One of my favorite reader questions in the last few weeks came from Kathy, who asked for inspiration for a new recipe to make with her honey on Valentine's Day. I loved the idea of Valentine's Day implied by this request. Instead of going out to a packed restaurant, or just one person slaving away for the other, this is a meal not only eaten together, but cooked together — the whole process part of the fun.
Whether you're cooking with someone dear this Valentine's Day, for a group of friends, or for your whole family, here's a recipe that lends itself to some togetherness in the kitchen. Easy risotto, stirred meditatively, cooked slowly, with a glass of wine in one hand and the music turned up.
Risotto has a lot going for it. There's the slight edge of fancy, as risotto is something many of us eat at restaurants but not at home. And yet it's so comforting — a simple homestyle dish, really. It's also not difficult. One of the nicest things about risotto is even if you turn one out that's not quite technically perfect in the classical sense — rice a little too soft, sauce not creamy enough, the dish a bit dry — it's still a really good meal.
And it's the perfect meal for when you want to spend a little time in the kitchen with your family or a friend. It's not too demanding — it just needs some stirring and ladling. But it keeps you there sipping wine and chatting until it's ready.
If this is the first time you've made risotto and you want a little extra guidance, check out Emma's excellent tutorial on making a basic risotto. This recipe is based on it closely, so:
I top this basic risotto with roasted shrimp, which is a lovely and easy way to incorporate shrimp into a dish. Just throw it into the oven as the risotto finishes cooking. Here I used tail-on shrimp, for some restaurant-style flair, but you could use any large uncooked shrimp.
The recipe makes a generous quantity of risotto — about six large portions. For two people, you could cut the recipe in half, or just enjoy leftovers for a couple days. I like to reheat risotto on the stove with a bit of extra broth to help it loosen up, or you can shape the leftover risotto into patties and fry them in a skillet.
Parmesan Risotto with Roasted Shrimp
1 pound large shrimp
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small white onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup finely chopped Italian parsley, divided
Heat the oven to 400°F. Rinse the shrimp and pat them very dry. Toss them with olive oil and then the paprika and a generous quantity of salt and pepper. Spread them in a baking dish and return them to the refrigerator.
Warm the broth in a saucepan set over low heat.
In a separate Dutch oven or wide, deep sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until they are soft and beginning to brown around the edges, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the rice and stir thoroughly to make sure it is coated with the butter and onions. Cook the rice for an additional 1 to 2 minutes.
Deglaze the pan with the white wine, stirring and scraping the pan until the wine has evaporated.
Begin incrementally adding the warm broth one ladle at a time, stirring frequently. Wait to add another ladle until the liquid has been almost completely absorbed by the rice. This gradual addition of liquid is key to getting the rice to release its starch and create its own delicious sauce, so don't rush this step. If the broth is evaporating very quickly, or the rice is boiling hard, turn the heat down so you just see a gentle simmer and occasional plop. Expect this stage to take about 18 minutes, and to add most of the broth.
Begin tasting the rice after about 13 minutes to gauge how far it has cooked. The risotto is ready when the rice is still a bit chewy, and the dish has the consistency of thick porridge.
In the last 5 minutes of cooking the risotto, put the pan of prepared shrimp in the oven. Bake for 5 minutes or until the shrimp are pink.
When the risotto is ready, turn off the heat and stir in the Parmesan and about 1/2 cup chopped parsley. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
Serve immediately, spreading risotto in pasta bowls and topping with shrimp and a sprinkle of chopped parsley.
This recipe was originally published February 2014.