Saturday, September 10, 2011

Asparagus Risotto

I have been in a fog for the past several days once we returned home from being evacuated due to the Steiner Ranch fires.  We are trying to get back to normal, though the fire is still only 80% contained and there are flare ups often.   Today after hearing sirens and seeing StarFlight, I thought "here we go again" then sadly found out later that a Sheriff who had been protecting our neighborhood died of a heart attack.   What is normal now?

They shut the power grid to our subdivision off during the fires so you can imagine what the status of our refrigerators was.   Almost everything had to go and we have been back and forth to the grocery store twice this week alone.  A note of thank you to HEB, who gave every Steiner Ranch family $5.00 off their bill at checkout.   That was a very kind gesture.

At our last grocery outing I saw a small bag of arborio rice and grabbed it.   Yesterday afternoon I pulled out some asparagus and knew it would be perfect to add to my risotto.   The Bionic Man bought two Sea Bass steaks as well and we had the fixings for a lovely, peaceful dinner.   I enlisted the help of our daughter, Emma, who likes to be in the kitchen the same time as me, and she was the perfect little stirrer and monitor for the risotto.   I hope this recipe helps you to create the same serene setting as it did for us!

Asparagus Risotto

  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 1/2 C arborio rice
  • 1 C white wine
  • 4 1/2 C chicken stock, simmering on the stove
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 lb asparagus, chopped into 1/2 " pieces
  • salt to taste
  • Parmesan, freshly grated
Directions:   In a stock pot over medium-low heat, bring chicken stock to a simmer.   In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the shallot, cooking for a few minutes.   Add the arborio rice and saute another 5 minutes, stirring so it doesn't burn.   Add the 1 C of wine and continue stirring (watching) until it is almost evaporated.   Then, systematically add 1/2 C chicken stock to rice, stirring to incorporate. When it is almost completely absorbed, add another 1/2 C chicken stock.   Repeat until almost all the stock has been used.   Add 1/2 of the chopped asparagus at this point so it can cook (not the tips) and finish using the chicken stock by the method above.   This usually takes upward of 15-20 minutes.

While adding stock to your risotto, and in a separate little fry pan, melt the 2 T butter and saute 1/2 of the chopped asparagus (include the tips here).   Hold as this will be the garnish.

Remove Risotto from heat once the chicken stock is gone.   Rice should be creamy and tender but not mushy and the asparagus should be steamed but again, not mushy at all.   Taste, season with salt, stir and taste again.   Add freshly grated Parmesan cheese directly into the rice and stir once more to incorporate.

Plate the risotto and top with the sauted asparagus and serve.   We added a simple pan seared piece of Sea Bass next to our risotto and topped both is the sauted asparagus for a delicious meal.

asparagus risotto with seared sea bass

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Evacuated from the Steiner Ranch Fires

I'm thankful I have a moment to pause, reflect and write a blog post about our experience in having to evacuate from our home in 10 minutes due to fires in our neighborhood of Steiner Ranch, Austin, Texas.   Our home is standing without damage just a bit of soot, though many of our friends and neighbors lost everything.

We knew there was a fire nearby, but had no idea of the BEAST it had become.   My husband and I debated about if we'd go or stay, and talked about what we would need to take, and where we'd go.  He had already packed the guns into this truck and I had taken my daughter's 5 year old goldfish, Happy, out of his tank and into a small to-go bowl, just in case.  

We were standing in the dining room when I got a call entitled Emergency on caller ID.   It was the Travis County Sheriff's Department, press 1 for a message... "evacuate NOW".   Pause... don't cry.... deep breath.... MOVE!   We didn't communicate verbally but went to work systematically grabbing what we could.   I ran upstairs to tell our 8 year old daughter, Emma, it was time to go.   Tears welled up in her eyes and she became a bit hysterical.   "Go grab some toys," I told her calmly, trying not to cry myself.   I knew if I had her focus she would do better.

I grabbed Happy the Goldfish, who wasn't really happy in a small bowl and got him wrapped up in a towel, plate, blanket contraption so he wouldn't jump out and would be safe on our journey.   Grabbed files from our desk; social security file, birth cert file, wills file, auto titles file, insurance file, passports.   Then unplugged the computer and grabbed the PC tower.  In and out through the garage to my SUV while my husband was loading up his truck with what he thought was necessary.   Jewelry box, address books, a change of clothing, tooth brushes and that was that.   We were out the door in 10 minutes.

Our drive to my Mother-in-Laws home was longer as the main road across Mansfield Dam had been shut down.  Those were the longest 25 minutes of my life as I was listening to a hysterical child cry, two yowling cats in different tones and a flipped out fish.   My husband, in front of me, had total peace and quiet.   How did that happen???

The next two days I tried to get as much information as I could about the fires, and luckily through social media was completely informed.   Knowing I needed to do more, I've started a clothing collection point in the storage building behind my office.   Starting tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m., I'll be accepting donations of all kinds for those families who lost everything.   Additionally, I've contacted Austin Christian Fellowship and will be coordinating through them in getting the clothing, etc to those in need.

Whew... we are home and so blessed but so many others are not as fortunate and it breaks my heart knowing our friends, neighbors and Central Texans have lost everything.   If you are in the local are and would like to donate, please drop off at the Bartlett Real Estate Group, 6816 N FM 620.  We are next to the Boat House Grill in Four Points.  If you'd like to help sort, come on over!   If anything, please say a prayer for those affected and ask God for some much needed rain as well!