Risotto is one of my favorite ways to highlight Spring ingredients. This is a version of a recipe I’m serving to a big group for Washington Green Schools this week. Depending on what ends up being fresh, I’ll probably do the puree with nettles instead of watercress, and top it with fava beans and hedgehog mushrooms rather than English peas and asparagus.
Don’t believe the hype that you have to stir risotto continuously. It is entirely adequate to stir it frequently. You’ll get a perfectly creamy result. The key to great risotto is to cook it until the rice is quite tender but not completely falling apart into rice pudding – there should be a hint of resistance when you bite a grain. Then be sure to finish it with plenty of cheese, and enough broth that it is almost pourable – all’onda (wavy), not so thick it stands up by itself.
Saffron Risotto with Watercress Puree and Spring Vegetables – Recipe
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Yield: 6 generous servings
- Double recipe ChefSteps’ Watercress Puree
- 2 cups shucked fresh peas
- 1 bunch asparagus
- 2 big pinches saffron (1/4 gram)
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (50 grams) + more for the vegetables
- 1/2 finely diced onion (140 grams)
- 2 cups arborio rice (420 grams)
- 1 1/4 cups dry white wine (300 grams)
- 6 cups clear vegetable broth (1400 ml) at a simmer
- Zest of 1/2 lemon
- 1/4 pound taleggio or other triple cream cheese (113 grams)
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Prepare the watercress puree and reserve warm.
- Preheat your serving bowls.
- In a large pot of boiling salted water, or sous vide, separately blanch and shock the peas and the asparagus.
- Wrap the saffron in tin foil and toast briefly in a dry skillet. Remove, cool, crumble, and add to the vegetable broth.
- Place a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the 3 tablespoons of olive oil, and when it is hot, add the onion and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent. Add the rice, and cook, stirring frequently until the rice is translucent, about 3 minutes.
- Stir in the white wine and cook until it is absorbed.
- Ladle in about 1 cup of the broth, and stir the risotto well. Repeat this process every couple of minutes when the liquid is absorbed. You’ll see the rice begin to swell. Periodically taste a grain.
- When the rice is nearly done, bring a large skillet up to high heat and quickly saute the par-cooked asparagus and peas in a generous glug of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- When it is tender but has just a tiny bit of toothsomeness to it, stir in the lemon zest and cheese. Taste and adjust seasoning.
- Make a final adjustment to the texture of the risotto – it should be quite moist, otherwise it will firm up too much when set. If you’ve used up all of the broth, simmering water can be used instead.
- To finish, divide the watercress puree among the bowls. Spoon in the risotto and top with the vegetables. Serve piping hot.