Risotto – a mouth-watering creamy rice mess teaching you patience & rewarding you with intense flavors in each mouthful.
Risotto is our Italian friend while paella is our Spanish friend – both share the same basics: rice & patience! The rice is slowly cooked in more & more stock giving the stock a fair chance to invade each rice grain. Spices & vegetables & meat/fish/seafood add their part to the final flavour – as well slowly softened.
Risotto is a basic dish that can be varied amazingly. As mentioned you can add vegetables or meat or both… the same applies for anything out of the sea. Therefore if once the risotto cooking principles are understood it’s possible to create different risottos based on how your pantry is filled that day or whatever is available in your trusted food store… don’t let’s go over the top, but there are possibilities!
I mentioned paella: yes – it’s the same process & there are the same ingredients… however, I can’t remember having encountered any vegetarian paella (while vegetarian risotto is well known…) & I think the main kick of original paella results out of mixing meat & fish & seafood with vegetables.
For the record:
Sometimes in Spanish restaurants – in Spain or wherever – a special “meat paella” is promoted… for all foreigners (or whoever) who aren’t fond of fish or seafood. When preparing paella in my kitchen I always ask my guests beforehand if they like seafood – so sometimes reducing paella to meeting meat with fish…further restriction don’t lead to a paella!
Now coming back to risotto…
Well, isn’t it mouth-watering?
I’ve prepared my version of risotto al mare (translated: risotto with shrimps (i. e. shrimps = shrimps, crabs, prawns, tiger prawns, giant prawns, king prawns & whatever – remember my contribution about the wok)).
Risotto – especially risotto al mare – is characterized by a small number of ingredients. You’ll need not more than:
- some vegetables like spring onions & carrots
- … & saffron!
Let’s start discussing the rice.
For risotto you definitely need these small, thick, round rice grains coming from Italy as Arborio rice (aka short grain rice or round grain rice). I learnt that Arborio rice is perfect… although I learnt – somewhat later – that there is also Italien Carnaroli rice which is equally perfect. In Spain there is Bomba rice (never met in my trusted food store!)… So let’s resume: there are different types of rice measuring up to our requirements.
You’ll need rice that can absorb lots of liquid (aka stock) w/o dissolving into mush. Therefore stay away from all types of long grain rice!
In your trusted food store you’ll find our preferred type of rice labeled as Arborio rice, Carnaroli rice, risotto rice, paella rice…
Next stop is saffron: saffron not only will color our risotto in a deep yellow there is also a wonderful intense flavour spreading all over the dish. Be sure that a single dose (about 0,1 gr!) will be sufficient – yes, I know that saffron is very expensive… however, don’t mess with a dose trying to halve it or so…
Saffron comes powdered or in threads: my experience is that there is no difference except that the threads will remain visible… (otherwise: when using saffron threads you can be sure that it is saffron while saffron powder might be cut with curcuma!)
Before starting the risotto cooking we should check our preparations:
- The vegetables are trimmed & finely chopped.
- The shrimps are defrosted & deveined (if necessary).
- Rice & stock are ready.
For the record:
I use frozen shrimps as well as ready-to use stock from my trusted food store.
If you like “fresh” shrimps (aka the “grey” version with or w/o head & tail & shell) you’ll definitely need to remove head/tail/shell because it won’t be a nice surprise to discover any sharp bits in you mouth! I never used “fresh” shrimps in a risotto, but it might work… (you can always fry the shrimps before using in the risotto!)
If you like to prepare your home-made stock feel free to do so.
We start with heating some oil in a pan (or skillet) & adding the vegetables. Just fry them for some minutes, but be careful: the vegetables shouldn’t get burnt! Then add all of the rice.
Mix it well & let it fry for some minutes until all rice grains are covered with oil (at least as long as it seems so). Meanwhile heat the stock; it isn’t necessary that it is boiling!
Oh, the stock: we’re doing risotto al mare therefore it’s fish stock or seafood stock – what else?
Add some hot stock liquid until the rice & the vegetables are just covered & stir gently for a moment. The liquid should slightly simmer. As soon as the liquid is absorbed add more stock until everything is just covered. You need no stirring while the rice absorbs the liquid.
Attention: reduce the heat!
(My control unit has got 6 points: I reduce to 1-2 points after the 1st gush of stock!)
Add the saffron & stir gently until evenly distributed – then let it rest.
Here comes the patience!
Each time the liquid is absorbed fill up some hot liquid until just covering the mix, stir gently for a moment – then let it rest & slightly simmer. It will take the best part of an hour to process the stock.
Don’t try to speed up the risotto cooking process: risotto needs its time – so be patient!
At the end – for the last 10-15 min – add the shrimps, stir gently & cover again with liquid.
- all the stock is processed,
- the rice is soft, but you can distinguish fell the grains,
- it’s allover creamy & soft…
This is the perfect risotto – hurry up to serve it!
Once again (résumé):
- The risotto is ready when totally soft & creamy & glossy.
- There shouldn’t be any fluid stock left – all is soaked up by the rice creating the creaminess.
- Be patient: don’t fill all of the stock in the pan/skillet at once. Let it evolve very slowly!
Concerning the rice… stay away from the “brilliant” idea to use cooked rice, add some stock & let it heavily boil until the stock is evaporated – that’s no route to risotto!
The best risotto is served immediately – I state this now for the 3rd time! Meaning:
- If the risotto is ready serve it.
- If you need a little more time because there are other entrées to be consumed or whatever let the risotto rest in the pan/skillet. (Turn off the heat – I use an electric kitchen stove meaning that the hot plate stay hot for a while!)
Before serving check the creaminess: risotto tends to get sticky when waiting for the show so maybe you should add a little liquid (water… think: 1-2 tablespoons!) & stir gently.
If there are any leftovers or you purposely prepared more risotto you can store it in the fridge for some days. Don’t forget to add some water when the risotto gets too sticky at reheating.
The businesswoman with too many office hours thinks
I’m not so thrilled when thinking to remain up to 90 min in the kitchen, but the results seems worth the effort. I got the point: if the risotto is sticky instead of creamy it’s someway ruined (although the flavour doesn’t change…). Obviously it’s possible to heal the damage by adding carefully 1-2 tablespoons of water or stock.
I imagine preparing the risotto in advance, heat it up before serving, restore the creaminess & then fill it in small bowls which head first touch down on the dinner plate forming something like half a sphere… The risotto should stay firm at least for the minutes I’ll serve it!