Saturday, April 17, 2010

Paella meets risotto with beet salad

This dinner was a bit of a pantry raid. I didn't feel like going to the store, but we had some beets, radishes, and guanciale in the fridge and some shrimp and peas in the freezer. I started out thinking I would do a risotto with shrimp and peas, which is something I've made several times before, but then I realized that I had some guanciale in the fridge and a bunch of saffron in the pantry, so I decided to go a different route and make a "paella inspired" risotto. The result actually turned out pretty good.

-3 to 4 oz. guanciale, diced into 0.5 cm squares (you can substitute pancetta or chorizo)
-1/2 white onion, fine dice
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-1/2 to 1 tsp saffron
-3 sprigs thyme
-1 cup arborio rice
-1/4 cup grate parmesan
-2 Tbsp creme freche
-1 cup peas
-6 jumbo shrimp, shells off and cut into 4 pieces (or an equivalent amount of smaller shrimp)
-salt, pepper
-1/8 to 1/4 cup white wine

Heat up 4 to 6 cups of chicken stock. Put the thyme sprigs in with the stock so that the cooking liquid becomes infused with the thyme flavor,

In a separate, medium sized pot, heat up a little bit of olive oil over medium high to high heat. Add the guanciale and cook until the fat has rendered and you are left with crispy little bits of guanciale. If the oil begins smoking, turn the heat down. Remove the guanciale and drain on paper towels.

Turn the heat down to medium and pour out any excess fat. You only want about 1 T in the pan. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent. If the onions begin to brown, turn the heat down. After about 5 to 6 minutes, add the saffron and continue to cook for another minute or two. Add the rice and cook for another minute, stirring frequently to coat the rice.

Add the white wine, stirring constantly until the wine is absorbed, then begin adding chicken stock, 1.2 to 1 ladel full at a time. Keep stirring the risotto. After about 15 to 20 minutes, begin checking the rice. Keep adding the liquid and stirring until the risotto is done. You want to get the rice to a point where it still has some bite, but the interior is no longer chalky.

While you are cooking the rice, cook the shrimp. Since shrimp are usually previously frozen, they tend to be waterlogged, so to cook them properly, you will need to cook them in small batches in a screaming hot pan. The shrimp will give off a lot of water, cooling the pan down, and it will be difficult to get them to cook right if the pan is too crowded. You may end up stewing or steaming the shrimp instead of searing them, and they won't taste nearly as good. When the shrimp are nearly cooked, add a small pat of butter. You don't want to add the butter beforehand or it will scorch. Drain the shrimp on paper towels and sprinkle a pinch of salt over them.

Once the risotto is done, stir in the grated parmesan and creme freche. This gives the risotto a nice, creamy finish. Season to taste with salt and pepper and stir in the peas, guanciale, and shrimp. If the risotto is too thick, stir in a bit more stock. The risotto should be runny, and not have enough body to stand up on its own.

The recipe for the beat salad is a bit simpler: roast beats, peel and cube, toss with orange zest, some orange juice, olive oil, and red wine vinegar. Add sliced radishes and pieces of orange. Chill for at least one hour. Serve at room temperature.

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