March 31, 2007

Saumur Spring

Spring, beautiful spring.
The almond trees are in bloom, the vines are waking up and strawberries and asparagus are in season.

Asparagus Risotto time. I look forward to this every year.
I picked up a fat bunch of asparagus and a basket of deep, red strawberries at the market on Tuesday morning. The cupboards were pretty bare when I returned from the States, so I had to make do with what I could find.
Asparagus risotto usually calls for white wine but I didn't have any. I did, however, have Saumur, a sparkling white wine from the Loire Valley. A quick look in the Internet and voilà, a recipe for Champagne and Asparagus Risotto.

This is my adapted version. I didn't even have cheese for the recipe! Fortunately, the flavor was great without it.
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups Champagne
  • 1 lb medium sized asparagus, trimmed
  • black pepper, freshly ground
  • salt
  • 1 Tbs butter
  • 2 Tbs Pecorino-Romano cheese, freshly grated


  1. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add onion and cook until the onion is translucent.
  3. While onion is cooking, blanch asparagus for 2-3 minutes, plunge into ice water and cut into 1 inch pieces.
  4. Add rice, stirring to coat all the grains. Cook, stirring, for a few minutes.
  5. Add 1 cup stock. Cook, stirring, until stock is absorbed.
  6. Add 1 cup Champagne or Saumur. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring frequently.
  7. When almost absorbed, add the rest of the Champagne.
  8. After the Champagne is absorbed, add 1/2 cup of the stock. Cook, stirring, until the liquid is almost absorbed.
  9. Add the rest of the stock in small amounts until rice is tender, about 30 to 40 minutes from when you put in the first cup of stock. I always find that the liquid to rice ratio is relative to the quality of the rice. You may need more than 4 cups liquid, you may need less.
  10. Just before the last of the stock is added, add the asparagus to the rice.
  11. Stir in freshly ground pepper, to taste.
  12. Add the butter and cheese.
  13. Stir well, taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper if necessary.
  14. Enjoy!
The risotto had a really lovely, balanced flavor from the sparkling wine. It was creamy and delicious! I plan to do more experimenting with replacing regular white wine with the fizzy stuff in recipes.

For dessert: strawberries and the rest of the Saumur.

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wcs said...

Oh, that sounds real good. We picked up the first asparagus of the season today at our local market. Up here in the Loire, most of the asparagus we see is white, which I love.

Ken is making asparagus wrapped in ham slices then gratinéed in a béchamel sauce for today's meal. Yummy springtime food !

Loulou said...

I had a look at the gratin and it looks really good. I'm off to the market tomorrow to pick up some white asparagus. We're going to eat as much of it as possible while we have the chance!

Kim said...

I came over from wcs. The recipe looks yummy, but where do you add the asparagus into the risotto? Just at the end?

Loulou said...

sorry about that! Yes, just about 5 minutes before the rice is done cooking, add the blanched asparagus.
I always look over my recipes to make sure I haven't left anything out, but didn't notice that omission this time. Thanks for letting me know.

Katie said...

We're pigging out on asparagus, too. Risotto on Sunday, veg and starter over the weekend.
It's such a fleeting season here...
The artichokes are here, too though so it's 'A-Vegetable' heaven!