Friday, August 7, 2009

The Asparagus Series - Episode Two: Smoked Salmon and Asparagus Risotto

Continuing with our Asparagus Series, this time I give you a risotto.

For a long time, I thought risotto was a complicated dish that required much time and preparation – obviously, this was before I got interested in cooking. Despite now knowing how quick, easy and versatile risotto is, I still don’t make it very often. On some level, I think I still perceive it as a fancy, special-occasion dish, even though I know perfectly well that it doesn’t necessarily require any fancy ingredients at all. And it’s not like it has to be an overly indulgent meal, either: sure, you can make risotto as decadent as you like, but you can also keep it light and healthy. I guess it’s just one of those irrational habits of mine: I simply can’t think of risotto as a go-to recipe.

So, a while back, when we found ourselves with asparagus and smoked salmon in the fridge, and were brainstorming about what to do with them (an appetizer? a pasta dish?) risotto didn’t come to our minds immediately. But we were both very glad when it did, especially since we had made something similar before, and had liked it very much. In a flash, we were sitting in front of a delicious meal.

At the time, I was taking medication that prohibited me from eating dairy in the evening. Therefore, we didn’t put any cream or parmesan in the risotto (although Laurent did sprinkle some grated cheese over his plate). Honestly, the dish tasted fine without the dairy: it was creamy and full of flavour – and healthier!

Smoked Salmon and Asparagus Risotto

Serves 2

One bunch of green asparagus
4 slices of smoked salmon, cut into 2,5 cm (1 inch) pieces
2 tbsp olive oil
250 ml (1 cup) arborio rice
1 small onion, chopped
125 ml (1/2 cup) white wine
1 liter (4 cups) chicken stock
The grated zest of half-a-lemon (optional)
Grated parmesan (optional)
Salt and pepper

Trim the asparagus by removing the thick stems, and cut the remaining tips into 2,5 cm (1 inch) pieces. Separate the spears from the stems. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, and cook the asparagus stems for about 2 minutes. Add the spears and cook for another minute. Drain, run under cold water, and set aside.

Heat the chicken stock over medium heat.

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for about 2 minutes, until the onion is transparent. Add the rice and stir well, in order to coat each grain in oil.

Toss in the white wine and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until all the wine has evaporated or been absorbed.

Add in the chicken stock, one ladleful at a time, stirring the risotto constantly. Wait until all the stock has been absorbed before you pour in the next ladleful. Continue until the rice is al dente. (Note: The necessary amount of stock may vary: you may not need it all, but you may also have to add some extra water, if you run out of stock before the rice is cooked.)

When the rice is cooked and the mixture is still moist and creamy, incorporate the salmon, asparagus and lemon zest (if using). Sprinkle with parmesan if desired. Salt and pepper to taste, keeping in mind that the salmon, stock and parmesan are already quite salty. Serve immediately.


  1. I totally love risotto. It such a versatile dish and lends itself to all sorts of flavors. Tom doesn't like cheese so he never gets any parmezan on his, but still loves the taste (I do sprinkle parmezan on mine though..just cannot resist)

  2. That makes me smile! I was the same way about risotto - it's too hard for a regular cook to do kind of thing. I collected recipes to make, read long write ups about all the tricks. Then one day I had the thought that I was being really silly. Risotto is a common dish made everyday by simple cooks and always has been. Just do it and I did and it was grand. Yours looks really grand too.