Asparagus and Peas Spring Risotto

6

1 large leek

2 teaspoons extra-light olive oil

1 bunch thin asparagus spears, tough woody ends removed

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 large shallots, minced

2 large cloves of garlic, minced

1½ cups Arborio rice

⅔ cup dry white wine

5 cups low sodium chicken broth

1½ cups shelled fresh peas (10 ounces thawed frozen may be substituted)

2 lemons

⅓ cup mascarpone cheese

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus additional for serving

3 tablespoons minced fresh chives, plus additional for serving

Preheat the oven to 425°.


Trim the root end off the leek and discard. Slice the leek lengthwise, then chop crosswise into ½-inch segments. Transfer the chopped leeks to a large bowl of cold water and swish around to rinse well. Drain and repeat until the water is clear. Leeks trap sand and grit in between the layers and require thorough rinsing. Drain and spin dry or spread out on a clean kitchen towel to dry.


In a large skillet with a lid, heat the 2 teaspoons of extra-light olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the asparagus spears and cover. Cook for 6 minutes, stirring once halfway through cooking time. Remove lid, turn heat up to medium-high, and cook for about 2 minutes, turning frequently, until asparagus develops brown spots. Transfer to cutting board to cool, then chop into 1-inch lengths. Set aside.


In a large Dutch oven or oven-safe soup pot, heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, add the leeks. Sauté for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add the shallots and garlic. Sauté for 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until the garlic is fragrant but not yet browning. 


Add the rice and stir constantly for 1 minute to coat the rice in oil. Add the white wine and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until the wine is nearly all absorbed. Pour in all of the broth at once, turn the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, stir again, put the lid on the pot, and transfer the pot to the oven.


Bake for 20–22 minutes, until the grains of rice are tender. The liquid should also be nearly absorbed by this point (the risotto will continue to absorb the broth as it sits). If there is excess liquid, bake the risotto, uncovered, for a few more minutes. 


While the risotto is baking, blanch fresh peas in boiling water for 1 minute, then drain and run under cold water. (Frozen peas just need to be defrosted, not blanched.)


Zest and then juice the 2 lemons into a small, non-reactive bowl. Stir to break up any clumps of lemon zest.


When the risotto is done baking, immediately stir in the chopped asparagus and drained peas. Add the lemon zest and juice, mascarpone, Parmesan, and chives; stir thoroughly to combine. Let sit 2 minutes, then serve, passing additional Parmesan and chives.

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