Lemon Asparagus Risotto with Seafood

Ah, April is here! I will gladly take this month's rain showers in preparation for next month's flowers, so long as we don't have to see a winter like that ever again. Although spring technically began March 20, Richmond was still experiencing snow and cold, offset by random warm days, well through the end of the month. Polar vortex became a bipolar vortex. Ugh whatever.

All winter I've been waiting for fresh spring produce. Asparagus, one of my favorite veggies, is in its peak season this month and I plan to cook with it as much as possible. My favorite way to enjoy it is baked with salt, pepper, and EVOO, sprinkled with grated Parmesan cheese right out of the oven. But I recently added chopped asparagus pieces into a lemony risotto dish I'd been dying to make. I'm so glad I did - it upped the ante for regular ol' risotto and tasted divine.

Clean, citrusy lemon zest brightens both the asparagus and the seafood, making this a lovely seasonal spring dinner.

Seafood Lemon Asparagus Risotto

  • 3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • ¾ pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 ¼ cups Arborio rice
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • ¾ pound fresh medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

1. Bring broth and water to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Add asparagus and simmer, uncovered, until just tender, about 4 minutes. Transfer asparagus with a slotted spoon to an ice bath to stop cooking, then drain. Keep broth at a bare simmer, covered.

2. Cook onion in 2 tablespoons butter with ¼ teaspoon salt in a 4-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.

3. Add Arborio rice and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Add wine and simmer, stirring constantly, until absorbed.

4. Stir in ½ cup broth mixture and briskly simmer, stirring frequently, until absorbed. Continue adding broth, ½ cup at a time, stirring frequently and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next, until rice is creamy and tender but still al dente (it should be the consistency of a thick soup), about 18 minutes. NOTE: depending on your stove top and how evenly it distributes heat, this could take much longer than 18 minutes. I was stirring for closer to 30 minutes and my rice still wasn't perfectly done - my oven stinks. Taste test it throughout; if it tastes hard and crunchy, keep stirring and cooking until it desired tenderness.

5. Stir in shrimp and nestle into the bottom of the pan closest to the heat. Cook until just pink, 3-4 minutes.

6. Stir in asparagus, lemon zest, remaining 2 tablespoons butter, Parmesan cheese, parsley, and pepper to taste. Thin risotto with some of remaining broth if necessary.

Top with Pan-seared Sea Scallops, if desired. Although I love pan-seared scallops and think they deserve their own post, here's a quick and dirty recipe for them - because you definitely want them in this risotto.

Pan-seared Sea Scallops

  • Six fresh sea scallops
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil 
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste

1. Pat the scallops dry with paper towels.

2. Heat a 10- or 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot, or for about 5 minutes.

3. Add 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter. Pat the scallops dry once more and put them in the pan in a single, uncrowded layer. Season with salt and pepper and let them sear undisturbed until one side is browned, about 2 ½ minutes. Using tongs, turn the scallops over and sear until the second side is well browned and the scallops are almost firm to the touch, about 2 ½ or 3 minutes.

4. Once both sides are browned, remove from pan and set on a separate plate. Do not let scallops become too hard to the touch; they will be overdone and taste tough. Adjust searing times as needed.


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