seafood risotto

The blog seems like a better, more permanent repository for recipes that matter than the scraps of paper floating around our kitchen.  The following is from a note I printed out almost 10 years ago, attempting to reconstruct an improvised seafood risotto that turned out really special.  Seasonally inappropriate to be posting it on Thanksgiving– this is a spring/summer recipe.  It may require tweaking– I don’t think I’ve ever quite managed to reproduce the magic of the first time.

  • prawns
  • bay scallops
  • lemons
  • parsley
  • butter and olive oil
  • shallots
  • garlic
  • anchovies
  • arborio or vialone nano risotto rice
  • white wine
  • parmigiano reggiano

Peel and devein shrimp, keeping the peelings in a small pot.  Just cover the peelings with water, and put on gentle boil to make a simple stock.

Grate the peel off the lemons, making a bed from the peels in a bowl.  Juice the lemons, and set the juice aside.  In a heavy risotto-friendly pot, sauté the shrimp in butter and olive oil.  When just done, pick them out and put them in the lemon peel bowl.

Drain the scallop juice into the stock, and sear the scallops, using a bit more butter as necessary.  The point of using small bay scallops here is to maximize the caramelizable surface area without needing to cut them open, which I’ve found can dry them out.  Toss the caramelized scallops into the bowl with the shrimp, and pour the lemon juice over them, then olive oil on top to protect.  Mix in plenty of chopped parsley.  This oil won’t be cooked, be sure to use your good stuff.

Chop up the shallots finely and fry in the risotto pot, again adding butter as needed.  Here I violated a rule and added crushed garlic as well (the rule being to avoid the use of onion/shallot and garlic in the same dish).  When transparent, add a couple of anchovies, and continue to turn over until this flavor base is light gold.  Add the risotto rice and stir, searing it.  When ready, pour in white wine, stirring with emphasis.  Pour yourself a glass too.  When it has bubbled away and turned creamy, begin the usual lengthy process of slowly adding stock and stirring, making sure the risotto doesn’t stick and keeps the right consistency.  Keep adding water as needed to the stock pot.  At this point you’re talking with your friends while stirring, and you’re on your second glass.

When the risotto is done, swirl in the lemon/oil/shrimp/scallop mixture.  There should be enough fresh olive oil in there to make it unnecessary to do the usual trick of dropping a bunch of butter in at the end (“mantecare il risotto”).  Although traditionally one doesn’t use Parmigiano with seafood risotti, I thought adding a bit at this stage didn’t hurt at all.  Another rule broken.  I found comfort in this wonderful cookbook from the south of Italy, in which Wanda Tornabene confesses to also breaking this rule on occasion.

For general advice on making risotto, consult Marcella Hazan’s bible on classic Italian cooking.


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