|Bulgur 'Risotto' with Roasted Asparagus
4 to 6 cups homemade chicken stock
1 bunch (16 spears, about 1 pound) asparagus, woody stems removed and reserved
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 ounces pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 large shallot, minced (about 1/4 cup)
1 1/2 cup bulgur wheat
1 ounce sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
4 ounces of brie, rind removed, cut into small cubes
Lemon wedges, for squeezing over finished risotto is desired
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Add your woody asparagus stems to the chicken stock, and bring to a simmer while you roast the asparagus. Toss the asparagus with the butter, oil, and salt, and arrange in one layer on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for about 15 minutes, until the spears become tender and have browned. Cut into 2-inch pieces and set aside. Remove the woody asparagus from the simmering stock and discard. Keep it hot.
While the asparagus is roasting, fry the pancetta in a large sauté pan over medium heat until the fat has rendered and the cubes are brown and crisp, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the cubes, leaving 2 tablespoons of pork fat in the pan. Add the shallots and cook until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the bulgur, and stir to coat the grains in the fat and to toast them slightly, about 2 minutes. Add 1 cup of stock and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until the stock has been absorbed.
Add additional stock 1/2 cup at a time, stirring regularly as you would with risotto, until the bulgur is tender when you taste it. You may have a bit of stock left over. The process will take between 15 and 25 minutes depending on things like the grind of your bulgur, the width of your sauté pan, the heat on your stove, etc. You just need to taste and see. Stir in brie, the reserved pancetta cubes, the sun-dried tomatoes, and the asparagus. Add additional stock if you’d like a saucier consistency. Adjust for seasoning at the very end; pancetta lends plenty of salt. Squeeze with a bit of lemon juice, and serve. - serves 4 - Joy Manning