I love asparagus as much as the next guy, but I've become a little bored with cooking it. Steaming tends to make it limp. And though I've had some surprisingly good luck with microwaving it (honest!), I usually just roast it to all hell until it becomes crisp and caramelized. Since I only eat it while it is in season, I'm usually satisfied with this simple approach. It wasn't until I discovered this recipe that I even thought about using it in some other fashion. Good thing I found it.
I love the recipes of Judy Rogers, and this one, adapted from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook, is another winner. What's fascinating is how Rogers takes so few ingredients and makes them into a full meal.
The quickly sautéed asparagus spears give it sweetness, the bacon lends a savory edge, and the little bit of rice gives it some bulk. A perfect spring soup. I used a good homemade chicken stock, which elevates any soup, but boxed stock will work in a pinch.
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cups diced onions
- 1/4 cup white rice
- 3 1/2 cups chicken stock
- 8 ounces asparagus, stems removed, sliced diagonally into 1/8 inch pieces
- 4 ounces bacon or pancetta, diced
- Salt and pepper
Pour 4 tablespoons of the oil into a medium saucepan. Tun the heat to medium-low and add the onions and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 10 minutes.
Dump in the rice and then pour in the stock, and 1/2 cup of water. Bring to boil, reduce to a simmer, and then cover and cook for 15 minutes or until the rice is tender.
Meanwhile, pour the rest of the oil into a large skillet set over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook for a few minutes, until some of the fat has rendered. Then add the asparagus and stir until the asparagus is coated with oil. Then cook, without stirring for about 4 minutes. Stir and cook for 4 minutes. The asparagus should be tender and delicious. Cook for 4 minutes more if it is not ready.
Dump the asparagus and bacon into the saucepan. Bring to a boil, cook for 1 minute, and then turn off the heat. Add lots of black pepper and season with salt to taste.