Risotto is one of those “restaurant” foods. You know, foods you only eat at restaurants, but never make at home. Why? Because it seems too scary, too difficult, too labor intensive. Whatever the reason, people seem to be afraid of attempting homemade risotto. Until very recently, I was one of those fearful people. If risotto was on a menu, I’d order it in a flash, but make it at home? Despite how easy the chefs on Food Network always made it seem, I was reluctant. But no longer. I made risotto for the first time a couple of weeks ago, and it was amazing. Unbelievable. Like at a restaurant. Victory was mine. And it can be yours too.
(That particular glorious recipe will be posted soon, once I make it again to get some better pictures.)
If you haven’t had it before, risotto is a Northern Italian specialty traditionally made with short-grained Arborio rice. The rice’s natural starch makes the rice creamy without actually adding any cream. It is slow cooked with gradual additions of hot stock, resulting in plump, creamy yet still al dente rice.
For this recipe, I used shrimp stock. I have to confess, I normally buy good quality stock at the store. However, when a little research told me how easy shrimp stock is to make, I decided to be adventurous and make my own. The research was right – homemade shrimp stock is simple and basically free to make, if you purchase shrimp that still have their shells. For me, it was actually quicker and easier than making an extra, last minute run to the store. For you, do whatever is easier.
The real star of this recipe though, is the spicy garlic shrimp. Marinated in lemon juice, garlic, and red pepper flakes, the shrimp’s flavor explodes in your mouth. The marinade and shrimp juices combine to form an unbelievably flavorful sauce, with very few ingredients and very little effort. Most of the shrimp are chopped up and stirred into the risotto, so you get a chunk or two in every bite. The remaining shrimp are left whole, decorating the top of the plated risotto, inviting you to dive in. That is, if you manage not to eat all of them while waiting on your risotto…
Risotto with Spicy Garlic Shrimp
For Spicy Garlic Shrimp:
1 tsp. sea salt
2 T. flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
2 cups Arborio rice
6-7 cups shrimp stock, store-bought or homemade (see recipe below)
2 T. unsalted butter, divided
1 T. extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup shallots, minced
3/4 cup dry white wine
Remove cooked shrimp to a plate or cutting board. When cool enough to touch, cut into pieces (three or four pieces per shrimp, depending on shrimp size). Reserve a few whole shrimp per serving to place on top of finished risotto. Set shrimp aside until risotto is ready. (The Spicy Garlic Shrimp would also be fantastic served over pasta.)
In a medium pot, heat shrimp stock until simmering, but not boiling.
In a large skillet or saucepan, heat olive oil and 1 T. butter over medium-high heat.
When the butter has melted and is starting to foam, add rice and shallots to the pan. Cook, stirring frequently, until the rice is toasted and the shallots are translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes.
Add white wine to pan and stir occasionally, 2 to 3 minutes, or until the wine is nearly absorbed.
Add 3/4 cup hot stock. Stir occasionally, until nearly absorbed. Continue adding stock, 3/4 cup at a time. Stir occasionally, waiting for each addition of stock to be absorbed before adding more. This process should take about 22 to 25 minutes.
When the stock has all been absorbed and the rice is tender, add remaining tablespoon of butter, parmesan cheese, and lemon zest. Stir to combine.
Add chopped shrimp and stir to combine.
Serve immediately, topping each portion with reserved whole shrimp.
Serves 4 as an entrée.
Homemade Shrimp Stock
2 lbs. shrimp shells
6 cups water
1 tsp. sea salt
Combine shrimp shells, water, and salt in a medium pot.
Bring to a boil. Cover pot and reduce heat to low. Simmer, covered, about 20 minutes.
Strain the broth through a colander, pressing down on the shells to extract as much liquid as possible.
Discard shells and return stock to pot if making risotto right away. Otherwise, refrigerate in a covered container until ready to use.