Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Shrimp and asparagus risotto

It's fair to say that much of the reason why I love cooking and baking is because I love food, namely eating it.  Obvious, no?

But I also love food because working playing with it has taught me so many things about myself.

I've learned that I'm a great follower of directions... as long as I read them first.  I tend to get a bit excited and ready to get cookin' and ignore protocol.  Not reading through a recipe or ingredient list before cooking has resulted in more last-minute trips to the store than I care to share.  It took a few years, but I've come around and haven't had to make any (more than usual) panicked calls to Matt on his way home from school.

I've also put most feelings of hesitation behind me when it comes to trying new foods.  It's hard to believe that many, many years ago I had issues with strawberries.  (FYI, it was their texture with the seeds that bugged me.)  Nowadays, I can't manage to let strawberries dry after rinsing them before devouring them whole!  Recipes that involve mostly familiar ingredients and a single novel item have been instrumental in this process.  Like mangoes with fish tacos, French onion soup with quinoa, and chorizo and tomatoes with tangy goat cheese.  New stuff is good stuff!

Speaking of good stuff, what's that saying?  "Good things come to those who wait."  Um, well, I've learned that I'm not very good at waiting.  Actually, I'm downright terrible at it.  And I have my years of cooking and baking for that little nugget of wisdom. 

It's my lack of patience that's kept me from becoming cozy with one of my favorite restaurant meals -- risotto.

I've had it at so many places and with so many different ingredients -- butternut squash!  mushrooms!  peas and bacon! -- and it's been incredible every single time.  I'll dream about said risotto for days after that meal and briefly toy with the idea of making it.  The, I'll scare myself out of making it, mourn just a bit, and look forward to the next time we're dining out so I can order risotto.

I recently discovered a small amount of arborio rice left in our pantry from an ill-fated risotto attempt a few years ago and decided that it was high time to conquer some risotto, darn it!  It's just rice that's cooked low and slow with broth!  And, would you believe, that risotto is pretty much the easiest thing to make... like, ever?
It just involves some patience and attention.  Not a whole lot, just enough.  Add liquid, stir, repeat.  Who knew it was that easy?

Just put on some music, do a little singing into the wooden spoon you're using to stir the rice, and prepare yourself for a show-stopping dinner.  Tender shrimp, fresh asparagus, salty cheese, and the chewiest and softest rice you'll ever meet.  TDF!

If mac and cheese is a kid's comfort food, then risotto is the ultimate for grown-ups.

For being so patient, I rewarded myself by sampling the risotto before I plated it.  Couldn't I have waited just a few minutes more?  Sure.  Did I want to?  Absolutely not.  Baby steps, folks.

One year ago: Mini cheddar quinoa cups
Two years ago: Savory oatmeal
Three years ago: Cream scones with white chocolate and cherries

Shrimp and Asparagus Risotto
(adapted from this recipe)
-serves 2

A few notes: Warm broth is totally a key in this recipe and makes cooking much easier -- don't skip this step!  And while this dish does take some time and a watchful eye, it's totally worth it. 

2 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1 shallot, minced
3/4 cup arborio rice
1/4 cup white wine
2/3 cup chopped asparagus
12 large raw shrimp
1/3 cup grated fresh parmesan cheese
Ground black pepper

In a small saucepan, bring broth to a boil and reduce heat to low to keep warm.  Meanwhile, in a large saute pan over medium heat, melt butter and saute shallot until translucent and tender, about 3 minutes.  Add rice and toss to coat.  Add wine and stir until wine has been absorbed by rice and nearly no liquid remains.  Add 1/2 cup warm broth at a time, stirring after each addition until broth is absorbed before adding more.

After two additions of the broth (1 cup total), add the asparagus and keep stirring until broth is absorbed.  Add another 1/2 cup of broth and shrimp, stirring until absorbed.  Taste rice, checking for taste and a chewy cooked texture.  I added a final 1/2 cup (2 1/2 cups total) of broth, stirring until absorbed, before removing from heat.  Add cheese, stir to mix and melt completely, and season with salt and pepper to taste.  (I added no extra salt.)  Serve and enjoy immediately!

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