Our time out at WestWard last week was all about comfort. And very few foods speak to me of comfort as a big bowl of risotto. I have used shrimp a bunch in the past but thought they lacked a bit of flavor adding them into cook along with the rice, so this time I roasted them in the oven while I cooked the risotto so they had tons more flavor. Here is what I did, which was super simple.
Take shrimp and pile them onto a sheet pan. Chop up a few cloves of garlic quite fine. Add that to the pile of shrimp. Then a big glug of extra virgin olive oil. Plus a few big pinches of salt & pepper. With your hands, mix it all together, gently working it all amongst the shrimp. Then spread them out on the baking sheet. Add to a 400 degree oven for 7 to 9 minutes. Be careful to not overcook, as they will cook a bit more in the risotto in the last 5 minutes of that cooking process. Take off the baking sheet when done and put onto a plate to cool. If they stay on the hot sheet, they will continue to cook more. Set plate of shrimp aside. You can either cook the shrimp before you start the risotto or while, your call. Either is fine.
OK, here we go. Risotto. Cooking it scares some people, other people say how easy it is. I fall in the middle. I have made risotto for many years, and it was a bit of trial & error at first. This is what I have learned works. My biggest error at first is I did not have the chicken stock that you add ladle by ladle as the risotto cooks, hot enough. You will need 8 cups of chicken stock, homemade is preferred, but stock in a box is also completely fine. Heat up the stock to not quite a boil, then turn down the heat a bit, but the stock should remain hot thru the entire risotto cooking process.
Next, and here is where I like to use a good sized Le Creuset pot for cooking the risotto in, add a liberal dose of butter and cook a diced onion and shallot till they are not quite brown. Then add a good amount of olive oil to that, along with 2 cups of arborio rice. It is essential that you use arborio rice for this. Coat the rice with the butter and oil mixture, and sauté for a minute or two to cook thru, but don’t brown the rice. All of the above is done over medium heat, but stove tops vary greatly, so adjust accordingly.
Now the liquids begin. Add one cup of white wine to the mixture. I like to use a white that we will be serving with the meal. Stir rice till the wine is absorbed. The depth of flavor the wine adds to the finished product is really noticeable. Now the waiting hot stock takes center stage. Add one cup of stock to the mixture, stirring till the stock is fully absorbed. What holds many folks back about making risotto is there is a good amount of stirring involved. A constant stir is not necessary, but pretty close. This is where the white wine you opened comes in quite nicely. Sipping a little white wine during the risotto making process is a personal favorite–it is my break from stirring. Continue adding the hot stock one cup at a time, and the rice will become creamier as you go, as it releases the natural starches. Add the 7th cup of stock. At this point, you will be about 20 to 25 minutes into the rice cooking process. You are almost there. Now add the package of frozen peas and the chives you have chopped up. Stir. Add a cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Stir. Turn off the heat. Add most of the cooked shrimp, holding back a few to adorn the top of the bowls you are about to serve. Add your last cup of stock. Stir. Add a dusting of salt & fresh ground black pepper. Stir. Put on the lid. Let sit for 5 minutes, have another sip of your white wine, as we are almost done.
Once that 5 minutes has passed, give it one last stir. In a bowl add the risotto mixture, then add a few pieces of the garlicky shrimp to the top of each bowl and finally a few sprinkles of the grated Parmesan. A bit of work, but that will all fade away when you have your first bite.