Risotto comes in many forms, but few capture the spirit of spring like this asparagus version, infused with the bright taste of lemon juxtaposed with the beguiling flavor of charcoal grilling.
Make Ahead: You can grill the asparagus a day in advance.
- 1 1/2 pounds peeled and trimmed asparagus, preferably of medium thickness
- 6 cups homemade or no-salt-added chicken broth, warmed
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup minced sweet onion
- 2 cups arborio rice
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (from 1 large lemon)
- 1/2 cup shaved or grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- Sea salt or kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
Prepare the grill for direct heat. If using a gas grill, preheat to medium-high (450 degrees). If using a charcoal grill, light the charcoal or wood briquettes; when the briquettes are ready, distribute them evenly over the cooking area. For a medium-hot fire, you should be able to hold your hand about 6 inches above the coals for 4 or 5 seconds. Have ready a spray water bottle for taming any flames. Lightly coat a large vegetable grilling basket or fine-mesh grill screen with oil.
Spread 1 pound of the asparagus in the grilling basket or on the screen; place on the grate directly over the heat and grill until the asparagus is charred on all sides yet still firm, about 5 minutes, using tongs to turn the spears as needed. Transfer to a cutting board.
When the spears are cool enough to handle, cut them into 1-inch pieces, reserving the tips separately.
Grill the remaining 1/2 pound of asparagus (in the vegetable basket) until soft, for 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board.
When cool enough to handle, cut the entire spears crosswise into 1-inch pieces, transferring them to a blender or mini food processor as you work. Puree for about 30 seconds, until smooth, adding just enough water (about 2 tablespoons) to loosen the mixture. Transfer to a small bowl.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter and all of the oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, add the onion and stir to coat; cook until translucent, about 4 minutes, then add the rice and stir to coat. Cook for about 4 minutes, until lightly toasted, stirring occasionally. Add the wine and cook until evaporated, about 2 minutes, stirring as needed.
Stir in the asparagus puree and the lemon zest, then immediately ladle a half-cup of the warm broth into the pot. Cook, stirring constantly, until the broth is fully absorbed before adding the next half cup. You might not need to add all of the broth; the rice mixture should be creamy, with tender grains.
Add the cheese, the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and the remaining asparagus pieces, stirring until well incorporated. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Divide among individual plates or wide, shallow bowls. Garnish each portion with a few of the reserved tips. Serve right away.
From Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin.
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
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