Thursday, October 1, 2009
1033 Restaurants Open Around Town
Eating Around New Orleans Today
The Hotel Inter-Continental began an Oktoberfest German menu in its two restaurants (Pete's Pub and the Veranda) a week ago. But they really get the oom-pah-pah rolling today, and keep the wursts and schnitzels going through the weekend. This afternoon, they're holding what they hope will become a new annual downtown festival. It's in the Pan American Plaza, right in front of the hotel on St. Charles Avenue at Poydras. They'll turn the space into a German biergarten, with music, food, beer, schnapps, a German dumpling eating contest, and more. It's wide open, and you buy the food and beer as you go. It starts at four and runs until eight both today and tomorrow. Helmut Fricker, the musician, yodeler, and joketeller who used to come down from Vail every year during Willy Coln's Oktoberfests, will provide the entertainment.
The Teutonic fun continues over the weekend with a major German feast in the Veranda Saturday night. The Eat Club has adopted this; go to http://www.nomenu.com/eatclub for the menu and details. Finally, this Sunday's brunch buffet in the Veranda (which provides one of the best such) will be all-German. The price is $59--higher than usual--but Helmut and the gang will be there to turn it into a party.
Veranda. CBD: Hotel Inter-Continental, 444 St. Charles Ave. 504-585-4383.
Anniversaries Of Notable Restaurants
Today in 2001 was opening day for Restaurant August. Chef John Besh, recently departed from Artesia in Abita Springs, was looking around for a gig. He was thinking of opening a place of his own. But August "Duke" Robin persuaded him to join him in opening a new restaurant on the corner of Tchoupitoulas and Gravier, across the street from the Windsor Court Hotel. Besh hired a few key people from the Grill Room; he was himself was an alumni of that kitchen. The timing was terrible. Travel was still much depressed by the 9/11 disaster. But the restaurant took off anyway. Besh bought out Robin in 2005, just in time for that other trouble in town. But he got the restaurant open right after the storm, serving red beans and rice and the like to those trying to keep a lid on things, until he could start cooking and serving on actual china with silverware. Restaurant August was, then and now, a contender for Best Restaurant in New Orleans.
Great Moments In The Recovery
This is the day in 2006 when Commander's Palace reopened after Katrina. And after many millions of dollars of repairs. The latter was a surprise. In fixing what looked like minor damage, the Brennans found other, previously unknown problems that had to be addressed before the 126-year-old restaurant could reopen. Lally Brennan ruefully called it "a Pandora's box."
They went right back to the old schedule: Lunch weekdays, brunch Saturday and Sunday, dinner every night. Chef Tory McPhail remained at the kitchen's helm, most of the staff was back, and the all-girl team of proprietors (Ti Martin, Lally Brennan, Ella Brennan, and Dottie Brennan) continued to run things in person. The reopening launched a new era for Commander's, which is now better than it has been in at least five years.
Annals Of Popular Cuisine
Walt Disney World opened near Orlando, Florida today in 1971. Eleven years later, also on this date, Disney's EPCOT Center opened next door. A corporate dream come true, Disney World remakes the world according to its fantasies, and even controls the government of its lands. For the past fifteen years, the theme park and its adjuncts have continually raised the stakes in its restaurants, offering more than a few gourmet outlets. The city of Orlando also has seen a rapid rise in its number of serious restaurants. Emeril has two of them there.
Today is the feast day of St. Bavo, the patron saint of Ghent, Belgium. The cathedral named after him there is one of the most impressive in Europe, which is saying something. It's across the street from a restaurant whose name I can't recall, in an ancient city hall, where I went through a large bucket of mussels in wine and cream sauce for less than fifteen dollars. St. Bavo ought to be the patron saint of mussels.
As we begin a new month, we note that October is (according to various untraceable sources): Country Ham Month, National Apple Month, National Chili Month (the first week is also National Chili Week), National Cookie Month, National Dessert Month, National Pickled Peppers Month (so pick a peck of 'em), National Pork Month, National Pretzel Month, National Seafood Month, Vegetarian Awareness Month (yeah, yeah, we're aware of them--more in a moment), Sun Dried Tomatoes Month, Cook Book Month (hey! buy mine here), Gourmet Adventures Month, National Spinach Lovers Month, and Hunger Awareness Month . This is also supposed to be No Salt Week--but that is truly impossible to observe.
