It has been years since I last made a risotto - years! I made risottos all the time in the Nineties. Like the soufflé, risotto is a dish that rings infinite changes on a constant technique.
There are times when I think that I'm not making risotto correctly, because I don't find it difficult and I don't stand over the stove for forty minutes, stirring constantly. I set the table; I tear the salad greens and toss the salad; I open the wine and fill the pitcher with ice water. I do not hustle. That's what makes making risotto so satisfying. While the rice drinks in the broth, everything else pertinent to dinner can be taken care of, and the result is a complex one-dish meal that's a nice change from chop, starch and veg.
For some time now, I've been meaning to make a risotto - with shrimp. Yesterday morning, I decided that "tonight's the night." An prudent cook would have consulted a cookbook or two, but I wasn't in the mood to be haunted by good advice. This is what I came up with.
First, finely chop a small onion, a shallot, and a clove of garlic. Then, in a medium saucepan, combine two cans of chicken broth and a bottle of clam juice. Add the shells from 3/4 pound of shrimp to the broth and bring it to a simmer. (See note, below, about peeling shrimp.)
Into a heated sauté pan combine a tablespoon of oil with a tablespoon of butter. Soften the onion mixture over medium heat. Add a heaping 1/2 cup of arborio rice. When the grains become translucent (but for their kernels), pour a ladleful of simmering broth into the pan through a strainer. Reduce the heat somewhat, so that, instead of boiling away, the broth will be absorbed by the swelling rice. Add more broth in the same way as it is absorbed. You may decide that the risotto is done before you've used all of the broth.
When the risotto is nearly done, add the shrimp from which the shells were taken. You may cut the shrimp into bite-sized pieces or you may cook it whole (I did the latter). When the shrimp is cooked, add a few tablespoons of heavy cream, a tablespoon of grated parmesan cheese, and a teaspoon of dried sage. Salt and white pepper to taste. Stir the risotto well and reduce the heat to the minimum. Let the risotto sit for a moment in the pan. Then serve it forth with a tossed green salad.
This serves two somewhat generously.
If you're having dinner with Kathleen, she will surprise you by not saying that you've given her too much. And she'll finish it all up long before you do - if you happen to be me.
A word about peeling shrimp. Shrimp shells, like fish heads, are loaded with flavor, and it's a shame not to use them to intensify the the clam juice with shrimp essence. Peeling and deveining shrimp need not be a nuisance if you acquire this rather sinister shrimp peeling knife Both edges are sharp. The curved part deveins while the hooked part opens the shell. Even a klutz like me can do it without inflicting grievous bodily harm.
Sadly, I can't remember where I got it. (March 2007)
Copyright (c) 2007 Pourover Press