Saturday, May 07, 2011

Shrimp Risotto

There is a myth that risotto is a difficult-to-produce, time consuming, restaurant-only dish to be attempted only by the most expert home cook. Nothing could be further from the truth. In my opinion it is more difficult to produce good long-grain rice than it is to produce a risotto. Let me tell you why: for long grain rice produced by western methods (Persians make their rice in a much smarter yet more time consuming manner) one must pre-measure the rice and water, bring to a boil, then simmer and hope that the water:rice ratio and heat rate were exactly right for the presented atmospheric conditions to get a rice with full cooked but individual grains that are not mushy.

On the other hand, risotto does not rely on hope at all. In making a risotto, the cook gets to monitor the rice and make any necessary adjustments. QED.

There are a few extra steps to making risotto - heating the stock, frying the rice, and the step that scares most away: stirring. Yet none of these aspects are insurmountable. Even someone with a 6 week old infant in the house can easily make a risotto.

Shrimp Risotto

Shrimp Risotto

1/2 lb 41/50 shrimp, with shells
1 shallot, finely chopped
a couple cloves of garlic, finely chopped
some spring onions (thank you RMI Good Life Garden, finely chopped
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine (I used 2009 Dancing Bull Sauvignon blanc, California)
shrimp stock (see below)

for the shrimp stock
1 carrot
1/2 onion, quartered
shells from shrimp

for the shrimp
1/2 tbsp butter
1/2 tbsp olive oil
parsley, finely chopped

To make the stock Peel the shrimp and place the shells into a medium saucepan. Set aside the shrimp for later. Roughly chop the carrot and add to the pot. Cut the half onion into a few pieces and add to the pot. Fill the pot with water and set to a boil. As the stock boils it will extract shrimp flavor from the shells. The carrots will give it a slight orange color. Adjust salt to taste. Turn down to low and leave at a simmer.

To start the rice In a heavy pot add some olive oil and heat over medium. Once the oil starts to shimmer, add in the onions, shallot, and garlic. After a minute or two add in the rice. The rice will start to fry and sizzle. Let that go for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Once the rice starts to take on a little bit of color add in the wine. The pan is very hot at this point and most of the wine will flash away, boiling very quickly. When the wine is almost gone ladle in some of the shrimp stock, being careful to avoid bringing along any of the solids (People seem not to like shrimp feet in their risotto). Ladle in enough stock to keep the rice barely covered. Turn the pan down to low and let simmer away. Stir occasionally. When the liquid level drops (it is being absorbed as well as evaporated away) add some more stock with the ladle. This will go on for ~30 minutes. If you run out of stock, just finish with water and adjust the salt later.

To cook the shrimp Melt the butter with the olive oil in a skillet over medium low. When the butter is melted add in the shrimp. Let them braise in the butter/oil mixture until you can see them turn opaque through the tops. Keep covered. Once opaque, flip the shrimp and add the parsley. Recover. The shrimp turn out very tender when cooked this way.

To assemble When the rice is finished and the shrimp are finished, pour all of the cooking liquid from the shrimp into the rice and mix in. This will add additional shrimp flavor and some richness to the risotto. Since it is a shellfish risotto, I don't like to add cheese. The butter/oil will help to bind the risotto and firm up the starchy matrix. Mix in some more chopped parsley if you have any left over. Add salt to taste and allow to cool slightly.

I ate my risotto with some of the Sauvignon blanc that I used to make it. It was perfect for the occasion - It wasn't a spectacular Sauvignon blanc (none of the Sancerre crisp, mineral deliciousness or the California oaky richness) but it was perfect as a beverage to go with dinner.

Antonia enjoyed it (the main goal, of course) and we ate it with a little mixed green salad.