Today is the thirty-second annual World Vegetarian Day, instituted by the North American Vegetarian Society. It's a mellow organization that seems more interested in promoting the joys and healthfulness of vegetarianism than decrying the diets of omnivores.
The ranks of vegetarians are growing. I can vouch for that, just based on the number of queries I get from people looking for vegetarian-friendly restaurants. Fortunately for them, the restaurant community has kept up with this demand. Most white-tablecloth restaurants around New Orleans carry vegetarian (and sometimes even vegan) entrees on their menus. Neighborhood cafes have been slower to do so, as have most chains. And that option is expanding.
The first strategy for vegetarians who want to eat well in restaurants (in New Orleans, anyway) is to forget about vegetarian restaurants. The best of them have been just okay; most have been dreadful. Instead, go to good restaurants that buy fresh everything and have real chefs in the kitchen. Shop the menu for the ingredients of an appealing dish, and ask the chef to make it. Unless it's something really complicated, he probably will.
Music To Dine By
Today is the birthday, in 1925, of mellow pianist Roger Williams. His music played for millions of hours on Muzak systems in restaurants over the years (I still hear it quite a bit). I will forever associate it school cafeteria eating. During my years at St. Rita's in Harahan, one of the nuns decided that Williams's music would be nice for the students to listen to instead of talking in the cafeteria. She played the same side of the same Roger Williams album every day. It included Sunrise Serenade and Singing In The Rain. I came to like those songs--a funny thing for a kid of twelve.
Music To Lose A Recipe By
Today is the birthday (1930) of Richard Harris, the Irish actor who, although not really a singer, recorded the hit version of MacArthur Park, one of the strangest songs ever written. Someone left a cake out in the rain.
Today in 1975 Eric Morel, Puerto Rican boxer in the 1996 Olympics, entered the Big Ring. . . Actor George Peppard was born today in 1928. . . Jerry Martini, jazz and pop saxophonist, was born today in 1943. . . Rob Collard, a British racecar driver, crossed the Big Starting Line today in 1968.
Words To Eat By
"I am not a vegetarian because I love animals; I am a vegetarian because I hate plants."--A. Whitney Brown.
"I did not become a vegetarian for my health, I did it for the health of the chickens."--Isaac Bashevis Singer.
"I was a vegetarian until I started leaning toward the sunlight."--Rita Rudner.
"Do vegetarians eat animal crackers?"--Unknown.
Serving Mexican Tapas, Plus Much Of Old Menu
Taqueros Returns Yet Again
To St. Charles Avenue
Guillermo Peters, who has at various times operated the best Mexican restaurant ever to open in New Orleans, and who at other times has opened eateries that make one wonder what in the world he's thinking, has reopened his restaurant on the corner of St. Charles and Melpomene for the third or fourth time.
At its peak, Peters had two great restaurants in the building: the casual Taqueros downstairs, and the gourmet-level Coyoacan upstairs. Both were in perfect quarters, with a distinctive, rustic Mexican design. Peters moved there in 2004 after operating Taqueros very successfully in a minimal location in Kenner.
And I thought that, at last, Mexican food was getting its due. Peters and his daughter are imaginative and skillful cooks, and never was there a lack of deliciousness or good ingredients.
But he closed after the storm. Reopened. Closed. Reopened, consolidating the two restaurants. Closed, after a week or so of grand farewell dinners. Reopened as Stop 9, which started out as an advanced snack shop (they even had sno-balls for awhile). Nobody could figure it out, or understood that the name was a reference to the stop on the streetcar line, right in front of the place. It closed. Now, he writes:
I have reopened Taqueros at the same location on 1432 St. Charles Avenue. The menu is based in Botanas (small Mexican plates) also known as tapas, appetizers, bocas, bocadillos, etcetera. We will be serving tacos and the best of Taqueros' appetizers. The idea of botanas is to let the you tailor your menu to satisfy your appetite, no matter how large or small. We have a full service bar featuring our signature margaritas and home made sangria.
The service is very casual, fill-out an order slip, bring it to the bar and we will call your name when ready. We are cash only. No checks or credit cards accepted.
I hope to see you all soon!
Here's my response:
Hello, Bill. . .
I'm very happy you reopened and can't wait to try your great food again. But when will you believe me when I say that the reason you haven't been there consistently is that you make your customers jump through hoops? No service? No credit cards? Come on, Bill. Right there you've given a lot of potential customers--maybe most of them--a reason not to come. If you would just see things from our side of the table once in awhile and quit acting like you know better than we do what we like in a restaurant, and accommodate us, you'll be there forever. Which would be a wonderful thing, because nobody has your style.
