- 6 cups homemade chicken-vegetable-mushroom stock
- Salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound field-grown asparagus, woody stems discarded, cut into 2-inch lengths on a diagonal (about two and one-half cups)
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 medium-sized leek, white part only, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- One and one-half cups Arborio rice
- A generous pinch of saffron threads soaked in 1 tablespoon hot water
- One-half cup white wine
- 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped Italian parsley
Take the time to make a good, rich homemade stock. A chicken carcass from last night's baked chicken, some celery, onions, carrots, a potato and tomato, some fresh parsley, thyme, sage, oregano and garlic as well as shiitake and porcini mushrooms in a couple of quarts of water will work beautifully when reduced down to 6 cups. This is very important because the key to a wonderful risotto rests upon the quality of its stock.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add enough salt to make the water taste like the sea. Drop the asparagus pieces into the boiling water for about one and one-half to two minutes; remove from the heat and drain in a colander and rinse under cool water. Don't overcook! Make sure they retain their bright green color.
Heat the olive oil and butter in a large heavy skillet and add the leeks,a generous pinch of salt, and a few pinches of pepper. Cook, stirring, over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes, until they begin to soften, then add the garlic and cook for another minute or two.
Add the rice and saffron and cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes, until the rice is opaque. Add the wine and cook, stirring, until it is absorbed. Begin adding the stock, a cup at a time, allowing the rice to absorb each cup of stock completely before adding more. Keep stirring. This is where a high kitchen stool and a glass of wine come in handy.
Continue to cook, adding the stock in increments and stirring constantly, until you have used five to five and one-half cups. As you stir in the last of the stock, add the asparagus, season to taste with salt, and a few pinches of pepper. At this point the grains of rice will still be a little toothy, the risotto will be quite saucy, and it should be ready to serve. Stir in the Parmigiano-Reggiano and serve immediately, garnished with additional cheese if desired and the parsley.