"The Vegetables" by James McMichael + Asparagus Risotto

A couple of years ago, someone asked me what my signature dish was, and without hesitation, I replied with risotto. It surprises me now, because when I first started cooking, risotto was one of my least favorite things to make. I thought all the stirring and waiting wasn't worth my time. I lacked patience. I didn't see the beauty in the process. These are lessons I've learned now, but as a young, inexperienced cook, I didn't find value suspended in the grains of rice, but a pan filled with great risk. Risotto, as you may know, benefits from a good amount of loving attention. If you drift away and let the liquid absorb too much, the rice may stick to the bottom of the pan, or even worse, burn.

Once I warmed to the idea of maintaining constant watch on the stove, I still wasn't confident enough to know risotto's nuances. I wasn't certain if the rice was done, if it needed or less stock, or how much cheese to add. But with time, patience, and practice, comes intuition. Today, I just know when the rice is done. Then, I give the pan a triumphant shake, melt the butter and Parmesan, and whip the rice around with a wooden spoon until it flows like a river over smooth rocks. I always smile when I eat it, too.