Thursday, November 8, 2012

Risotto Triumphant
What’s cooking? Tomatoey Risotto with Shrimp

Whew. The election’s over, and thank goodness, because I don’t have any ironing left. While we ground our way through the state-by-state assessments, I managed to press 7 shirts, 6 pairs of pants, 2 sets of king-sized sheets, and 3 dishtowels. I’m not sure which was the more exhausting activity – the election or the ironing – but I’m glad to see the end of both.

The more exciting news is that the Kitchen Goddess has once again outdone herself, in a very creditable job of replicating the risotto with shrimp I had in Ravello last month. Unlike our politicians, risotto is very companionable – it makes friends with just about anything you throw in with it. It’s best if you don’t get too crazy with the number of additions, but I’ve made amazing dinners of butternut squash risotto, shrimp and asparagus risotto, wild mushroom risotto, lemon-herb risotto, Parmesan cheese risotto, and of course, plain old risotto with some extra butter on top. It’s a really filling dish – and gluten-free for those of you who care – so all you need to add is a salad, or a nice green veggie.

The original risotto from the Hotel Palumbo in Ravello
The risotto here doesn’t really have to be served in that little mound with the shrimp so carefully pinwheeled on top, but it was sort of a challenge to see how close I could come to the original presentation. Not bad, if I do say so myself. And I must confess – it was delicious. I served it with roasted asparagus.

I made myself a little crazy by using my last lemon for the zest, and then I didn’t have one to do those neat little strips on top. After calling three neighbors and finding no one at home, I sent my husband out to the skinny little Meyer lemon tree in our courtyard, where 10 lemons were holding on for dear life while they try to ripen. I didn’t have the heart to cut one myself, but my husband has no such qualms. He was mostly interested in dinner, and this craziness with the lemon was giving him agita. So I will warn you that if you want to do that thing with the lemon strips, be sure you have two lemons before you start.

So what the heck is Caldo de Tomate, you may ask. It’s a tomato bouillon with chicken flavor, and your grocery store may put it in the soup aisle with the other broth cubes or powders, or it might be in the aisle with the international/Latino foods. Or try a grocery store in a Latino area. It shouldn’t be hard to find.

The Kitchen Goddess's risotto -- ta-da!
Tomatoey Risotto with Shrimp

Serves 4.

4 cups water
2 cubes Knorr Caldo de Tomate, or 4 teaspoons of the powdered form
4  tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
½ cup finely chopped onion (about the same as 1 small onion)
1¼ cups Arborio rice
¼ cup dry white wine
finely grated zest of one lemon (quarter the zested lemon, for use just before serving)
16 large (31-35 per pound) or extra-large shrimp (26-30 per pound), peeled and deveined, with tails on
freshly ground pepper
optional garnishes: parsley, chopped, and grated Parmesan cheese

In a small saucepan, bring the 4 cups of water to a simmer. Add the broth cubes or powder, and stir until dissolved. Cover the pan and keep the broth at a simmer.

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large (4-quart) heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions; cook 4-5 minutes, stirring, until soft. Add the risotto, and stir constantly for one minute, then add the wine and simmer, stirring constantly, until the wine is almost completely absorbed by the rice.

Add ½ cup of the hot tomato broth, stirring constantly until the broth is absorbed by the rice, then keep adding broth, ½ cup at a time, stirring constantly, until the rice is tender and creamy but al dente (not too soft). I used the entire 4 cups. This process should take about 20 minutes.

Stir in the lemon zest and salt to taste. Remove the risotto from the heat and cover.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a heavy skillet on medium-high and sauté the shrimp 2 minutes to a side.

Arrange four shrimp on top of each serving of risotto and squeeze a quarter of the reserved lemon over each serving. Garnish with freshly ground black pepper. If you want, you can sprinkle a bit of chopped parsley and/or grated Parmesan. Serve immediately.

Kitchen Goddess note: Don’t let the recipe bully you. Risotto is supposed to be eaten al dente, so I recommend you try it that way. But it’s a little like pasta, in the sense that you should cook it until the texture pleases you, even if that means softer than the recipe calls for. If you have used all the broth and the rice is not yet as tender as you’d like, take the risotto off the heat and boil more water, put a bit more of the Caldo de Tomate in it, and go back to ladling and stirring until the risotto reaches a texture you like.

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