Last week in Toronto temperatures soared. I sat on patios, drank beer, and ate ceviche while plotting future BBQs and outdoor seafood boils. I Googled sangria recipes, whipped up an Aperol Spritz or two, and nearly bought a watermelon floaty. But just as quickly as the summer-like weather arrived it disappeared. Less than a week after we hit 30° C the city saw flurries. To say this turn of events is depressing would be an understatement. And yes, ask any Canadian and they will tell you April is a cruel, flip-flopping mistress. But even though I knew this was coming it doesn’t make it any less painful. So I’m drowning my sorrows with decidedly spring-forward food like this Asparagus Celeriac Risotto with Pickled Shallots. It may not be spring out there but it sure as sugar is in my kitchen.
I didn’t grow up with risotto. Not for any particular reason, it just wasn’t in my mother’s dinner rotation. The first risotto I ever had was in a small Italian restaurant whose name sadly escapes me now. I was nearly 20. Yes, you read that right, I was 20 when I had my first risotto. It was a sweet pea and shrimp risotto and I have never forgotten anything about it.
I of course knew what risotto was. I’d seen the likes of Ina Garten and Lidia Bastianich make it on their respective shows hundreds of times. The takeaway I got from watching these women deftly maneuver their way through the dish was – risotto is difficult and time-consuming. I mean sure, they made it look easy but surely that was through the magic of television. It all seemed beyond the reach of a pajama-clad kid watching PBS on a Saturday morning. But when I took my maiden bite of that sweet pea and shrimp risotto, I knew I was hooked. I knew I’d have to figure this whole risotto thing out. So I did and now I’m hooked on making risotto.
But enough about my risotto origin story, let’s make this Asparagus Celeriac Risotto with Pickled Shallots. As with any recipe that involves pickles, the shallots are the first thing we’re going to tackle. All you have to do is slice some shallots and pop them in a bowl. Cover them with red wine vinegar. I used red wine vinegar because I like how it enhances the pink in the shallots but you can use any vinegar you fancy. Add 2 teaspoons of sugar and half a teaspoon of salt. Give everything a swish and set them aside to pickle at room temperature while you make the risotto. They will be good to go by the time dinner is done, I promise.
While the shallots are doing their thing, slice yet more shallots. These are for the skillet. Next, remove the skin from a small head of celeriac and cut it into chunks. Remove the ends from the asparagus and cut the spears into thirds. Pour a ton of vegetable stock into a large pot and add the asparagus ends and celeriac. We’re going to simmer the stock with the asparagus ends to enhance the stock’s flavor. While the celeriac is in there to get nice and tender.
Once the celeriac can be easily pierced with a fork, take it out of the stock and transfer it to a bowl. Add goat cheese and mash until smooth and creamy. Set the mash aside. We’re adding this at the very end. Continue to simmer the stock and asparagus ends. Next, grab a large, deep cast iron skillet. Sautè the shallots you chopped earlier until softened. Add the arborio rice to the skillet and toast until it emits a nutty aroma and starts to crackle. Pour in dry vermouth and deglaze the pan.
Now for the part everyone warned you about – stirring in the stock. This is the tedious step that turns the vast majority of people off of making risotto. But personally, I’ve never found this to be a chore. As I’ve said before, I think of stirring stock into risotto as a meditative exercise. An aromatherapy session, if you will. If you will not then risotto might be a chore for you. And if that’s your truth, don’t sweat it! There are plenty of other dishes in the sea.
Once most of the stock has been added, it’s time to bring the asparagus into this Asparagus Celeriac Risotto. Stir in the asparagus and let it cook until it’s tender and it turns a brighter shade of green. When the asparagus is happy, stir in the celeriac and continue to cook until it is heated through. Spoon the risotto into bowls and top them with microgreens, fresh ground pepper, and those pretty-in-pink shallots.
And that’s everything you need to know about this Asparagus Celeriac Risotto. A simple spring-forward dish that still manages to be cozy. Exactly what you need when the weather can’t choose between summer or winter.
Asparagus Celeriac Risotto with Pickled Shallots
- 1 Large pot
- 1 Large Cast Iron Skillet
- 4 shallots cut into thin wedges
- ½ cup red wine vinegar
- 2 tsp granulated sugar
- ½ tsp salt
Asparagus Celeriac Risotto
- 1 bulb celeriac skin removed, cut into chunks
- 1 bunch asparagus ends removed, cut into thirds
- 7 cups vegetable stock
- 140g (5oz) goat cheese
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 4 shallots cut into half-moons
- 1½ cups arborio rice
- ½ cup dry vermouth
- 1 batch pickled shallots see above
- ½ cup mixed microgreens for sprinkling
- fresh ground pepper for sprinkling
For the Shallots
- Place the shallots in a bowl and cover them with the vinegar. Add the salt and sugar and give them a quick stir. Cover and set aside to pickle at room temperature while you prepare the risotto.4 shallots, ½ cup red wine vinegar, 2 tsp granulated sugar, ½ tsp salt
For the Risotto
- Pour the stock into a large pot. Add the asparagus ends and the celeriac. Place the pot over high heat and bring it to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the celeriac is fork tender. About 15 minutes.1 bulb celeriac, 1 bunch asparagus, 7 cups vegetable stock
- Take the celeriac out of the stock and transfer it to a bowl. Leave the stock simmering with the asparagus ends. Add the goat cheese to the bowl and mash together with the celeriac until smooth. Set the mixture aside.140g (5oz) goat cheese
- Pour the olive oil into a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the shallots and a generous pinch of salt. Sauté until just translucent.2 tbsp olive oil, 4 shallots
- Pour the rice into the skillet and toast until it emits a nutty aroma and begins to crackle. Pour in the vermouth and stir until the liquid disappears. Add two ladlesful of the stock and simmer until the liquid is absorbed, stirring frequently. Repeat with the remaining stock.1½ cups arborio rice, ½ cup dry vermouth
- When almost all of the stock is fully integrated, add the asparagus along with the last of the stock. Stir until the asparagus is tender with a slight bite and it turns a brighter shade of green.
- Add the celeriac mixture and stir until heated through. Spoon the risotto into bowls and top with the pickled shallots, microgreens, and fresh ground pepper. Serve immediately.1 batch pickled shallots, ½ cup mixed microgreens, fresh ground pepper