Sunday, May 29, 2011

CSA Recipe: Asian Risotto w/Snap Peas & Asparagus

Sorry for the delay on posting new recipes from my CSA produce - I've been traveling to Sequoia, photographing tons of other events around L.A. and then got terribly sick. But I'm back in action and while I eat a home-made pop tart that Callie whipped up last night, I want to type out a wild recipe idea that ended up being a huge success despite how bizarre it seems on paper.

Basically, this recipe is influenced by a couple of flavor ideas. The first being a post a wrote a bit ago about the restaurant Chego. I've been trying to think about Roy Choy's mode of building those massive flavors out of some asian-fusion concepts - his way of taking unexpected twists and adding layers of sweet and heat but still letting his dishes tons of heft. The second inspiration was a conversation I had with Lazy Ox chef Josef Centeno over coffee at a meet-and-greet for his new restaurant idea, Baco Mercat, last Saturday. We were talking about how acid levels seems to be one of the key ideas to his and some of the other more exciting contemporary L.A. cooking. (Which, now that I'm writing this out, makes me remember a very similar conversation with Jazz for Jitlada who said that the specific play between the triune of sweet, heat and acid is how you can which chef is in the kitchen on any given night).

Anyway, enough with the back story, here's the recipe I came up with!

Asian  Risotto w/Snap Peas & Asparagus 


For the Risotto Base:
1/2 Onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 cup risotto rice (like Arborio)
1 C white wine
6 C veggie or chicken stock
3 Tbs Canola Oil

For the sweet potato mix:
1.5 C sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in to 1" cubes
1 Tbs Brown Sugar (more to taste)
1 Tbs Butter

The Rest:
8 oz snap peas, trimmed
8 oz asparagus, bottoms trimmed and cut in to 1.5" pieces.
zest of 1 lime
2 tbs chopped fresh cilantro (more to taste)
2 tsp rice vinegar (unseasoned)
1 C microgreens (or pea shoots)
1/4 C freshly grated parmesan (more to taste)
salt to taste
1/2 tsp white pepper
siracha to taste

1) Toss the sweet potato chunks into a small pan and cover with water. Put a lid on top, get that pan to boiling. Turn down the heat so it doesn't boil over and let cook for 15 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes and super tender.

2) While the sweet potatoes cook, pour your stock in to small pot and heat. You don't want it to boil, or even simmer, just be really hot for when you start adding it to you risotto.

3) Drain the sweet potatoes and add them to a bowl with the brown sugar and butter. Mash it all up until it's nice and smooth. Set aside.

4) Now it's time to start making the risotto. Heat the canola oil in a good-sized pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Once hot, saute the garlic and onions until they're soft, but not browned, maybe 5-6 minutes.

5) Add the rice, cooking for a couple minutes until the edges are translucent. This is called tempering the rice. Frankly, I have no clue what it does, but every risotto recipe calls for it, and risotto being the nearest kitchen process to voodoo, who am I to argue.

6) Add the wine. While stirring, cook until it's almost all evaporated.

7) If you didn't pour yourself a glass of wine in step 6, you should have. Also, you might have wanted to get a good book, since you'll be at step 8 for a long time. To diverge for a second, I have this issue with risotto, which is that mine always takes at least twice as long as it should to get creamy and nice. Most recipes say 20-25 minutes tops for the stirring step. I don't think I've ever done this next step in under 45 minutes. My rice is still crunchy and inedible at 25 minutes. Now, my risotto is good enough for friends who have Italian families and good enough that ex-roommates dream of it in technicolor risotto splendor, so I just deal with it, but still!

8) Add 1/2 C of the heated stock, stirring until it's almost entirely incorporated. I've heard various methods for telling what "incorporated" means, but basically it means that the liquid is in the rice (or evaporated). It's kind of finicky to judge, but it's not totally vital. If you miss a little bit one way or the other, it won't wreck it. One easy way to get close is that "incorporated" is that the spoon leaves a trail as it stirs and the rice-mixture very slowly oozes back to fill. But really, I'm mostly winging it and reading my book.

9) Repeat step 8 until the risotto is getting toward nice, creamy, light but viscous texture. You can taste it as you go - It shouldn't crunch. Keeping adding 1/2 C of broth, stirring until incorporated. 20-50 minutes...

10) About 8 minutes before it's done (about 2 additions of broth), which to make it easier, is when you taste it and the texture is almost right, but still too firm, toss in the snap peas and asparagus. Keep doing your broth-adding-stirring-thing.

11) When you think you are almost done, on the last addition of broth, scoop all of the sweet potato mixture in to the risotto, and stir it along with the broth to combine.

12) When you're happy with the risotto texture, turn off the heat and add the lime zest, white pepper, parmesan (Really - it works here for some weird reason! Probably umami... but you can leave it out for a less weighty dish), cilantro, rice vinegar. Stir that all in. Taste and season for salt.

13) Scoop the portions in to shallow plates. Sprinkle microgreens on top. Add a tiny tiny tiny amount of siracha on top of the greens, putting the bottle on the table for those of your guests who want more heat. Tell everyone to stir it up before they eat. Voila! Asian risotto!

I'd serve this with a Riesling, a Viognier, or a pleasant, simple lager.

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