on Saffron-Asparagus Risotto with Fried Spinach,
Parmesan Cheese and a Tomato Saffron Broth

I was served the original version of this dish as part of a seven-course degustation meal at Emeril's Restaurant in New Orleans on November 20, 1995 (here is that night's entire degustation). It was stunning.

I recreated my version of this dish as part of my practical final exam for an advanced cooking class in the Culinary Arts Program at UCLA Extension. It's different from Chef Emeril's version, obviously -- he's him and I'm only me. :^)

In his dish the asparagus was puréed for a creamier, smoother, more elegant texture -- mine was diced, and a little more rustic. Try it either way (this way it's a little bit of both).

For the Broth:

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan. Add the onions and saffron, and sauté, stirring frequently, until the onions are tender, but not browned. Add the garlic, tomatoes and seasonings. Simmer 3-4 minutes, then add the stock. Adjust salt to taste, bring to a boil, then simmer loosely covered for 30 minutes. Strain through a fine strainer, and be sure to press all the solids to squeeze out all the juices. Return the broth to the pan, and adjust seasoning as necessary. Makes about 2 cups.

For the Risotto:

Trim off the bottoms of the asparagus spears and peel the lower portion of the stems. Simmer in water until crisp-tender. Cut off the tips, then return the stems to the water and continue to simmer until tender. Cut the stems into 1/2" pieces and purée, then force the purée through a fine sieve to remove any strings. Reserve 2 cups of the cooking liquid.

Heat the stock and asparagus liquid in a saucepan and keep it warm over low heat. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat, and then add the olive oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, for 4 minutes, until the onion is translucent and tender.

Add the rice and sauté until thoroughly coated with the butter and oil, stirring so that the onion is mixed in as well. Add the wine and cook, stirring constantly, until the wine is absorbed. Add a little stock, stirring constantly, until it has been absorbed almost completely. Continue adding the stock a bit at a time, stirring until absorbed and adding more, for about 12 minutes. Fold in the asparagus purée, and continue adding stock until the rice is al dente, 16-20 minutes total cooking time. Add salt to taste. Fold in the asparagus tips.

Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and 1/3 cup of the Parmagiano. The risotto should be very moist and creamy. Makes 4 generous servings.

For the Spinach:

Take 1 cup stemmed, washed and thoroughly dried spinach leaves, and drop them in a deep-fryer for 30 seconds until the leaves are crisp. Alternately, deep-fry them in a skillet with 1/2" of oil heated to 350°F. Drain thoroughly, and crumble slightly.

For the Scallops:

Season the scallops on both sides with salt and Creole seasoning.

As soon as the risotto is finished, heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat until hot, about 1 minute. Add the butter and shake the pan to coat it entirely. Heat the butter until it is slightly browned. Add the scallops, one at a time. Lower the heat to prevent the butter from burning, and cook the scallops for 90 seconds to 2 minutes. Turn the scallops and cook until medium-rare, another 30 - 90 seconds.

Assembly of the Dish

Spoon a small portion, about 1/2 cup, of risotto into the center of a large, shallow bowl (like a pasta bowl); serve more if it's a main course. Add about 1/2 cup of broth around the risotto. Sprinkle about 1/4 cup of crumbled fried spinach around the broth. Top the risotto with 2 scallops for a first course serving, 4-6 for a main. Sprinkle about a tablespoon Parmagiano around the risotto.


seafood | creole and cajun recipe page
the gumbo pages | search this site

Chuck Taggart   (e-mail chuck)