March 28, 2016

Dinner Diary: Asparagus Risotto as quick 'n easy as can be.

My sister-in-law decided that I was making Easter dinner, and my mother seconded the diktat.  I was benignly given a choice of her house or my mother’s, and my brother ignored my email inviting them all down to my house for Easter dinner in the land of my exile, no doubt taking my point.  I chose my mother’s house. 

Given you’d need less than one hand to count the number of dinners I haven’t co-chef'ed or sous-chef'ed at either's house, best I could make of this demand is they wanted the full Monty from me this time, at their convenience. I was intent on obliging grudgingly and doing nothing special, but it turned out great despite my worst intentions, for as the Rabbis say, Man plans and God laughs.

Determined not to exert myself, I found a quart of homemade broth in my freezer; knowing asparagus was on sale everywhere, I decide to make my easier recipe for asparagus risotto. There's a red cabbage in the fridge that’s been waiting for a week to be cooked, so I’ll transport that up north for a side. Can’t make lamb, ‘cause this ruthless Ruth won’t quite follow our people wherever we may go, so I’m thinking pork roast for the Puerto Rican in her ....

... But at the supermarket up in Jersey, my mother and I find Prime Rib on sale, and I forgot my wallet, so my mother has to spring for it, and there seems to me retributive justice in that. My mother already has broccoli di rape in the fridge at home for a second side, so as far as I’m concerned, we’re done. She insists on buying sweet potatoes for the boys, and I decide that’s on her….

... Easter Sunday morning, after the early Mass my mother sets out again to buy my sister-in-law Easter tulips, leaving me home alone to cook on my own. When I remark to her leaving that I noticed at the Hallmark they had Easter cards for sons as well as mothers, I am again ignored. Good thing my sister-in-law brought me Easter chocolates later, or hell's fury might have broken loose when she took possession of those tulips.

Anyways, when I made my cabbage barbary, I used red onions, because my mother had them, and there was a half left for the asparagus risotto. I chop it fine (for 3 cups rice), and sauté it salted in 3 tablespoons butter melted into 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, until glistening and perfumey. Then I add the Arborio rice, turn off the heat, and turn the rice over and over in the onion ‘n oil to coat.

Now leave it to rest, covered, until later. Meanwhile, I par-boil inch-long asparagus pieces in salted water for 5 minutes, retrieving them with a slotted spoon to save the water for starting the risotto later....

... At 2 my brother comes bearing bottles of high-end California Cab, and my sister-in-law fancy desserts sundry, which proves conciliating, notwithstanding. Once the Gruet de Noir is poured and the antipasto of cheese, almonds, and olives mixed w/sun-dried tomatoes in hand, I put the prime rib in the oven to cook itself [no wonder Gentiles love this stuff]. I turn the heat on to high under the pots of asparagus water and broth, and to medium under the pot of Arborio rice, to heat up the rice with constant stirring. 

My nephew comes over to watch, and I start warning him against all the don'ts Gentiles do when they do risotto wrong.

Once the rice glistens and the butter foams, I add simmering asparagus water, and the sizzling steam makes the rice coagulate creamy. My nephew is impressed. I warn him that to continue this creaming of the soft skin of Arborio rice, so essential to the risotto done right,
we have to feed the rice liquid slowly, couple of ladles at a time, stirring continuously for some 20 minutes, adding more liquid only when the scraping spatula exposes streaks of pot. 

My mother remarks from afar that I’m crazy and she’d never do it. That’s my thanks.

My asparagus water runs out less than 10 minutes in, at which point I add the asparagus pieces and start feeding the rice my broth, with continual admonishing of my nephew about the indispensable necessity of all this friction and patience. He is the more convinced the more he sees the mounding creaminess, my mother notwithstanding. 

After nearly 20 minutes, I taste. “Almost there, but not quite.” So I turn up the heat to high, and vigorously beat in a last ladleful of broth. He’s impressed. So am I.

Done, and yet not. Time to vigorously fold in, off heat, two more tablespoons of butter, a really big palmful of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, and fresh grindings of black pepper—“Sweet food is boring without some nip, like a girl who’s too sweet,” and he agrees. 

The final product is c-r-e-a-m-y. He’s really impressed. I have a taste. So am I.

Cover and leave to rest. Meanwhile, raise oven heat on Prime Rib. Send salt, black pepper, and more cheese to table. Likewise people. Bowls ready in kitchen for plating. Uncover pot and re-fluff risotto with vigor before scooping.  
No one doesn’t think it’s outstanding, Mom not excepted, notwithstanding.
Sister-in-law takes picture for Facebook. I am conciliated more, in spite of myself.

Brother eats it with spoon; that’s ridiculous — you use a fork.

Everybody ate too much risotto. Good thing, because prime rib isn’t ready anyways. Let's take a break.

Everybody manages to eat plenty of prime rib anyway, well winged by Duckhorn Cab, not to mention red cabbage barbary braised with onion, broccoli di rabe sautéed with garlic, sweet potatoes roasted with balsamic and olive oil.

Mom forgets to make salad before serving fruit. Grapes are great; melon out of season; pineapple unnecessary.

Assorted French mousses for chocolate-crazy brother-cum-spawn; delicious Portuguese apricot tart for me and women. Espresso, no doubt.

I get to bring half a tart and second unopened Cab home, fully conciliated, though with this reminder to my own: everything can and will be used against you in the blog.

As for you, that’s as quick and easy as asparagus risotto can be — done right, gentile or not.