Here's the menu:
Guacamole served with baked tostadas $6.00
Grilled Veggies $6.00
Tortilla Soup $3.50
Esquites corn kernels sautéed with onions, jalapeños and splash of lime juice. served with baked tostadas $4.50
Ensalada San Carlos spring mix, grape tomatoes, queso fresco and house dressing $3.50
Queso Fundido melted quesadilla cheese stuffed with choice of chorizo, shrimp adobo or veggies. served with tortillas $7.50
Chipotle Shrimp jumbo shrimp grilled and tossed with sautéed onions and chipotles $7.50
Tequila Shrimp sautéed shrimp in a tequila-pasilla butter sauce $8.50
Drunken Mussels mussels sautéed with tequila-smoked chile pasilla $7.50
Lamb Chops two lamb chops marinated in our special seasoning and grilled $8.50
Tacos $2.50 topped with cilantro & onion, choice of:
Cochinita Pibil pork wrapped in banana leaf seasoned with achiote and baked
Al Pastor pork marinated with pineapple and our own blend of red chiles and baked
Poblano Chicken braised chicken with roasted poblano strips, tomatoes and red onions
Chile con Carne braised beef seasoned with our own adobo, onions and tomatoes
Rice and Black Beans $3.50
Roasted potatoes $3.50
Cheese Cake Chef’s inspired flavors $4.75
Taqueros. Lee Circle Area: 1432 St. Charles Ave. 504-267-3028. Dinner Tuesday-Saturday.
In The Blue Room; Not A Buffet
Roosevelt Hotel Resumes
Sunday Brunch October 4
The Roosevelt Hotel (formerly the Fairmont, and before that The Fairmont, formerly The Roosevelt) resumes its Sunday brunch this weekend. It will be back where it was most often served from the 1970s onward: in the Blue Room, the dinner-and-dancing club on the University Place end of the grand lobby.
The restored brunch will be a big change from the old one. It's a fixed price, three-course offering, with a glass of Champagne at the outset. To add drama to the room, two "action stations" (that's a new one on me, too) will be set up in the room. Chefs manning these will cook seafood specialties and desserts to order. But you get to remain in your seat.
The food will bear little resemblance to the fare you may remember from the Blue Room's brunches of yore. Here is a sampling of the menu, which clearly indicates that chef Stefan Kauthe is moving in lockstep with the trends, and following the law requiring pork belly and at least one industrial- sounding dish* on all menus claiming to be serious:
Marinated Tuna Cru; Caraway Cracker
Chilled Asparagus Soup; White Truffle Oil
Kurobuta Tenderloin; Achiote, Habanero, Pickled Onions
Duck Liver Parfait; Green Tomato Jam
*Compressed Watermelon; Goat Cheese, Arugula
Crawfish Empanadas; Cilantro Cream
Cane Syrup Braised Pork Belly; White Bean and Onion Salad
Grilled Calamari; Gazpacho Cloud, Lemon Oil
Shropshire, Bittersweet Plantion Triple Cream, Comte, Castelli Provolone Stagionata. Presented with clover honey, fig jam,
dried apricots, grapes and spiced walnuts.
Chilled Seafood Presentation
Oysters on the Half Shell; Roasted Jalapeno Mignonette
Gulf Shrimp Remoulade
Marinated Crab Claws; Olive Salad, Lemon and Herb Vinaigrette
Yellowtail Ceviche; Navel Orange, Tellicherry Peppercorn Oil
A la Carte Plates
Crab Meat Omelette; Fresh Herbs, Gruyere De Comte
Eggs Sardou; Artichoke, Spinach, Sliced Tomatoes
Seafood Gumbo; Tasso, andouille, okra and popcorn rice [any seafood?]
Abita Amber Marinated Chicken; Asparagus and Oyster Dressing
Crispy Paneed Pork Loin; Caramelized Onion Mash and French Beans
Banana Nut Pancakes; Cinnamon, Walnuts and Honey
Bananas Foster, Prepared a la Minute [is there any other way?]
Hmm. Not exactly comfort food, is it? And there's one more uncomfortable aspect. The price is $30. But that's the children's price. You and I will pay $59. Yes, of course, plus tax and tip. So about $80 per adult. It includes free valet parking, and the music of the superb jazz clarinetist (and protege of Pete Fountain) Tim Laughlin.
