Monday, January 3, 2011

Seafood Risotto

The word "risotto" conjures up an image of a frilly, time-consuming recipe out of a gourmet magazine or off an expensive restaurant menu. But nothing could be further from the truth! In reality, risotto is an easy, one-pot meal that can be made in around 30 minutes. And risotto is a blank canvas--it's easy to change the ingredients to feature your favorite flavors, from meat-lover to all-veggie.

The one important ingredient to this recipe is risotto rice, also known as arborio. Arborio is short-grained and starchy, which makes it perfect for making risotto. And the great thing is that arborio can be easily obtained nowadays.

I like to add lots of vegetables to my seafood risotto. I usually add peppers, too, but I wasn't really feeling in a peppery mood today so I left them out.

Chop your shallots, zucchini, asparagus, and mushrooms, and toss them into a pot with some butter. And some garlic. I always forget to photograph garlic.

While your vegetables are sauteeing, it's time to get the seafood ready. I used shrimp and lobster. Sometimes I use scallops instead of lobster, or in addition to.
Lobsters look scary and hard to manage, but they're really quite easy. Flip your tail over and get out a nice big set of kitchen scissors. Cut through the shell, all the way down to the bottom of the tail.

Do the same on the other side. It should be easy to pry the shell off the meat after that. If the shell is still resistant, use the scissors to make some more cuts down the shell. The smaller pieces will be easier to pull off.

I left the lobster in pretty large chunks. Why buy expensive meat if you're not going to be able to see it?

I peeled the shrimp and cut it in half.

By this time, your vegetables should be nice and soft. Measure out a cup of rice and pour it in.

Stir the rice around for a couple of minutes. This helps to release the starch, which will result in a creamy risotto later on.

Now pour in a bit of chicken broth--how much? I don't know. Just enough to make the rice look a bit soupy, like a watery oatmeal.

I used chicken broth, but you could use fish or vegetable broths too.

You may need to decrease your heat a little here. You want things to be gently simmering, not boiling.

Stir gently until the liquid is absorbed, and then add some more. You'll want to keep doing this until all the liquid is gone.

This is the step that people think is the most time consuming. Everyone says you have to stir and stir and stir and not do anything else. Well, that's not really true. You could stir constantly until all the broth is gone, or you could stir frequently--which still means you'll be standing over the stove, but it also means that you'll be able to do other things while standing over the stove. Just don't stop babysitting your rice--it's not a "walk away and come back later" recipe.

After your last addition of chicken broth, pour in some white wine. I like to use a drier white wine. And I really love these little bottles for cooking. You get a decent quality wine to have on hand at all times, and you don't have to waste a whole bottle of wine for just the half cup that the recipe calls for. The risotto uses half a small bottle--that means the other half of the bottle is yours!

Once all your liquid is absorbed, it's time to start thinking about flavorings. Because seafood and lemon go so well together, I used the juice and zest from half a lemon. I also chopped up a tomato, for some color.

See how nice the rice is looking?

Right near the end of cooking, I added the seafood. It won't need long to cook, and if you add it too soon it can get tough.
In goes the lemon juice ...
... and the tomato and some parsley for some color and freshness.
To make the risotto velvety, I poured in a couple of tablespoons of heavy cream.
And a tablespoon of butter.
And, right at the end, I threw in some Parmesan cheese.
You'll never be afraid of risotto again after trying out this recipe! Make it in the summer to use up summer vegetables, or stir some up in the winter to get an extra dose of vitamin C. Keep it simple by theme--butternut squash or tomato pair nicely with risotto. Or get extra fancy and pick up some shellfish and squid to make your seafood risotto even more rich! 
Recipe: Seafood Risotto

3 tbsp. butter
1/2 zuccini, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, minced
1/2 lb. asparagus, trimmed and chopped
1/2 lb. mushrooms, chopped

1 c. arborio rice

4 c. chicken broth
1/3 c. (about half a small bottle) dry white wine
1/2 lemon, zested and juiced

1 lobster tail
1/2 lb. shrimp

2 tbsp. fresh parsley
1 small tomato, diced
2 tbsp. heavy cream
1 tbsp. butter
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper, to taste

In a large pot, saute vegetables in the butter. When vegetables are soft, add arborio rice and saute for 3-4 minutes.

Add enough chicken broth to moisten the rice. Decrease heat to medium-low and stir frequently until broth is absorbed. Add more chicken broth, stir, and repeat. Continue until all the broth is absorbed.

Add lemon zest and wine.

Add seafood and lemon juice.

Add parsley, tomato, cream, butter, and parmesan cheese. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve hot!

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