I have a goal to make more time to blog, and specifically to blog what we are eating right now. Since everyone is cooking these days, inspiration is due. I realize what is on the shelves in Puerto Rico may differ from what’s available in the states or wherever you are in the world. We import the majority of food here from mainland US, so if we have it, you probably do too. But people here don’t hoard, so there’s a chance we’re better stocked.
This recipe is inspired by my favorite dish from Brio Tuscan Grille. I primarily would ask to go out to eat there for a date night because of their bread and butter. Oh how I can’t resist warm sourdough bread and butter!! The last time we went, I had a mini crisis because my favorite dish had disappeared from the menu! Was it acceptable to just get up and leave after all the bread and butter I had consumed?! What could ever substitute for my beloved creamy risotto with caramelized sweet potato and asparagus that would make my pee smell for hours and chicken and pine nuts? Nothing. They didn’t even have the ingredients to make it. It was a very disappointing date night. Not even a splurge on overpriced cocktails or extra bread and butter redeemed the situation.
So now I make the risotto myself. I think Brio’s had some pancetta in it. Add a bit it if you want. You can easily swap out the sweet potatoes for butternut squash. I did not have fresh (or dried) thyme, and it was still delicious.
My oldest came in and was so excited because he thought I was making these chicken marsala meatballs – they smell similar (wine). He was not at all disappointed by the risotto, and I’m grateful for the inspiration for the meatballs for Easter dinner. One less meal to plan for my meal-plan-fatigued brain!
A note on stemming asparagus: rather than cutting the ends off, bend the stalk at the thicker (bottom) end until it snaps. It will snap where it needs to. If you need to keep it fresh in the refrigerator for a few days, trim a bit off the ends and stand the spears up in a glass or jar fill with 1-inch of water; cover with the produce bag it came in or plastic wrap.
Sweet Potato and Asparagus Risotto
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 lbs sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (4 cups)
- salt and pepper
- 1 lb asparagus, trimmed and cut on bias into 1/2-inch lengths
- 4 cups chicken broth (vegetable broth for vegetarian)
- 2 cups water
- 5 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
- 2 small or 1 large onion, chopped fine
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 cups Arborio rice
- 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
- 1 1/2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (3/4 cup), plus extra for serving
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 2 cups shredded Rotisserie chicken (optional)
- pine nuts
- fresh thyme
Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add sweet potato, spread in an even layer, and cook without stirring until gold brown, about 5 minutes. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until potato is tender and browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in now-empty Dutch oven over medium heat. Add asparagus spears, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until asparagus is crisp tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
Meanwhile, place broth and water in a large (2 1/2 qt) saucepan. Cover pot, bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to low to keep warm.
Melt 3 tablespoons butter in now-empty Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook until onions are softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in rice and cook, stirring often, until grain edges begin to turn translucent, about 3 minutes.
Stir in wine and cook, stirring constantly, until fully absorbed, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in 5 cups hot broth mixture and half of browned sweet potato cubes. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until almost all liquid has been absorbed and rice is just al dente, 18-19 minutes, stirring twice during cooking. (There may still be a layer of liquid on the top until you stir – that's normal. Don't dry it out!)
Add 3/4 cup hot broth mixture and stir gently and constantly until risotto becomes creamy, about 3 minutes. Stir in Parmesan. Remove pot from heat, cover, and let sit for 5 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste and gently fold in remaining browned sweet potato cubes, asparagus, and chicken, if using. Before serving, stir in remaining broth mixture if needed to loosen consistency of risotto. Sprinkle individual bowls with pine nuts, fresh thyme and extra Parmesan, if desired.