© Antonis Achilleos
Rock shrimp risotto
Cooking risotto is tricky. The rice can’t be mushy and shapeless, nor crunchy and stiff. The risotto will cook beautifully if you stand guard at the end, as it transitions from al dente to mushy. (It’ll do this in the time it takes to rinse the tasting spoon.) If you mess it up, relax. The sweet rock shrimp, fava beans and dairy will make it sublime anyway.
3½ c. (875 ml) chicken, shrimp or fish stock (recipe follows)
2 tbsp. (30 ml) olive oil
2 shallots, minced
1 c. (250 ml) arborio rice
1 large garlic clove, chopped
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/3 c. (80 ml) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more to finish the plates
3 tbsp. (45 g) butter
1 1/3 c. (330 ml) fresh fava beans, blanched and removed from their outer casing (substitute
fresh or frozen lima beans or edamame)
flaky or coarse salt
1 1⁄2 lb. (680 g) rock shrimp
1⁄4 c. (60 ml) Fino sherry
1⁄2 tsp. (2.5 ml) chili flakes, lightly crushed
1⁄4 c. (60 ml) fresh basil leaves, rolled and cut into threads
Bring the stock to a boil in a large saucepan. Transfer to a heat-proof container and set aside. In the same saucepan over medium heat, combine the olive oil and shallots. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until just soft.
Add the rice and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes or until the rice is well coated and heated in the oil. Add the garlic and half the lemon zest. Cook for another 1 or 2 minutes or until the garlic is just fragrant, but not coloured. Add 2 cups (500 ml) of stock, stir and turn the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring frequently to prevent sticking, for 10 to 15 minutes or until the stock is mostly absorbed, before adding more stock in ½ -cup (125-ml) increments. After about 20 minutes, you’ll notice the rice has increased in volume and gained a thick, creamy consistency. It’s almost done.
Lower the heat to slow the cooking and taste the rice. It should be smooth and creamy, with a lovely body of texture, but not hard. If it’s done, turn off the heat and stir in the remaining lemon zest, 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of the lemon juice and the parmigiano. Taste for salt, lemon flavor and acidity, adding a pinch or two of salt or a little more lemon juice, as you like.
In a large sauté pan, melt 1 tablespoon (15 g) of the butter over high heat. Add the fava beans and cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until they’re hot and have lost their raw edge. Give them a pinch of flaky or coarse salt, transfer to a plate and set aside.
Lower the heat to medium and melt the remaining 2 tablespoons (30 g) of butter. Add the shrimp, sherry and chili flakes and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the shrimp are just cooked. (If you’re not using rock shrimp, you’ll need to cook the shrimp longer.) Sprinkle with the leftover lemon juice, a little flaky or coarse salt and good grind of black pepper.
In shallow bowls or on dinner plates, portion out the risotto with the shrimp and beans. Finish with a scattering of basil and freshly grated Parmigiano. Serves 4.
Fish note When it comes to shrimp, wild-caught and farmed from the US or European Union are the best choices, with wild spot prawns from Alaska and wild pink shrimp from Oregon being the best of the best. Avoid farm-raised shrimp from Asia.
If you can make chicken stock, you can make fish stock. Most fish shops will happily give you fish heads and carcasses. For the lightest, most versatile stock, ask for non-oily fish.
2 lb. (910 g) fish heads and carcasses
4 ribs celery with leaves
2 carrots, peeled
2 sprigs thyme
1 small bunch parsley
1 leek, split and rinsed
1 c. (250 ml) dry white wine (don’t use oaky chardonnay)
Place the fish parts in a large stock pot, pushing them down to condense them. Cover with cold water and then add the celery, carrots, thyme, parsley, leek and wine. Set over high heat to bring to a boil, skimming away the foam (and scum!) that rises to the surface.
Once the liquid reaches a boil, reduce the heat to produce a quiet simmer. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes and drain through a colander. Transfer to storage containers and freeze or refrigerate any stock you aren’t using right away. Makes 3 quarts (3 L).
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