Seafood Risotto

I’m in the mood for a one-dish main course tonight but I don’t have a lot of time to prep ahead.  Seafood usually fills that bill nicely–it generally cooks quickly, with little or no time necessary to marinate or brine anything ahead.

The most important flavor component in risotto is the broth or stock, so it’s really important to use good broth.   Because this is seafood risotto, I’d like shellfish broth, rather than straight chicken broth.  This is easy enough to achieve, using the shells and tails from the shrimp.  I’ve boiled the shells and tails in some good chicken broth, a touch of white wine, celery, fennel fronds, carrot, tomato paste and onion for about 30 minutes. 

This gives me all the brininess of a shellfish broth but also the body of chicken broth–it’s a very nice easy way to get a shellfish stock for risotto.

The seafood gets cooked separately from the risotto, then added to the simmering rice toward the finish.  The scallops get cut in half horizontally, seared in olive oil in a broad skillet and set aside. 

The shrimp get added to the cold shellfish stock, then brought to a simmer (just before it boils), then set aside.  This results in tender, perfectly cooked shrimp.  

 I like the combination of seared scallops, but gently poached shrimp.

The seafood can be par-cooked about a half-hour ahead of making the risotto, then added at the last moment.  If you’re making this dish for guests, try to not have any other last minute cooking to do, because the risotto will require most of your attention at the last minute.

Seafood Risotto

serves 4 – 6

1 lb sea scallops, cut in half horizontally

1 lb shrimp , cleaned, with shells and tails reserved for making broth

2 cups arborio rice

4 tlbs butter

2 tbls olive oil

2 quarts shellfish broth (or chicken broth simmered with the shrimp shells for about a half-hour).

4 medium shallots, diced finely

1 cup white wine

2 tbls fresh chopped parsley

grated parmiggiano, for sprinkling

salt and pepper to taste

Sear scallops on one side until golden and caramelized (2 – 3 minutes) and set aside.

Place peeled and cleaned shrimp in room-temperature broth and bring to a simmer.  Remove shrimp immediately and set aside.

In a heavy round-bottomed saute pan with high sides (or a small dutch oven), saute shallots in 2 tbls butter and all the olive oil until the shallots turn translucent (about 2 minutes).  Add the rice and saute for about 3 – 4 minutes until it begins to crackle.  Turn heat on high and add wine and stir until wine is mostly evaporated (about 3 minutes, depending on the strength of your flame). 

Begin adding broth, a cup at a time, until each addition is absorbed by the rice.  Don’t let the rice dry out to the point of sticking to the bottom of the pot.  After 13 minutes, add the seafood and cook 2 minutes longer.  Turn off the flame, cover and let the risotto rest for 5 minutes.  Add the remaining butter and 2 tbls grated parmiggiano, as well as the parsley.  Serve immediately.

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