I went to Pathmark today looking like a nun.
I didn’t mean to. I thought I was pretty hip-looking in my knee-length black skirt and boots and black suede blazer. I wasn't covered in breast milk, peanut butter hand prints or dried boogers. I was proud.
That is until I caught a glimpse of myself in the window of Starbucks and heard myself say in my head, “That looks like Sister Maria Theresa Hidalgo Alonzo Martinez from the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary.” And then, I gave a second look and realized it wasn't the sister at all. It was, in fact, me. I looked like one of those nuns that doesn’t have to wear a proper habit, but instead wears matronly and drab skirt and blazer combinations and pantsuits from the 80s they picked up a the local thrift shop or the bargain bins at JC Penney.
And I didn’t look like just any nun. I looked like this one nun, Sister Maria Theresa Hidalgo Alonzo Martinez who lived in the convent down the block in my old neighborhood. She was pretty stylish - as nuns go - and wore skirts and boots and blazers and you’d see her walking down the street and think “Wow! Sister Maria Theresa Hidalgo Alonzo Martinez has style…” but you’d always add “…for a nun” onto the end of that sentence, which is why it's cool to look like her and be a nun, but kind of sucky to look like her and not be a nun. If you get my drift.
So I couldn’t wait to get home and take my clothes off because I was afraid my husband would get a good look at me and wonder why I was dressed like the church lady.
So, to make myself feel better, l made Mario Batali’s Asparagus Risotto. You should watch the short video of Mario making it for Mark Bittman because you'll learn the 3 most important things you need to make amazing risotto - (1) you don't need to stir it constantly as is the myth (2) add a lot of fat (butter- huge glorious knobs of butter - or even better, butter and duck fat, which is what I did) and (3) it should be served creamy and nearly soupy.
This risotto is finished with some pureed asparagus which gives it a brilliant, springy garden green color and is perfect if your kids are in a green cycle this week. Try it. Seriously life-changing.
Mario Batali's Asparagus Risotto (adapted from Mario Batali)
Servings: 3 to 4
Time: 45 minutes
1 pound asparagus, peeled, trimmed and cut into one-inch-long pieces, tips reserved
4 to 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons butter (I used way more and added duck fat. Be generous)
1/3 medium red onion, diced
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
Salt to taste
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese.
1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add half the asparagus stalks and cook until quite soft, at least 5 minutes. Rinse quickly under cold water. Put cooked asparagus in a blender or food processor and add just enough water to allow machine to puree until smooth; set aside.
2. Put stock in a medium saucepan over low heat. Put oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large, deep nonstick skillet over medium heat. When it is hot, add onion, stirring occasionally until it softens, 3 to 5 minutes.
3. Add rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is glossy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add white wine, stir, and let liquid bubble away. Add a large pinch of salt. Add warmed stock, 1/2 cup or so at a time, stirring occasionally. Each time stock has just about evaporated, add more.
4. After about 15 minutes, add remaining asparagus pieces and tips, continuing to add stock when necessary. In 5 minutes, begin tasting rice. You want it to be tender but with a bit of crunch; it could take as long as 30 minutes total to reach this stage. When it does, stir in 1/2 cup asparagus puree. Remove skillet from heat, add remaining butter and stir briskly. Add Parmesan and stir briskly, then taste and adjust seasoning. Risotto should be slightly soupy. Serve immediately.