May 16, 2011
You might have noticed if you’ve been wandering the markets of France recently: asparagus are in season. Wonderful cook, teacher and friend of HiP Paris Marjorie Taylor, who runs the Cook’s Atelier in Burgundy, shares her yummy asparagus risotto recipe with us here, and throws in a few tips for your next weekend trip to Beaune on the way. We don’t know about you, but we can wait to try both! – Geneviève
To a food and wine lover, Beaune makes for a perfect day or weekend getaway when visiting Paris. It is ideally located, just a couple hours from Paris via the TGV, and gives visitors a little taste of authentic France. Beaune is a very picturesque, international little town that offers many possibilities for those interested in learning more about the food and wine of the region. You can explore the small wine villages just outside Beaune and bike through the famous vineyards, wine tasting all along the way.
One of my favorite things to do on a bright spring morning in Burgundy is to visit a local market. You know spring is here when the season’s first wild leeks and artichokes appear at the market. The air is perfumed with the smell of tiny Gariguette strawberries and the vendors’ stalls are filled with violet and white asparagus, wild leeks, fava beans, and spring peas.
The market days in Beaune are on Wednesday and Saturday. Locals fill their market baskets to the brim before stopping at Le Parisian, a favorite local brasserie, for a leisurely coffee or glass of crémant before heading home. On Saturdays, during the spring and summer months, there is a brocante in Place Carnot, the perfect place to find a vintage Madeleine pan, copper pots or French linens.
As an American cook, I am still in awe of the markets in France. I base my menus on what looks good at the market, and the people who spend their lives growing good food constantly inspire me… Monsieur Méneger, for instance, is a chef and farmer passionate about heritage breeds of pigs and chickens. Madame Loichet gathers produce from her own garden for the Saturday morning market in Beaune. Monsieur Vossot is an artisan butcher who takes pride in preserving his craft. I am especially fond of Madame Petit for her fresh eggs and Madame Pechoux for what could be the most beautiful salad greens I have ever seen.
Spring is a lovely reminder that food is best when purchased locally and in season. To get inspired, visit your local farmers’ market for your ingredients and eat alfresco. Market greens and violet asparagus simply dressed with a light drizzle of olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice or steamed artichokes with homemade aioli are the perfect spring lunch. For something a little more substantial, try this perfect asparagus risotto inspired by Mario Batali, a favorite at The Cook’s Atelier.
Asparagus Risotto with brown butter
Adapted from Mario Batali
- 1 pound asparagus, peeled trimmed and cut into one-inch long pieces, tips reserved
- 4 to 6 cups vegetable stock
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1/3 medium red onion, diced
- 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- sea salt to taste
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the asparagus stalks and cook until quite soft, at least 5 minutes. Rinse quickly under cold water. Put cooked asparagus in a blender or food processor and add just enough water to allow the machine to puree until smooth. Set aside.
Put the vegetable stock in a medium saucepan over low heat. Put oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large, skillet over medium heat. When it is hot, add onion, stirring occasionally until it softens, 3 to 5 minutes.
Add rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is glossy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add white wine, stir, and let liquid bubble away. Add a large pinch of salt. Add warmed stock, 1/2 cup or so at a time, stirring occasionally. Each time the stock has just about evaporated, add more.
After about 15 minutes, add the remaining asparagus tips, continue to add stock when necessary. In 5 minutes, begin tasting the rice. You want it to be tender but with a bit of crunch; it could take as long as 30 minutes total to reach this stage. When it does, stir in 1/2 cup asparagus puree. Remove skillet from heat, add remaining butter and stir briskly. Add Parmesan and stir briskly, then taste and adjust seasoning. Garnish with asparagus tips and a drizzle of brown butter. Risotto should be slightly soupy. Serve immediately.
- Marjorie Taylor offers cooking classes and market tours in Burgundy though the Cook’s Atelier
- For yummy seasonal recipes, check out her blog
- A great collection of spring market recipes from Chez Lou Lou France
- Looking for cooking classes in Paris? Check out La Cuisine
Written by Marjorie Taylor
Marjorie Taylor is a chef, teacher and author. She offers cooking classes and market tours through the Cook's Atelier in her adopted hometown of Burgundy. She is a long-time member of Chefs Collaborative and Slow Food and she is inspired by farmers’ markets, small artisan producers and the food philosophy pioneered by Alice Waters. She is a big believer in real food, made from scratch and takes pleasure in cooking every day.
Website: The Cook's Atelier