotto. It's full of wonderful springtime flavours and is guaranteed to become a new family favourite. 

Giuliano Hazan preparing the asparagus 

Giuliano Hazan introduced me to this dish when I was in Florida earlier this year. It looks spectacular and is absolutely delicious. The recipe takes full advantage of the great abundance of fresh asparagus around at the moment and makes a lovely light starter for an Easter lunch or dinner. Guiliano first cooks the asparagus in water until tender, which he does using the "Wiggle Test". He takes a spear out of the boiling water and if it wiggles, it's done! 

He also saves the asparagus water, rather than throwing it away, to augment the broth he uses for the risotto, which adds great depth of flavour and a fabulous light green hue to the final dish. Fresh shrimp are added to the risotto at the last minute to ensure they're cooked to perfection. Guiliano and his wife Lael served the Asparagus and Shrimp Risotto on their gorgeous Italian ceramicware from Faenza in Emilia Romagna, making the dish a feast for the eyes as well as the tummy.

The asparagus and rice are warmed through first, then the broth is added gradually

Risotto with Shrimp and Asparagus
serves 4 to 6 people 

Recipe courtesy of Giuliano Hazan

1/2 pound asparagus, bottoms trimmed and peeled
1/2 pound medium shrimp, peeled and cut into half inch pieces
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1 1/3 cups risotto rice, such as Arborio or Carnaroli
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Choose a skillet that will accommodate the asparagus, fill it with water and place over high heat. When the water comes to a boil add a generous amount of salt and the asparagus. When the asparagus are tender, lift them out of the skillet. 
Pour the asparagus water into a sauce pot and place over low heat and maintain it at a gentle simmer.

Put the chopped onions and the olive oil in a large heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Sauté until the onions have turned to a rich golden color.

Cut the asparagus into pieces no more than one inch long and add to the onions in the pot. Raise the heat to medium high and sauté for 2-3 minutes.

Add the rice and stir until it is well coated. Add a couple of ladlefuls of the simmering asparagus water and stir. Continue stirring and adding asparagus water to the rice as the liquid evaporates. The rice is almost done (tender but still firm) add the shrimp, which will only take about 2 minutes to cook. If you use up all the asparagus water before the rice is done continue with heated plain water.

When the rice is done there should be enough liquid left to give it a "wavy" consistency. Add some freshly ground black pepper and taste for salt (usually the salt in the asparagus water will have been sufficient). Serve at once.

Prosciutto and melon make an ideal appetizer