Friday, October 10, 2008

Shrimp risotto with peas and basil

It's been a long while since I've made risotto and I really don't know why. It's not nearly as hard as its reputation makes it out to be and it's a good way to use up whatever scraps of ingredients you've got lying around. I wonder if anyone's cataloged the various traditional toss-in-the-leftovers recipes in various cuisines. I'll have to take a look around.

In this particular case I found myself with a sudden overwhelming craving for shrimp risotto. Which is odd really as it's not something I've ever had before and the versions I've seen on cooking shows haven't been all that appealing. But if it made sense you wouldn't call it a craving. I do have risotto rice around; I guess it must be more than a year old since I know I haven't been using it. I've got a half pound of shrimp left in the freezer along with the fish/shrimp stock I made with the leftover bits from this recipe. And I figured it would go nicely with basil which I've got in the garden. I did a bit of research to see what else I might add and I came up with this:

1/2 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine (I happen to have a dry Riesling on hand which, by chance, is a pretty good choice to match these flavors)
1 1/2 cups shrimp stock (or fish stock or clam juice or just water's probably fine)
1/2 pound shrimp, whatever size you like
1/2 cup peas (fresh English peas preferably. Freezer-burnt Publix peas will do in a pinch.)
1/2 cup finely shredded Pecorino Romano (don't substitute Parmesan. The more pungent flavor of an aged Romano works better here.)
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
3 cloves finely chopped garlic (and some shallots if you've got some)
1 small handful fresh basil (and I added some chives since the recent rain means I've got a lot of that too)
1 Tablespoon butter
2 Tablespoon olive oil
pinch of red pepper flakes

I really wanted to get the basil flavor well distributed through the risotto without it being overwhelmingly strong so I figured my best bet was to make a basil butter for toasting the rice. I roughly chopped the leaves (and the chives) and put them with the butter into my spice grinder. It didn't really work so well so I added a Tablespoon of olive oil and some coarse sea salt. That helped. So I ended up with something fairly smooth.

Next I defrosted the fish/shrimp stock in the microwave and kept heating it until it reached a simmer. Traditionally, you'd keep a pot of stock warm on the stove next to the pan with the rice but I didn't feel like dirtying another pot. When it looked about time to add more stock I ran the microwave for another minute to bring the stock up to temperature. Oh, and I also defrosted the peas.

To start the risotto proper, I heated a Tablespoon of olive oil in a medium saucepan and then sweated the onion and garlic with a bit of salt, pepper and the red pepper flakes. After three minutes I dumped in the basil butter and rice and toasted it for a couple minutes more.

Once the rice was going translucent and smelling a bit toasty I added the wine and turned down the heat to low. I let it simmer, stirring every few minutes, until the wine was almost entirely absorbed and then added a ladle of stock. Let that get absorbed, added another ladle. I think I went five ladles in all over maybe 25 minutes. Twice as much half as often would have done just as well, probably. I added the peas a bit too early. I should have waited for the last 10 minutes. Constant stirring isn't necessary, but hanging around the kitchen and keeping an eye on the pot is. Bring a book.

When the rice was just barely done--no longer chalky but not fully soft either--I added the cheese and the shrimp, took it off the heat, covered it and let it sit for three minutes. My medium shrimp were maybe just a touch underdone so you might put in the shrimp first, leave it on the heat for a minute or two and then finish it off with the cheese.

I served it with a garnish of a bit more basil chiffinaded and that was that. The recipe makes enough for two if you have a salad too. If you're going to double it, go light on the liquids to adjust for how rice absorbs. Risotto doesn't store at all well so only make as much as you're going to eat.

So how was it? Not bad at all. I usually have trouble getting the rice fully cooked, but by turning the heat really low this time it worked out well--soft but not mushy. The flavor is bright, a bit funky from the Romano with a light herbal overlay. All the components are subtly combined into a pleasing whole I found difficult to unpick even knowing what was in it. The peas are a bit overcooked but retain some distinctive flavor and still pop satisfyingly between the teeth. The only real weakness is the shrimp; I should have brined them. And, maybe, I should have fried them in the herb butter at start to mix the flavors in both components. Still, a very good first try for a shrimp risotto. Maybe next time I'll forgo the cheese and finish it off with lemon zest and cream. Plenty of options, really.

1 comment:

kat said...

I love love love making risotto. Like you said its perfect for the scraps of things.