I love risotto - the heartiness, creaminess and flavors - but it's normally a pretty intense cooking experience, since it requires constant stirring for nearly 30 minutes. It's worth the work to me in the early summer when the Valley farm stands are ripe with fresh asparagus, but I usually reserve it for a weekend meal. On a weeknight, I'm usually doing 2 or 3 other things while making dinner, which risotto doesn't mix well with.
Even thought asparagus isn't in season right now (nor is much of anything in the Valley), I was craving risotto tonight and decided to see if I could come up with a more weeknight-friendly recipe. Turns out, with a few modifications, I produced a yummy, creamy risotto with about 1/5 the stirring. Yay!
So here's my recipe for "weeknight risotto" with chicken, ham and asparagus:
2 tsp. olive oil
1 (about 4 oz.) boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 cup arborio rice
3 cups chicken stock
1 (9 oz.) package frozen asparagus cuts
1 (8 oz.) ham steak, cut into small cubes
2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh basil
1/3 c. shredded parmesan cheese
In a large saute pan, heat olive oil. Add chicken and cook 3-5 minutes until lightly browned. Add rice to pan and stir in 1/2 c. chicken stock. Bring to a simmer over low-medium heat and stir until stock is absorbed by rice. Stir in another 1/2 c. until absorbed by rice. Add 1 c. chicken stock, cover pan and let simmer 8-10 minutes.
Meanwhile, steam frozen asparagus cuts in the microwave for 2-3 minutes, just to take the chill off.
After rice has simmered for 8-10 minutes, add in asparagus, ham, basil and remaining chicken stock. Cover and simmer (no stirring!) another 8-10 minutes until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender.
Stir in cheese and serve.