Wow. This will not be a weekly tradition for a lot of people. Sunday brunch is for relaxing with familiar food, like on Thanksgiving. Not a time for matching wits with a chef who's trying to advance the cuisine. (Gazpacho cloud?) Look for this menu concept to evolve rather drastically in the first year, and cross your fingers that they don't go to a buffet.
Brunch runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Sunday.
Blue Room, Roosevelt Hotel. CBD: 123 Baronne. 504-648-1200.
Wednesday, September 23. Surprise Boudin. A Wake For Ben. Last Call At Acme. Mary Ann was hard at work making food for the gathering after Ben Bragg's funeral tomorrow. She is making two large vats of jambalaya. Among the fixings for this were two packages of Manda boudin. Manda is a meat curer and smoker in Baton Rouge, with a major presence in the delis of local supermarkets. In general, I have not found its products to be as good as some other local producers out there. And boudin is not something that seems to lend itself to vacuum packing. Every example I've had of that has been somewhere between execrable and unfortunate.
But even with that prejudice, my first suspicious bite of the Manda boudin made me want another bite right away. Some of the deliciousness was there because Mary Ann had grilled it over much too hot a fire in the Big Green Egg, and the skin was black and blistered. (Blackening and blistering are MA's cooking specialties, along with making sausages explode.) But there was more to it than that. The flavor was complicated by pork liver and herbs. By the time I was ready to leave for the South Shore, I'd consumed two whole links of boudin. This stuff was incredibly good. It was very, very spicy--perhaps too much for some people, but not for me. I hope this remains consistent. I'm going to buy more of it. I think she got it from Winn-Dixie.
This was the only day this week I will be in the studio, and I had to go over to cut some commercials and for other jobs. I left immediately after the show for Ben's wake. It was raining very hard, and I couldn't find the funeral home. It had moved since the last time I was there. (Ironically, that was for the services for Charles Lanaux, the father of two boys in the Scout unit Ben and Jude belonged to.)
It was just as well that I arrived with only forty-five minutes left in the visitation period. The funeral home was packed with so many people you could hardly move. I wasn't surprised to see almost everybody in the extended Scout family, including lots of not-a-boy-anymores and their dads who I haven't encountered in years. But who were all these other people? I stood in line for over a half-hour to give my condolences to Ben's parents George and Margo, close friends of ours. They were--as they had every right to be, given the freakishness of the accident that took their son--overwhelmed with grief. Margo hardly made sense when we spoke. She was talking about going ahead with an upcoming marathon run for which she had been training, or something like that. But how could one keep one's poise after such a loss? It brings tears to my eyes just to write about it.
Jude was there, of course. It was the first time I'd seen him in many weeks. Ben was an important character in many happy times of our lives for over a decade. All the other players in those episodes were here, too. It was hard.
The gathering broke up. No one in my family had eaten supper; everyone was hungry. But not many restaurants are open after nine on a weeknight. We wound up at our default: the Acme Oyster House. But its dining room was completely empty. I hate to keep a restaurant open single-handedly. But the manager, who knows us as very regular customers, told us that they were open until ten, and we shouldn't give it a second thought.
So here came two dozen char-grilled oysters, a bowl of gumbo for Jude, a fried oyster plate for me, a wedge salad for Mary Leigh, and a glass of water for Mary Ann, who picked from all the other plates. We talked about Ben.
Lakeview: 6262 Fleur de Lis Dr.. 504-488-0888.
AE MC V
WHY IT'S ESSENTIAL
No local restaurant enjoys as enthusiastic a crowd of regular customers as Tony Angello's. The supplicants span all age groups and come from all neighborhoods. The draw is an assortment of complete dinners at very attractive prices, with enough unique items to make dining her seem special. The ultimate menu, ordered by three out of four diners, is the "Feed Me, Mr. Tony," with a dozen or so special of the evening in four or five courses.
WHY IT'S GOOD
Tony Angello's purveys the definitive Creole-Italian style of cooking. It's pure New Orleans--you'd never find this stuff cooked this way. That is not a bad thing, but you have to be ready for it. Tony's range of cooking is much wider than you might imagine, and if you become his friend (that doesn't take much--he's a famously warm guy) and express an interest, you'll find yourself eating dishes not often seen anywhere else. New shapes of pasta with new sauces. Tripe. Cucuzzas from somebody's back yard. It's always interesting.
