Champagne Risotto

As promised, I’m back today with the oh so creamy and rich recipe for champagne risotto. I’d also never cooked risotto until taking the French cooking class (although this is purely an Italian recipe at heart). I was always nervous since I heard it was one of those dishes you can’t take your eye off of and constantly have to stir. However, once you get the timing down, it’s actually not as stressful to make as a lot of people make it out to be.

I originally found this recipe in Rachael Ray’s Big Orange Book as a side dish to a lemon cream chicken. For the purpose of making it as a side dish to the skirt steak, I chose to eliminate the pancetta and saute only the asparagus. However, I highly suggest re-adding the pancetta if cooking alongside chicken or serving as a main dish on its own. Who doesn’t like a subtle smokey bacon flavor?!

As a side note, the following recipe serves generous portions for two. I suggest doubling the recipe to serve four to six people, and you’ll have some leftovers!

Champagne Risotto (with Asparagus and Pancetta)

Adapted from Rachael Ray’s Big Orange Book

3 cups chicken broth3 tablespoons EVOO
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup arborio rice
Salt and pepper
1 split champagne or sparkling wine
1 lemon, juiced
1/8 pound sliced pancetta, chopped
1 bunch asparagus, cut on an angle into 2-inch pieces
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
1/2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
3-4 springs thyme, leaves stripped and chopped

In a medium saucepan, heat the chicken broth over low heat. In a medium to large non-stick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons EVOO, 2 turns of the pan, over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic to the skillet and cook until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the rice and toss to coat; season with salt and pepper. Stir in the champagne and boil to evaporate slightly, about 2 minutes.

Stir a couple of ladlefuls of warm chicken broth into the rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid evaporates. Add more broth, a few ladlefuls at a time, reserving 1/2 cup. Cook until creamy, stirring occasionally, about 18 minutes.

In the non-stick skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon EVOO, 1 turn of the pan, over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and cook for about 3 minutes. Add the asparagus and shallot and cook, stirring, for 3 more minutes.

To serve, stir the cheese and thyme into the risotto and spoon generous portions onto plates. Pour the lemon juice over the asparagus and toss; spoon around or stir into risotto.