This risotto is a celebration of the verdant flavours of asparagus, pea, fennel, and mint, all highlighted by the golden glow of preserved lemon. You can replace the preserved lemon with fresh lemon, but you’ll lose the wonderful mellowness that preserved lemon imparts – an almost candied quality that adds delicious warmth to this luscious bed of buttered comfort. We love this with grilled shrimp, but well-seared scallops, or fillets of black cod or sea bass will also do very well. NOTES: Depending on the saltiness of both your stock and the preserved lemons, you may need to use up to a tablespoon of salt in this recipe. It’s best to add a little at a time throughout the process, tasting as you go, and seasoning one last time if necessary before serving. You can replace the preserved lemon rind with the zest of a large lemon, but reduce the amount of lemon juice by half if you do. Following the ban on absinthe in 1915, anise-based liqueur became the favourite long-drink of French gourmands from Paris to Marseille. Pour one fifth liqueur to four-fifths water over ice, and serve little picholine olives on the side. Sunshine in a glass. —The Dog's Breakfast
Test Kitchen Notes
We'll never turn down a spring risotto that's flush with asparagus and peas, but we've come to expect a rich and buttery dish that tamps down the seasonal embellishments. Not so here -- The Dog's Breakfast uses anise-scented Pernod and lemon juice to brighten the rice and broiled sweet shrimp to underscore the clean flavors in the asparagus and peas. Plan this dish for your next dinner party (and save the shrimp portion of the recipe to grill for weeknight dinners.) - A&M —The Editors
6 to 8
for the risotto
medium onions, chopped
small fennel bulb, chopped
cloves garlic minced, about 1 tbsp.
fine sea salt, to taste
Pernod, or other anise apéritif
hot chicken stock
rinsed and finely diced preserved lemon rind
coarsely chopped mint leaves
asparagus, chopped into 2-inch lengths and blanched in salted, boiling water
On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the shrimp with the oil, Pernod, garlic, zest, rosemary, salt and pepper. Let the shrimp marinate at room temperature while you make the risotto.
Prepare all of your risotto ingredients: blanch the asparagus, heat the stock, chop and measure everything out, placing it all close to hand by the stove. Once you start stirring risotto, there’s no stopping.
Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the onion, fennel and garlic and sweat over low heat for about 10 minutes, or until soft and translucent. Season with salt about halfway through.
Add the rice and raise the heat to medium high. Stir to coat and slightly toast the rice for about 3 minutes. You should hear a lively crackling in the pot. The rice will take on a shiny, translucent coat.
Add the Pernod and lemon juice to the rice and continue stirring until the liquid is almost completely absorbed.
Add a ladleful of hot stock to the rice and continue stirring. It’s important to regulate the heat at this point. The rice should neither boil vigorously nor cook too slowly. You’re looking for an even, medium heat that gives the rice a billowy loft and brings some bubbles to the surface.
As the stock is absorbed, continue adding it by ladlefuls and stirring. If you watch carefully, you’ll see that toward the end the rice really gives itself over to the liquid, releasing its starch to make a kind of cream. Stop incorporating stock once the rice is creamy but still al dente, cooked but not too soft. This can take between 20 and 30 minutes, and between 6 and 8 cups of stock.
Remove the risotto from the heat, and immediately fold in the butter, mascarpone, preserved lemon rind, peas, several grinds of white pepper and most of the mint (save some for garnish). The heat of the risotto will cook the peas. Stir slowly to blend, check a final time for seasoning, and carefully fold in the asparagus. Put a lid on the risotto and let it rest while you quickly grill the shrimp. The risotto will expand slightly in volume, and take on a marvellous sheen.
Grill or broil the shrimp for about 60 seconds on each side, or until the flesh is completely opaque.
Top each serving of risotto with 4 shrimp, garnish with mint and a flourish of pepper, and serve.