Spring Cooking—Delicious Risotto

Spring Risotto 1Will spring ever arrive?” is the question on everyone’s mind in our small New England town. After one of the longest and harshest winters in years, we are desperate for the season of renewal to begin in full force, but temperatures are way below normal and rains seem to be never ending.

There are glimmers of hope— daffodils are blooming, yards have returned to a verdant hue, and in the markets there are stately bundles of asparagus, gorgeous peas, and bunches of tender spring onions, all harbingers of the season (even if not all local). This produce has been heartening and prompted me to cook lighter, vegetable-inspired dishes like spring risotto studded with sliced sugar snaps and fresh peas.

For the following recipe, I prepared a classic risotto, sautéing chopped shallots and arborio rice in butter, and then slowly adding ladles of simmering stock. You can’t rush risotto (just like we can’t rush spring this year), so count on twenty minutes of stirring the rice while you incorporate the liquids. When the rice is tender but still has a little bite, blanched peas and sugar snaps are added. Chopped chives (I picked mine from the garden!) and grated Parmigiano make simple but delectable garnishes. Spring has at least arrived at my table!

Spring Risotto with Fresh Peas and Sugar Snaps
1/2 lb medium sugar snap peas, ends trimmed
2 cups (5 to 6oz) fresh or frozen peas that have been defrosted
3 cups reduced sodium chicken stock
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup chopped shallots
2 cups arborio rice
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano Reggiano
4 tsp chopped chives or flat leaf parsley for garnish           

1. Halve the sugar snaps on the diagonal, and bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a large saucepan set over medium high heat. Add the sugar snaps and cook 2 minutes, then add the fresh peas and cook 2 minutes more. (If using frozen peas, cook the sugar snaps for 3 minutes, and then add the peas for 1 minute.) Remove and strain the vegetables in a colander set over a large bowl. Reserve 3 cups of the water in which the vegetables were cooked. Then run the vegetables under cold water to cool and pat them dry.

 2. Combine the reserved water and the chicken stock in the same saucepan used for the vegetables, and set it over medium heat. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat and keep mixture at a gentle simmer.

 3. In another large, heavy saucepan over medium heat, heat the butter. When hot, add the shallots, and sauté, stirring with a wooden spoon, until softened and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat well for 1 minute. With a ladle add 1/2 cup of the simmering stock to the rice, stirring constantly until all the liquid has been absorbed.  Continue adding stock in 1/2 cup amounts, cooking and stirring, until each addition has been absorbed before adding the next. When done, the rice should be creamy but not runny, tender but still somewhat firm. (You may have some stock left over.) This process should take about 20 minutes.

 4. Stir the sugar snaps and peas into the cooked risotto, and cook a minute or more to heat the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper. Mound risotto in 6 shallow bowls. Garnish each serving with chopped chives and serve the Parmesan cheese in a bowl for sprinkling. Serves 6 as a first course or 4 as a main

Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2014 


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