Some people are scared of risotto, some just think it is too much of a hassle. You should not feel any of these. If you understand what happens when making risotto you will never again have problems with making the perfect one.
So risotto is an Italian dish where you need to cook the rice into a creamy consistency. The rice is cooked with wine, stock and at the end creamed some sort of dairy product. The rice has to be cooked, but still needs crunch in the middle, so it is al dente. At the same time the risotto is creamy. So how to achieve this?
- Use rice specifically used for making risotto, that is a medium grain variety, fairly large and can tolerate the unique cooking method that removes starch from the rice surface so that it thickens the cooking liquid into a creamy consistency. The most well known type is Arborio, anywhere outside Italy. There are some other varieties too, such as Carnaroli, Vialone Nano, but these are not very easy to get hold of.
- Make sure you have everything prepared in advance. Chopped, measured, cleaned or pre cooked on a tray. From start to finish a risotto will need 30 minutes of your undivided attention. There is also a method where you can precook the risotto to about 90%, lay out on a tray to cool quickly, (stop cooking) refrigerate and finish it off in 10 minutes when your guests arrived. (I will explain this method later)
- Use right size of pot, meaning for the amount of rice. The pot should not be too big compared to the amount of rice, because you will add too much liquid.
- Preheat any liquid to boiling! you will be using for cooking the risotto, such as stock, broth. Also have boiling water ready, in case you run out of stock and the rice still needs liquid to be cooked. This is imperative. The liquid has to be hot constantly, so when you add it to the rice, it will not stop the cooking.
- Always add liquid in small amounts, just barely cover rice, and stir constantly. This might sound too much of work, but actually stirring constantly means that the rice grains are subject to constant friction, rubbing off the softened parts constantly, so they can become part of the liquid. If you only let it cook, this particles will not be part of the cooking process, you will just rub off everything in one go, at the end, when you stir it.
Kabocha and shrimp risotto
I decided to use this winter squash variety because of its texture and not too sweet flavor. Kabocha turns into a creamy dream once it is blended. Shrimp goes really well with risotto in general and it is also a classic pairing with this squash.
The squash will be added to the risotto in two different ways. We will roast and puree half of the kabocha and dice and cook the other half.
First prepare everything
- Peel, deseed kabocha, cut in half. Cut one of the halves into big chunks and roast them on a tray in the oven with olive oil, salt and pepper. Blend to a smooth puree with just the necessary amount of stock, you need for blending. Dice the other half into small cubes. Blanch them in salted boiling water until they are just cooked. Do not overcook, they will fall apart. Immediately drop them in ice water to stop cooking and drain.
- In a small amount of vegetable oil deep fry sage leaves. You will need 3-5 on each plate.
- Cut each shrimp into bite sizes. Pan sear them on butter, olive oil, seasoned with salt, black pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice.
- Toast pumpkin seeds and set aside.
- Chop the shallots very finely.
- Cut very finely pancetta too.
- Measure rice and get it ready.
- Measure wine and stock and bring stock to a simmer and keep it warm.
- Prep rest of ingredients on a tray: olive oil, butter, fresh sage leaves, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, mascarpone.
- Heat olive oil and butter.
- Add pancetta, render fat so it becomes crispy.
- Add shallots, sweat for a few minutes.
- Add rice, stirring constantly and toast for a minute.
- Add wine, stirring constantly until it cooked down and almost absorbed fully.
- Start adding hot stock. Always add just as much to cover rice, stir constantly and add another ladle only when it is absorbed. Keep doing until rice is al dente, about 20 minutes.
- additional step for later consumption: If you want to keep risotto and serve it at a later stage, stop cooking, lay risotto on a tray, cover with plastic foil and refrigerate until next day. When reheating, add some more stock, stir, let it absorb and finish it off as below.
- Mix in kabocha puree and mascarpone and add diced squash and shrimp.
- Season with salt, ground black pepper and cayenne.
- Adjust texture with a little bit of stock if needed.
- Plate risotto in a deep bowl, topped with fried sage leaves and toasted pumpkin seeds.
Don’t forget about a glass of light chardonnay! 😉
Ingredients (yields 4)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 big shallot or 2 smaller ones
- 4 slices of pancetta, cut into fine pieces
- 1 cup of arborio rice
- 1/2 cup of white wine
- 4 cups of vegetable stock
- 1-2 tablespoon of mascarpone
- 1 cup of roasted kabocha puree
- 1 1/2 cup of diced, cooked kabocha
- 1 lb of shrimp, cleaned, cut and pan seared on little olive oil and butter
- black pepper
- cayenne pepper
- toasted pumpkin seeds
- vegetable oil for deep frying sage leaves
- sage leaves
- optional micro greens