Its actually looks more orange than red, but this recipe uses crustacean heads, so that makes it a red risotto. Risotto is a dish that is conceptually simple, but difficult to master in practice. This particular risotto, which uses prawns, scallops and portobello as its core ingredients is one of my favouites.
Rather than describe how one type of risotto is made, I’ve decided to write this recipe in such a way that is becomes a generic guide to making risotto as well. So it looks like its very long, but actually it just contains many of the finer details which I usually gloss over.
- Tiger Prawns (6)
- Large Scallops (6)
- Arborio Rice (1 cup)
- Smoked Clams in oil (1 tin)
- Lobster Bisque (1/2 can)
- Onion (1)
- Portobello Mushrooms (2)
- Butter (50g)
- Chardonnay (½ cup)
- Pecorino Romano (1/4 cup)
- Coriander Powder
Preparation – Stock
- On medium heat, brown 1T of pressed garlic in 2T butter. Don’t use a non-stick pan as you’ll be scratching it later.
- Cut the heads of your prawns off while waiting for the garlic to brown, then stir fry the prawn heads in the garlic oil. When the heads have become completely red for a minute, pour in 1 cup of water.
- As the water boils, cut each head into three pieces using a large pair of kitchen scissors and then crush the heads with a wooden spatula, the type with a flat edge. Next decant the liquid through a strainer into a pot.
- Repeat another two times such that you end up with 3 cups of clear stock in the pot. Now add 1/2 a can of lobster bisque to complete the stock.
- NEVER add salt to the stock as you will lose control of how salty the risotto is after the water has evaporated.
- Commercially pre-made stock is pre-salted, making them unsuitable for risotto.
Preparation – Soffritto
- For the soffritto, you’ll need to use a non-stick pan i.e. a different one from the one used earlier. This will ensure that you won’t get a burnt taste from bits sticking to the bottom of the pan.
- Julienne the onion into pieces that are the size of rice grains and fry them in 4T of olive oil using low heat until they are limp. You should do this without caramelizing the onion. Adding a pinch of salt at the start will help keep the onion from browning.
- Stop here if you are preparing ahead of time, for this marks the point of no return. Once you begin the next stage, you’ll need to serve the risotto soon after it is done.
- The onions will practically dissolve into the risotto. Many Italian recipes utilize this method, using aromatic vegetables and sometimes bacon bits, to arrive at a more complex and satisfying flavor.
Preparation – Simmer
- Turn up the heat on the pan and add the rice into the soffritto, stirring well to coat the kernels with oil. Continue to stir-fry for 5 minutes or so.
- Add the wine, and stir until it almost evaporates completely before adding a ladle of stock. After adding the stock, adjust down the heat to produce a low simmer.
- Each time, add just a ladle of stock, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. Add more stock each time the rice begins to dry out.
- In between stirring, de-shell and de-vein the prawn bodies and dice them, and dice the mushroom and scallops as well, into fingernail sized pieces. After simmering for 15 minutes, add the diced ingredients and smoked clams.
- Continue stirring and simmering the rice for about another 10 minutes until it is creamy and al dente, then turn off the fire.
- Total simmering time should have been about 30 minutes but rely on taste and appearance to decide if the risotto is done and not a timer.
- NEVER add cold stock to risotto as repeated sudden cooling makes the rice powdery. So keep that stock on a simmer in a separate pot.
- NEVER add all the stock at one go. You don’t know exactly how much stock you need and this takes away your contol of the cooking time.
- Constant stirring rubs off bits of the grains’ surface, giving the starch that creates a risotto’s characteristic creaminess.
- Arborio is the standard rice type for risottos although the more expensive carnaroli rice is sometimes used. Carnaroli cooks faster and absorbs more liquid, which means it will have a stronger stock flavour.
Preparation – Mantecatura
- Cut a ¼ slab of butter into 1 cm cubes and mix with finely grated pecorino romano (or any other kind of hard cheese). This forms the mantecatura, which is stirred in as the finishing touch. For an extra creamy texture, you can cheat by stirring in 1T of marscapone as well. This is optional.
- Next, sprinkle on some black pepper, 1T of Coriander Powder, 2T of brandy and a ½ t of sugar. After tasting, you may add salt or more cheese as a final adjustment if necessary.
- NEVER add salt before this stage, as the concentration of the stock increases flavour over time, and besides hard cheese is salty.
- I prefer using pecorino romano as it is a stronger grating cheese which goes well with rice but other hard cheeses can be substituted if desired. Check out my Cheese Page for more details.
- Cover the pot and let the risotto rest for 5 minutes so that it can absorb a bit more liquid and fluff up.
- Garnish with a bit of coarsely grated pecorino romano as you serve.
- This is the ONLY time you should cover it.
- You cannot pre-make or re-heat risotto. So time it such that you can serve it immediately.