Funny how recipes get passed around. Word of mouth from a friend, a favorite blogger's review. I knew I wanted a recipe with asparagus, per my spring plans, but was uncreative with my online search. Luckily, the words "spring" and "asparagus" landed me on this recipe via Serious Eats, adapted from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook. I haven't read the book, but M and I have good memories of Zuni's polenta with mascarpone (mm).
So consider this an adaptation of an adaptation. Is it good? I thought it was decent. For me, this soup could have used something extra-maybe a splash of vinegar, some cheese, or as my friend suggested, cilantro.
Maybe I used too much asparagus in proportion to pancetta, or maybe I didn't fry the pancetta long enough before adding it to the soup. I'll never know.
About 2 cups onions, diced
1/2 cup white rice
3 1/2 cups chicken stock
8 oz. asparagus, woody parts removed, diagonally sliced into 1/8 inch pieces
4 oz. bacon or pancetta, diced
Salt and pepper
- Heat about 4 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a saucepan. Add your onions and a bit of salt. Cook about ten minutes, until translucent. Stir occasionally. [You want the onions to sweat, not to caramelize.]
- Add your rice and liquid to the pot. Add 1/2 cup of water (in addition to your chicken stock). Bring it all to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Cover the pot and cook until your rice is cooked but still a bit firm (15-20 minutes).
- While your rice and stock are cooking, get a big skillet and heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil over medium heat. Add your bacon or pancetta and cook for a few minutes. Toss in your asparagus and mix it in with the meat. Then leave it alone for about four minutes. Stir. Leave it alone for another four minutes.
- Add your asparagus and bacon mix to your rice and stock pot. Bring this all to a boil for about a minute. Turn off the heat. Add a ton of black pepper and serve.
- I could only find ultra thin asparagus at the grocery store. I wonder whether using thicker stalks would have imparted more of an asparagus flavor.
- Slicing the asparagus took forever. So did dicing the pancetta. A sharp knife helps. So does patience.
- I used arborio rice and ended up adding more water and stock as the rice soaked up a lot of liquid.
- The soup is best eaten the day it's made, before the rice and delicate asparagus have congealed into a solid mass.