Risotto is one of those dishes which can find itself incorporated into many a meal and frequently steals the show. It can be infinitely altered to suit your ingredients and taste. Yet while risotto may seem complicated to make, nothing can be further from the truth.
You really only need a few key ingredients: arborio rice, stock and cheese. Let’s break down each ingredient:
1) Arborio rice – Arborio rice is special type of rice which is required for risotto. It is short and round in appearance, very much resembling sushi rice. Its starchy properties are what make it ideal for risotto and are a must-have for achieving a firm yet creamy rice texture. Its flavor is neutral, thereby acting as a canvas for the remaining ingredients.
2) Stock – The rice in any risotto requires a lot of liquid and any risotto worth its salt will use good stock. As always with stock, you can use any you may have lying around, you can make some especially for risotto, or you can use stock cubes in a pinch. Either way, the quality of the stock will go a long way towards creating the base of flavors for your risotto.
3) Cheese – A hard, grated cheese added to the risotto at the very end right before serving will emulsify the dish and give it a wonderfully creamy texture. Parmigiano-Reggiano (Parmesan) cheese or Pecorino Romano will add a salty layer to the dish as well as give it that creamy texture risottos are known for.
4) The last “ingredient” is not an ingredient per se but is nevertheless important – a risotto is like your crazy, punky ex-girlfriend from high school – constantly demanding attention and focus even when it’s not 100% necessary. As such, it is highly recommended to have all your ingredients washed, chopped and prepped because once the heat is on you will constantly be required to stir the risotto and add liquid to avoid burning the rice.
200 grams fresh mussels, debearded and washed
6 uncooked shrimp
500 ml fish stock
200 grams Arborio rice
100 ml white wine
3-4 Anchovy fillets, finely chopped
1-2 Shallots, finely chopped
2 Cloves garlic, finely chopped
Bunch of parsley, finely chopped
Pecorino, grated, to taste
1) Wash and prep your seafood and vegetables; prepare your stock and working area. Wash the rice in a strainer and set aside.
2) Place a large saucepan on low-medium heat, add some olive oil and lightly sauté the onions for a few minutes until they become translucent. Add the chopped garlic and stir frequently.
3) Increase the heat to medium, add the rice and stir for 1 minute. Add the white wine and anchovy fillets and stir constantly until the alcohol has evaporated.
4) Stock – at this point the risotto is ready to receive a constant, steady flow of liquid. Add a ladle of stock and stir constantly until most of the liquid has evaporated. Repeat, adding more stock and stirring. This process should occur between 5-6 times and take about 15-20 minutes. The heat should be medium – high enough to cook the rice but not too high so as to burn the bottom-most layer. For this reason it is most important to stir constantly so as to create a uniform temperature throughout the dish.
5) The ingredients which go first are the ones which can endure the longest cooking times – in this case onion and garlic, followed by rice. At around the 15 minute mark, add the shrimp. Note that you should also taste the rice a bit so as to feel it coming along. Early on some grains will be uncooked and hard but the key to a good risotto is brining it just up to al dente and taking it off the heat (residual heat in the pan will continue to cook the rice). After 2 minutes, add the mussels, give everything a good stir and close the saucepan for 3-4 minutes.
6) Give the saucepan a good shake, remove the lid and stir. Look at the mussels and note whether they are mostly open. If so, you’re in good shape. If they are closed, replace the lid for another two or three minutes. Once the mussels have opened – stir everything once more – add the chopped parsley and grated cheese. Stir everything vigorously so there is an even mix of all the ingredients.
7) Serve and enjoy immediately, preferably with a glass of white or light red wine to taste. Risotto is one of the dishes which is best enjoyed fresh rather than cooled or reheated.