The story that dominates this restaurant's history is that it was inundated well up its roof--at least ten feet deep--after Katrina. The infamous Lakeview levee breach was a few blocks away. Nevertheless, Mr. Tony, on the verge of his eighties, decided he had to repair and reopen. The restaurant was so popular in its early years in Gentilly that when it moved to Lakeview in the early 1970s, for many years its phone number was unlisted.
The large main dining room has low lighting and a conviviality that's not ruined by loudness. (How they accomplish that with such a low ceiling is a mystery.) It's more comfortable than elegant, with an antique quality, even though the entire interior needed to be rebuilt from the floor up after the storm. The wait staff is young but in the thrall of their boss.
"Feed me, Mr. Tony": a many-small-course sampling of the night's specials.
Lobster cup (a small casserole).
Eggplant Tina (like lasagna but eggplant instead of pasta).
Trout Rosa (with crabmeat).
Lemon ice box pie.
FOR BEST RESULTS
Become a friend of the restaurant by dining on weeknights and opening your palate to new dishes. Avoid weekends, unless you enjoy an extended pre-dinner cocktail hour.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
In the Feed, there will always be at least two stridently mediocre items. It's also a mystery as to why this place often serves pasta twice in a single meal.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment +1
- Consistency +2
- Service +2
- Value +2
- Attitude +1
- Wine and Bar +1
- Hipness -2
- Local Color +1
- Good for business meetings
- Small private room
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
When my presence was discovered, Mr. Tony was at the table with the hug he's famous for. In his eighties, still going strong. You've got to love the guy. Dale, the long-time dining room manager, came out too. "You want some tripe? We have some pasta puttanesca tonight. No, wait--pasta Milanese. Yeah, St. Joseph's day in November. Too bad you didn't come in last week, because we had the last of the home-grown cucuzzas." On and on. This is Tony Angello's.
And then came the food. Pasta in a shape I'd never seen before (like little horns), with chunks of beef and a spicy sauce of tomatoes and cream. Oysters Bienville, always good here. The artichoke soup. Last time I ate this was in early 1977, while working up a review. It tasted tonight exactly as it did then. The pasta Milanese (note: second pasta in this dinner) was extraordinarily good, with a thick tomato sauce well tinged with fennel. It came from somebody's back yard, Dale said.
Then tripe in a tomato sauce with potatoes. Tender and spicy. I learned that Mr. Tony doesn't eat tripe, he just cooks it. In the spare moments among all this largesse, I noticed something I always do here, but forget until I see it again. The dining room is always dressed up with the presence of at least three or four beautiful young women and their husbands or boyfriends. Also here every night: at least two tables with people you know from the news.
This review was updated with new information on 10/1/2009.
Many Chefs Are Serving This As If It's Original And Great
Beef Short Ribs: Threat Or Menace?
For the thirteenth or fourteenth time this year, a restaurant planning a dinner for the Eat Club has proposed beef short ribs as the entree. And for the as-manyeth time, I told the chef to think of something better.
Can anyone distinguish short ribs (even Kobe beef short ribs, whose pedigree is often used as a selling point for these near-scraps) from the kind of beef you'd cook for a long time and then spoon (you can't slice them) onto French bread for a poor boy? They'd be good for that. But not acceptable as an entree in a big-deal dinner.
That is my opinion, anyway. My wife loves the things. But she also thinks macaroni and cheese is beyond reproach. (I have a feeling this may kick up a fuss, but that's my job.)
My theory is that some meat purveyor out there has been selling short ribs very assiduously to every restaurant in town. That's why so many of them are running it.
Why? Because the markup on short ribs is a lot higher than that of a straight steak. I suspect the purveyor makes most of the money, but the restaurants probably do well, too--given that a steak sometime carries as high as fifty percent food cost. Based on menu prices I see for short ribs, my guess is that its food cost percentage (the price paid for it divided by the menu price) is down in the twenties, and maybe the teens. (I will here short-circuit the inevitable response from somebody out there pointing out that there are many other expenses a restaurant carries other than the food cost by saying, yes, I know--but food cost is still an important index.)
The funniest part of all is that all the chefs serving short ribs--all 134 of them--indicate that this amounts to hipness and innovation.
Short ribs--bah. You may have all of mine.
Other perspectives are invited and will be respected, as long as they stay away from my plate. Please post your thoughts, and read those of others, on our
Ten Best Restaurants For Vegetarians
Most good restaurants can address the needs of vegetarians. If the kitchen buys fresh produce, knows how to cook, and is free to invent new dishes on the fly (or cook what their customers dream up), then it can address the vegetarian's needs.
