Shrimp-risottoRisotto is a northern Italian rice dish made with polished short-grain rice, such as Arborio, Carnaroli, Maratelli, or Vialone Nano, which will absorb about three times its volume in liquid. I am a big fan of risotto, and the love and care that you can actually taste when it is made properly. With risotto, the rice is the star of the show – the proper timing of the release of the amylopectin starches in the short-grain rice gives risotto its creamy texture. Some chefs cheat and add cream to their risotto, which in my opinion ruins the flavor and eclipses the rice.

With the technique below, you can make myriad variations of risotto. The rich flavor of risotto varies depending on the broth and garnishes cooked with the rice. Just remember, the rice is always the star. I have recently experimented with whole-grain rice as well, an exciting way to make risotto without using white rice.

{ Serves 10 }

2 tablespoons plus 3 tablespoons plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 pound shrimp, shelled and deveined

2 tablespoons diced preserved lemon rinds (see recipe below to make your own)

½ cup fresh peas

1 cup finely chopped shallots

2 cups Arborio or Carnaroli rice

¾ cup white wine

6 cups shellfish stock (see recipe below to make your own)

Freshly grated pecorino cheese (optional)

In a medium sauté pan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter and add the garlic. Heat the garlic for about 30 seconds, or until warm but not hot. Add the shrimp and cook until the shrimp turn opaque, about 2 to 3 minutes, depending on size. Do not overcook the shrimp. Remove the pan from the heat and toss in the lemon rinds. Let the shrimp absorb the lemon, butter, and garlic flavors in the sauté pan while you make the rice.

Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil. Add the peas and cook for 1 minute. Drain quickly and add the peas to the top of the shrimp in the sauté pan. Do not stir.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter. Add the shallots and sauté until soft and translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the rice. Parch the rice by cooking it for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the wine and continue cooking until the mixture reduces to nearly dry, or “sec.”

Add the stock to the rice mixture ¼ cup at a time, so the rice can slowly absorb the liquid. Stir continuously. This process takes about 17 to 20 minutes.

Taste the risotto to determine if it is ready. Traditional risotto is served al dente, but if you prefer softer risotto, cook it a bit longer. Add the shrimp and pea mixture let it warm for 1 to 2 minutes. When the risotto is ready to serve, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter to finish. The risotto should have a light, creamy consistency. Traditionally, cheese is not served with fish or seafood risotto, but if you like it, add it!

SHELLFISH STOCK

When making paella or risotto, I spend more time on the stock than anything else. This stock is well worth the time. You can double or triple this recipe and freeze the stock if you wish. When prepping shellfish for your paella or risotto, be sure to reserve the shells to use in this stock. If you do not have enough, you can ask your local fishmonger to reserve some shrimp shells for you.

{ MAKES 2 QUARTS }

2 to 3 pounds shrimp shells

1 pound lobster shells, broken into pieces

3 medium leeks, cleaned and sliced

1 medium onion, sliced

1 large carrot, chopped

1 small fennel bulb, sliced

3 quarts filtered water or spring water, cold

1 head garlic, halved horizontally

½ bunch of thyme

½ bunch parsley

4 bay leaves

1 tablespoon white peppercorns

Place all ingredients in a large stockpot and bring to a boil, uncovered. Decrease the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 1½ hours. Taste the stock, and if it is not flavorful enough, continue simmering for up to 1 more hour, tasting again after 30 minutes. Strain the stock through a fine mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth. If the stock is not clear, strain again.

Preserved Lemon

{ MAKES 6 LEMONS }

6 lemons

5 ounces (about 2/3 cup) kosher or sea salt

10 ounces (about 1¼ cup) lemon juice

Wash the lemons very well, scrubbing thoroughly. Cut each lemon into 6 wedges or 1/3-inch-thick rounds. Remove the seeds. Place the lemons in a sterilized glass jar. Add the salt and lemon juice. The jar should be nearly full, and the juice must cover the lemons. Add more juice if necessary. Close a lid tightly on the jar. Store in the back of the refrigerator or any cool, dark place. Rotate the jar daily. Lemons will be ready to use after 4 to 6 weeks. They will keep for 3 to 4 weeks after opening and up to 1 year unopened.

Blog post submitted by Chef Kelly.