Asparagus & Pea Risotto with Mint

One of two risotto ideas this week, this recipe is bright with asparagus, peas and mint.

Ingredients:
1 bunch asparagus stalks, cut into 1-inch pieces
2-3 cups freshly-shelled English peas
8 tablespoons butter
1½ cups Arborio rice
4-5 cups warm chicken stock
½ cup white wine (if desired)
½ shallot, finely chopped
1-2 tablespoons chopped garlic (if desired)
⅔ cup freshly-grated Grana-style cheese
2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, minced

Method:
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil, then drop in asparagus and quickly blanch for about 2 minutes until asparagus pieces are bright green and just tender (you want them to still have a little bite, so watch closely.) Remove from pot, and place in an ice bath to stop cooking. Pat dry and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, in a sauce pan, bring the chicken stock to a boil and then turn down to a simmer to keep hot. In another large sauce pan over medium low heat, melt 4-5 tablespoons of butter and cook the shallots until soft but not brown.

3. Add garlic and continue cooking for about 2 minutes. Turn the heat up and add the Arborio rice. Stir for about one minute.

4. Add a ladleful of stock to the rice and continue stirring until almost absorbed. Add another ladleful of stock and the wine and continue stirring; repeat until all the stock is gone and the rice is creamy and tender.

5. Stir in the remaining butter and season with salt and pepper to taste. Then add the peas and asparagus to the pan. Allow to heat through, then add the cheese and mint. Stir to combine and serve immediately.

Variation: This risotto is also lovely topped with an olive-oil fried egg.

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