45 Minutes to Prep | 35 Minutes to Cook
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 shallots, minced
1 cup/215 g Arborio rice
1/3 cup/75 ml dry white wine
15 slender asparagus spears, tough woody ends snapped off, cut into 1-in/2.5-cm pieces
1 carrot, peeled and grated
1 lemon, zested and then halved
1/2 cup/55 g freshly grated Parmesan cheese,
plus a few shavings for garnish
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup/60 ml heavy cream (optional)
1 tbsp minced fresh chives
1. Pour 3 cups/720 ml water into a large microwave-safe measuring cup and bring to a simmer in the microwave, about 3 minutes on high.
2. In a 12-in/30.5-cm skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. When the butter has melted and is sizzling, add the shallots and cook until they begin to soften, 1 minute or so. Add the rice and 1/2 tsp salt and sauté until the rice is opaque and smells toasty, about 2 minutes. Add the wine (it will bubble up) and cook it until the liquid evaporates and the pan is almost dry, about 1 minute.
3. Add about 1/2 cup/120 ml of the heated water to the pan and continue cooking, stirring every now and then as the rice begins to look creamy. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Now, in spite of what you may have heard, you don’t have to stand there and be a slave to your risotto. Just give it a stir every few minutes to keep it from sticking. When the water is absorbed and the mix gets thick, add another 1/2 cup/120 ml of the water and cook, stirring occasionally, until absorbed. Keep adding the hot water in the same way in 1/2-cup/120-ml increments, continuing to stir every now and then. Reduce the heat further if it seems to be bubbling too much. You want the risotto to simmer slowly.
4. After about 10 minutes of cooking, add the asparagus, carrot and lemon zest, and continue to cook, adding more water when the pan is drying out, until the rice and vegetables are tender, 7 to 8 minutes longer. In total, you should have added about 3 cups/720 ml water.
5. Add the parmesan and taste, adding more salt and pepper if needed. I can’t resist adding the cream at this point, but you decide if you need that luxurious boost or not. Now is the time to give the risotto a little squeeze of lemon. Add the juice from the cut half (I usually add a touch more on top of that). If the risotto seems too thick, stir in a bit more hot water. (I like my risotto a little bit on the liquid side. Once again, it’s your choice.) Taste and adjust the seasoning.
6. Spoon the hot risotto into warmed shallow bowls and garnish with the chives and parmesan shavings. Serve hot.
It’s that easy: I usually make risotto with chicken or vegetable broth, but here, I wanted the fresh springtime flavors of the asparagus and lemon to pop, so I used plain old water, always on tap. The taste is simple, light and clean — perfect for a warm-weather meal.
Extra hungry? Pair this dish with a grocery rotisserie chicken. They are often sold by the piece, so you can buy breasts, thighs or legs. Whatever strikes your fancy.
In the glass: Asparagus is a notoriously difficult flavor to pair with wine. Luckily for us, we have all that creamy rice, cheese and a touch of lemon, so a citrusy Sauvignon Blanc would be just the wine for this simple meal. Look for wines with hints of grapefruit and grass in them, such as Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc. And don’t forget to serve it a little more refreshingly chilled than you’d serve a Chardonnay.
Excerpted from "One Pan, Two Plates: More Than 70 Complete Weeknight Meals for Two" by Carla Snyder (Chronicle Books)