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An Early Spring Meal

Chef Morgen Jacobson
New York, New York

Steamed Artichokes
Asparagus, Lemon, Pancetta Risotto
Fresh Strawberries with Chantilly Cream

Steamed Artichokes

2 large artichokes
1/2 stick butter
1 tsp mustard, any type
1 lemon (will use juice from half, zest and juice for risotto)
Table salt
Black pepper

1. Set a steamer basket into a pot large enough to hold the two artichokes. Add water until it just comes through the basket.

2. Trim the tough outer leaves off the artichokes by pulling them off. Using a sharp paring knife, trim the outer skin away from the stems of the artichokes, you will need to remove about 1/8 inch from each side.

3. Bring the water to a boil, place the artichokes in the steamer basket and cover tightly. Cook until the artichokes are tender and easily pierced with a skewer of small knife, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand until ready to serve.

4. Meanwhile, prepare the dipping sauce. Gently melt the butter in a small pot. Stir in the mustard and the juice from 1/2 lemon. Add salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm until ready to serve.

5. Cut the cooked artichokes in half lengthwise using a large knife. Trim away all the fuzzy "choke," leaving the tender heart and stem attached to the leaves. Serve on 4 plates with the sauce in small dishes on the side.

Asparagus Lemon Risotto

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced
4 cloves of garlic
2 Tbsp olive oil
5-6 handfuls of Arborio or Carnaroli rice, Note: Allow one handful per guest plus 1 or 2 cups extra
4 cups chicken stock or low sodium chicken broth
Black pepper, preferably from a pepper mill
2 oz. grated parmesan cheese
the juice of 1/2 of a lemon (the other half is used for the artichoke sauce)
the zest of one whole lemon, removed using a grater or zesting tool
4 oz. Diced raw bacon or ham
1/4 bunch of flat leaf parsley (curly may be substituted)
1 bunch fresh asparagus, cut into 2-inch sections, bottoms discarded

1. Heat the olive oil in a wide heavy bottomed pan, at medium. When just warm, add the bacon, onion and garlic. Sweat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are clear and sweetly fragrant.
2. Add the rice, stir to combine. (For a creamier, thicker ending texture, continue to stir the rice for 2-3 minutes before adding any liquid. I prefer not to do this.)
3. Add enough of the chicken stock or broth to just cover the rice. Stir to combine and reduce the heat to medium-low. Allow the mixture to simmer and stir occasionally.
4. When most of the liquid has been absorbed, taste the rice for texture. If it is slightly more firm than "al dente," then add enough stock to thin the mixture slightly and remove the mixture to a brownie pan or roasting tray. Set it in the refrigerator to cool. If the rice is hard when tested, add enough stock to just cover and simmer to the stage mentioned above.
5. When ready to serve, return the risotto to the pot. Place it over low heat and add enough stock to loosen the risotto.
6. When the risotto is warm, add the cut asparagus, lemon zest and parsley. Add the parmesan, salt and pepper to your taste. Add stock to desired consistency (or water if you have used all the broth). Add a splash of lemon juice, to your taste.
7. Serve the risotto hot.

The risotto can be held after the first stage of cooking, tightly covered and refrigerated, for up to one week.

Strawberries with Chantilly Cream

1 basket ripe strawberries, washed, tops removed
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 pint heavy cream, well chilled
1/4 tsp ground ginger or cinnamon

1. Slice the strawberries lengthwise into quarters. In a bowl, toss them with the sugar and 1/2 tsp of the vanilla. Set aside.

2. Meanwhile, whip the cream with the remaining vanilla and the ground ginger or cinnamon. Whip to soft peaks. Note: In whipping cream, it helps to chill the bowl being used before adding the cream.

3. To serve: divide the strawberries between 4 dishes, top with some whipped cream and serve.

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