Aah, risotto. You've had it before, right? So creamy you think they MUST have dumped half a gallon of heavy cream in, salty and just a touch chewy and all around delicious. I freaking love the stuff. The best part is that it's SO much easier than you think. Time consuming, yes. Challenging, not so much.
Ok sure, it takes a little while, but it's such a neat process. Look at that photo above: grains of rice swimming in chicken broth. Now look at the one below it: creamy and smooth. And the RICE did that. Not me! I swear I only added a little cheese at the end, and no cream! You don't have to use arborio or carnaroli (two types of short grain white rice) but they're easy to find (especially arborio) and they're the standard rices for this particular application. Oh, and don't even THINK about throwing out your parmesan rinds. Stick 'em in a bag in the freezer when the cheese is gone, and drop one in the pot with the rice. (See the triangle in the photo above.) You'll get every speck of creamy delicious cheesiness out of it before you throw it away.
Plain risotto made with an onion, chicken broth, and a little parmesan cheese is all well and good, but it also makes an excellent canvas for whatever flavors you're in the mood for. The other night, I wanted something light tasting and fresh, so I added the juice and zest of a lemon and some herbs. On top of the rice went some simple sauteed shrimp et voilà! Dinner, she is served! (YES I know this is an Italian dish. Whatever dudes, I'm feeling the French at the moment.)
Lemon Risotto with Shrimp
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
5 c chicken broth
one small onion, finely chopped
parmesan rind (optional but highly recommended)
1/2 - 3/4 cup grated parmesan
salt and pepper
one lemon, juice & finely chopped zest
1 T mint, finely chopped (or basil, but I had mint on hand)
3 T parsley, finely chopped
Peeled, deveined shrimp, 5-6 per serving, sauteed
Heat the chicken broth in a medium sized pot over low heat, just to keep it warm. Add a couple tablespoons of olive oil to a large pot over medium heat, add the onion and saute a couple of minutes until the onion is translucent but not browning. Add the rice and saute for about two minutes until you can smell it getting nutty. A few touches of gold on the grains is fine, but keep the rice moving at this point so it doesn't brown.
Add the parmesan rind (whole) and a ladelful of chicken broth to the rice and stir it in. Leave it alone for a couple seconds and stir again. At first the rice will absorb the broth quickly. When you scrape the spoon against the bottom of the pot and no liquid rushes in to cover it, you need to add more broth. Continue adding broth a ladelful at a time until the rice is creamy, 25-35 minutes. It may take longer depending on your exact heat level, your rice, and your stirring. Just go till it's done, and if you run out of broth use water - you can add more salt at the end if it needs it.
Meanwhile, chop the herbs and zest the lemon. Reserve a little bit of the herbs and zest for garnish if you like. Saute the shrimp in a touch of olive oil in another pan towards the end of the cooking process and cover to keep warm.
When the risotto is creamy (taste it to be sure the rice is cooked to your liking), add the grated cheese, lemon juice, lemon zest and herbs, salt and pepper to taste. Taste it again and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve on a plate or in a shallow bowl with shrimp on top and garnished with reserved herbs and lemon zest.