I am not the kind of person who spends much time worrying about being trendy. I don't replace my entire wardrobe seasonally, redecorate my house yearly, or choose vacation destinations based on their celebrity quotient. Instead, I like to feel out the latest trends before I invest my time or money. Some fads come and go in a blink, while others become mainstays that are worth getting to know. This recently happened with the food trend of browned butter, which is regular butter that is toasted until it becomes golden brown and adopts a warm nutty taste. A few years ago most home cooks had no idea what it was, but these days it is all the rage.
I'll be the first admit that I did not initially embrace the concept of browned butter. I simply didn't understand how or why browned butter could really change the flavor of a dish. In fact, I don't think I would ever have started cooking with it had it not been for my mother-in-law's browned butter sage sauce. She served it over chicken last fall and, after one bite of the warm almost almond-like flavor, I was hooked. I started searching for recipes with browned butter and made several interesting discoveries, including one from Cook's Illustrated which cited browned butter as the key ingredient in their best-ever chocolate chip cookies. In keeping with this trend, last month's Vogue featured an article by Jeffrey Steingarten devoted entirely to the unique taste of browned butter, chiding us all for not seeing it's benefits earlier.
I knew my conversion to being a browned butter-devotee was complete when it became my go-to method for all of my favorite homemade risotto recipes. Risotto has always been a big family favorite of ours, and now it is even more so. When risotto is prepared with browned butter, it's normally light creamy flavor gets deeper and richer. The toasted butter adds a whole new dimension, it's nutty flavor seems to enhance the dish's rich earthy chicken and vegetable flavors.
Cooking my go-to recipe for Browned Butter Asparagus Risotto is fairly simple. To save myself time in the evening, during my daughter's afternoon naptime I begin my meal preparation by chopping the onion, blanching the asparagus and preparing chicken stock. This way, when it comes to dinnertime, making the risotto is merely a matter of combining the ingredients and stirring lazily with my wooden spoon. To add salt to this particular meal I like to make baked prosciutto "chips," these lend the toothsome rice a nice light crunch. I know that in my household browned butter is here to stay, and, I think, after you try this recipe you will agree. Browned butter is no longer a trend, it is a classic.
Naptime's Browned Butter Asparagus Risotto with Prosciutto Chips
adapted from recipes by Giade de Laurentiis and Mario Batali
1 lb. fresh asparagus, blanched and cut into 2 inch pieces
5 T. unsalted butter, room temperature
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 c. Arborio rice
1/2 c. white wine
4 c. chicken stock (I use Knorr bouillon cubes when I don't have homemade stock on hand)
1/2 c. fresh grated parmesan
1. In a wide saucepan, I usually use my Dutch oven, heat the butter over medium heat. Allow the butter to warm until it turns a warm, golden brown and has a nutty fragrance. About 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.
2. Add onion and saute until translucent. About 4 minutes.
3. Add rice and stir until it is coated with the butter and well-mixed with the onion. Then, add the wine and deglaze the bottom of the pan, scraping up any browned bits.
4. Simmer until the wine has completely evaporated. Then, add 1/2 c. of the chicken stock and stir until it is completely absorbed. Continue adding the chicken stock by 1/2 c. until it absorbed. About 10 minutes.
5. Once all the chicken stock has been added, cook until the rice is tender to the bite. About 5 minutes.
6. Remove risotto from heat and add remaining parmesan and butter. Stir until completely absorbed.
7. Finally, add the asparagus pieces, stirring into the risotto. Break prosciutto pieces over rice and serve.
Baked Prosciutto Chips
4 oz. prosciutto slices
1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Spread prosciutto over wire cooling rack. Place rack inside a jelly roll pan lined with aluminum foil.
3. Bake prosciutto for 10 minutes, or until crispy.
Naptime Recipe Props: This is a delicious recipe that is flexible in every way. If you would rather make it with vegetable stock, go right ahead. Or, if you'd rather use mushrooms or peas instead of asparagus, that is fine, too.
Naptime Stopwatch: Pre-chopping the onions and blanching the asparagus saves a lot of time when assembling the meal in the evening. This way, the total assembly in the evening is about 30 minutes, maximum.
Naptime Reviews: Adults and children alike love risotto, including mine. It is soft enough for my toddler to chew, but sophisticated all of us for dinner.