Risotto is a rich and creamy dish that derives much of its texture from the gradual addition of liquid and constant stirring, allowing individual grains of rice to rub against eachother and the starch to be slowly released during the process. The lemon and fresh mint in this risotto give it a lighter flavor, perfect for a casual spring or summer dinner. If Creole cream cheese is unavailable to you, substitute whole milk ricotta.
Serves 6 as an entree.
6 slices applewood smoked bacon, small dice
1 pound asparagus, thick bottom ends cut off
1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper
6 cups good quality chicken or vegetable broth or stock
1 large yellow onion, medium dice
2 cups Arborio, Carnaroli, or Vialone Nano rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/8 cup fresh mint, chopped
1/2 cup Creole cream cheese (or whole milk ricotta)
1 cup fresh or frozen lima beans
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 ounces parmesan cheese, shredded
Saute chopped bacon over medium heat in a medium, heavy bottom, saute pan or cast iron skillet. Continue to cook, stirring, until the fat has been rendered out of the bacon and it begins to become crispy. About a minute before this happens, the bacon will begin to foam. Drain the fat off the bacon through a paper towel set over a heat resistant container. (You can save the fat for another use. It will keep in the refrigerator for a few weeks). Move the bacon to a plate covered in paper towel and arrange it into one layer to allow it to cool and crisp. Set aside.
Heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil in a cast iron skillet or other heavy bottomed pan suitable for sauteing. (If large enough, the pan you used for the bacon will be fine) The moment the oil begins to smoke, add asparagus and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Saute asparagus over high heat until they tips are nearly crispy and brown. Remove from pan, place over paper towel, and allow to cool. When cool enough to handle. cut the asparagus into 1-inch pieces. Set aside.
Pour broth or stock into medium sauce pan and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
Heat remaining oil in a large pot over medium heat. (You may alternatively use your leftover bacon fat for this, if desired) Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent and soft, about 5 minutes. Add rice, stirring constantly, until the edges turn bright white, another 5 minutes. (This is known as “parching” the rice)
Deglaze with white wine. Allow it to boil and reduce until almost evaporated, about 1-2 minutes.
Reduce heat to medium and add approximately 1/4 of the stock or broth (a ladle is helpful for this), stirring constantly, until the liquid is absorbed. Continue adding portions of the liquid in this manner. The rice should be just tender to the bite and be creamy,almost porridge-like in consistency.
Stir in mint, Creole cream cheese, lima beans (if using fresh), and lemon juice. Stir until most of the lemon juice is absorbed. Stir in lima beans (if using frozen) and asparagus, butter, and shredded cheese. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
Serve immediately and garnish each serving with 1/6 of the bacon.
Recipe courtesy of Stephanie Jane Carter
Editor of Southern Food & Beverage Museum's OKRA Magazine.