I am so ready for it to just be spring already. This chilly, dreary weather is getting a tad bit old and we’ve gotten a taste of the warm weather already, so I just wish it would stay. It was near 80º when we were in NYC last weekend and apparently it was in the 70s here in Buffalo at the same time. Today it is in the low 30s and it’s snowing again. Don’t get me wrong, I love the snow and the change of seasons, but this has been one of the longest and nastiest winters I can ever recall here.
I guess since the weather isn’t cooperating the only thing to do is to bring the spring to our bellies via delicious spring inspired dishes like this one! Once again this risotto, like the pasta recipe I posted yesterday, was inspired by what looked best in the produce section when we went to the market. I had actually hoped to find fresh sweet peas, but I guess it is still a bit early, so I went with frozen organic sweet peas. You can certainly substitute fresh peas here, you’d just want to quickly blanch them first.
This risotto is so creamy and satisfying it is hard to believe it is healthy. There is very little cheese and really since arborio rice creates such a creamy risotto, if you wanted to make this vegan you could simply leave out the cheese and it would still be incredible. The leeks bring a nice fresh but subtle onion flavor, the mushrooms a nice rustic earthy aroma and taste and the peas are a nice burst of brightness to finish it all off. The fresh tarragon was the perfect unique compliment to all of these flavors, bringing subtle scent and taste reminiscent of anise. You can play with adding in some white wine or vermouth as well as different cheeses, mascarpone or heavy cream, different herbs, lemon zest, etc. There are so many variations on classic risotto and you really can’t go wrong.
I had a dozen local farm fresh eggs that I picked up and want to use while they are at their freshest so I decided to fry up an egg for each of us to serve on top of the risotto. I had never done this before, but I knew it would be incredible and I was right. Such a nice way to finish it off. The yolk was a tad runny and it was just perfect.
5-6 cups of organic mushroom broth
2 tablespoons organic olive oil
1/2 lb sliced mushrooms, I used baby bellas
2 leeks, rinsed very well, slice thinly white and green parts only*
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1 1/2 cups frozen organic sweet peas (I would have preferred fresh, but they weren’t yet at the market)
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Bring the broth to a simmer in a heavy medium saucepan. Keep the broth warm over very low heat.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the sliced mushrooms and a sprinkle of salt, sauté until tender and beginning to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan over a medium-low heat. Add the leeks and garlic, sprinkle with salt. Sauté until the leeks are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and increase the heat to medium. Stir until the edges begin to look transparent, careful not to brown the rice or leeks. Add the mushroom broth, 2 ladles at a time (or approximately 3/4 cup); stirring constantly and waiting for the stock to be absorbed before adding more. Always adding enough just to cover the rice. Continue stirring and adding broth, waiting for it to absorb and then adding more. Cook about halfway, which should be about 10-15 minutes. Stir in the sautéed mushrooms. Continue adding broth until the rice is tender but has a bit of a firm bite and the risotto is creamy, another 10-15 minutes. Add the frozen peas and fresh tarragon with just a few minutes remaining, stir to combine. The peas will cook very quickly. Once cooked, turn off the heat. Taste the risotto and salt and pepper to taste.
Stir in approximately 1/4 cup of the parmigiano-reggiano cheese, reserving the remaining for serving. Transfer the risotto to a serving bowl, top with fresh ground black pepper and a pinch or two of freshly chopped tarragon. Serve with the remaining grated parmigiano-raggiano. This risotto is incredible with a fried farm-fresh egg served on top. If the yolk is just a tad bit runny, it is absolute perfection! Trust me, try it.
* a quick note on cleaning leeks: leeks tend to have a lot of dirt and grit in them. If you aren’t careful when cleaning them, you may think they are totally clean, start cooking with them and find your entire dish has a nasty grittiness to it. This can ruin a dish After trimming off the ends (called the beards) and the dark green tops (save these for stocks). You can run them under cold water at this point, or even better, you can submerge the leeks in a large pot of cold water. Swirl them around to really remove all the grit and dirt. Drain well and then cut.
Oh and one last thing to mention, this is what was going on outside my kitchen window while I crafted up this beautiful spring dinner. Ironic, isn’t it?