Saffron Risotto with Shrimp
By Wolfgang Puck
Thanks to modern shipping, you can find decent shrimp in the seafood section of supermarkets year 'round. But, loving to cook with the seasons as I do, right now I'm enjoying the fact that they're in peak supply.
One of my favorite ways to serve shrimp is on top of risotto, the classic rice dish from Milan, Italy.
Years ago, nobody would have thought to cook risotto at home, enjoying it only when they dined at upscale Italian restaurants. The chewy short-grain rice suspended in a creamy sauce seemed almost magical, a world removed from steamed rice.
These days, risotto at home seems almost as common as pasta.
Cooks everywhere have discovered that making it successfully is simply a matter of having the right ingredients, adding good broth and seasonings, and stirring, stirring, stirring.
Great risotto depends on using short-grained rice such as Arborio, the best-known risotto variety, or the less familiar but equally good Carnaroli or Vialone Nano. You'll find Arborio in many supermarkets, and all three are common to the shelves of Italian delis and gourmet shops. What sets them apart is their abundant surface starch, which, while they cook to the desired chewy texture, dissolves and thickens the cooking liquid.
Apart from a little white wine to kick off the cooking, the main liquid in risotto is stock or broth. Restaurant chefs will usually use freshly made stock. For home cooking, though, just look for good organic store-bought broth, preferably with low sodium content. If you have some extra time, enrich its flavor beforehand by simmering it for half an hour or so with some chopped carrots, celery, onion, and a sprig of thyme.
Speaking of flavorings, authentic risottos also include a pinch of saffron, the exotic spice that gives it a brilliant yellow color and intoxicating perfume. Yes, it's expensive. But a little of those saffron threads, as they're called, goes a long way. It's a kitchen investment worth making.
Then there's the cooking. For the best results, stir diligently, adding broth bit by bit, a process that helps dissolve the surface starch and coaxes the rice to just the right tender but still slightly chewy texture.
Finally, be sure that everyone is ready to eat when the risotto is done, as the dish is best enjoyed freshly made. That's why quick-cooking shrimp are such a perfect topping, though you could also serve the risotto with grilled chicken breast or slowly braised meats like the veal osso bucco for which risotto is a traditional accompaniment.
Once you've made your first batch, you'll feel perfectly comfortable. And you'll have mastered a dish that you can enjoy again and again, from shrimp season well into the colder months of fall and winter.
Saffron Risotto with Shrimp Recipe
1 to 1-1/2 cups low sodium organic chicken broth, hot
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced shallots
1/2 cup Arborio rice
Pinch saffron threads
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground white pepper
8 large fresh shrimp, peeled, deveined, and halved lengthwise
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
Minced fresh parsley leaves, for garnish
In a small saucepan, bring the chicken broth to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to very low, cover, and keep hot.
Put 2 tablespoons each of the butter and olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the garlic and shallots and saute, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until soft but not yet browned, about 3 minutes.
Add the rice and saffron and saute, stirring, until the rice grains are well coated, about 1 minute. Add the wine and boil it, stirring continuously, until it has been almost completely absorbed by the rice, about 3 minutes.
Using a ladle, add about 1/2 cup of the hot broth to the rice. Still over medium heat, stir continuously until the broth has been absorbed and the rice looks almost dry, about 3 minutes. Add another ladleful and repeat the procedure, stirring after each addition until it has been absorbed, continuing just until most of the broth has been used and the rice is tender but still chewy, surrounded by a creamy but not runny sauce.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the remaining butter and the Parmesan cheese. Season to taste with salt and white pepper and, if the risotto seems a little dry, stir in the last of the broth.
Immediately heat the remaining olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Season the shrimp with salt and white pepper and saute them until they turn white and firm, 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle them with lemon juice.
Spoon the risotto to form beds on 2 serving plates and arrange the shrimp attractively on top. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately.
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