The following restaurants have a particularly good track record of serving first-class vegetarian dishes, either on the menu or off. Don't be afraid to ask any of these to make a specific vegetarian dish. The ranking is according to the interest level of the vegetarian dishes, not the menu as a whole.
1. Bayona. French Quarter: 430 Dauphine. 504-525-4455. Susan Spicer has long maintained a vegetarian dish or two on her standing menu, and buys fine raw materials to work with.
2. Andrea's. Metairie: 3100 19th Street. 504-834-8583. The best vegetarian dish here is an assortment of antipasto, most of which is made with fresh vegetables. But with the pasta and risotto possibilities, and a wide variety of fresh produce to work with, you may create. In fact, Chef Andrea Apuzzo encourages this.
3. Nirvana. Uptown: 4308 Magazine. 504-894-9797. The Indian cuisines are largely vegetarian to begin with, and this place takes full advantage of that with about a third of the menu consisting of vegetarian options.
4. Thai Thai. Covington: 1536 US 190. 985-809-8905. Thai restaurants are strong on fresh vegetables to begin with, and make everything to order with a choice of meats. It's no problem for them to cook almost anything on their menu with no meat at all, with no loss of flavor.
5. Trey Yuen. Mandeville: 600 Causeway Blvd.. 985-626-4476. Most Chinese restaurants create dozens of vegetarian dishes, but Trey Yuen is better at that than most. A particularly good example is the moo-shu vegetables, dominated by exotic mushrooms.
6. Emeril’s. Warehouse District: 800 Tchoupitoulas. 504-528-9393. No vegetarian dishes on the menu, but they always have a vegetarian special. Emeril's kitchen has always been driven by an aggressive fresh-food-buying effort, so there's plenty back there to work with.
7. Cafe Giovanni. French Quarter: 117 Decatur. 504-529-2154. Here's another spectacular, mostly-vegetable antipasto assortment (you can ask to have the seafood and meat selections left out). And a wide-ranging pasta department, with interesting mushrooms always on hand.
8. Muriel's. French Quarter: 801 Chartres. 504-568-1885. The menu includes not only a vegetarian dish, but another one that's fully vegan. This shows friendliness to vegetarianism, a good sign.
9. Lebanon’s Cafe. Riverbend: 1500 S. Carrollton Ave.. 504-862-6200. Lebanon's menu is riddled with vegetarian dishes, plus meaty dishes that can be made vegetarian. They do this without a second thought.
10. Byblos. Old Metairie: 1501 Metairie Rd.. 504-834-9773. ||Uptown: 3218 Magazine. 504-894-1233. Lebanese restaurants are good bets for vegetarian dining. Byblos uses better ingredients than most Middle Eastern places. Its lentil soup, falafel, salads, and spinach pie are a good start, and there's plenty more where that came from.
On my first visit to Italy, we were served risotto with every meal. My favorite versions were those made with green vegetables. Every time I see asparagus in the store, risotto crosses my mind. The critical ingredient is Arborio rice, a variety now widely available even in supermarkets. It's extra starchy and creates the texture you need. I would also highly recommend using either Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese. Both are expensive, but intense in flavor so that you don't need to use as much.
- 1 lb. fresh asparagus
- 1/2 stick butter
- 2 green onions, sliced thin
- 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 cups Arborio rice
- 3 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
- 1 tsp. salt
- 3/4 cup grated Parmigiano cheese
- 3 leaves fresh basil, chopped
- 1 leaf fresh mint, chopped
- 6 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, leaves only, chopped
1. Cut off the bottom tough inch or so of the asparagus and discard. Cut off the top inch of all the spears and set aside. Slice the asparagus stalks into little disks about 1/4 inch thick.
2. Heat half the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Sauté the green onions, asparagus, salt and crushed red pepper until the asparagus is tender. Add the rice and sauté for about four minutes, stirring more or less constantly.
3. Dissolve the salt in the stock, and add the stock, one cup at a time, stirring until the rice has absorbed almost all the liquid. The rice is done when there is no crunch left in the center, but don't allow it to get mushy. It should, however, become creamy.
4. Bring a small saucepan of water to a simmer, and cook the asparagus tips for three minutes, or until tender. (Even better: steam them, if you have a steamer.) Drain and stir the tips into the rice, along with the Parmigiano, basil, mint, parsley, and the rest of the butter.
Serves four to six.
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