I was looking through my archives this past weekend when I was knee-deep in my site redesign (I hope everyone’s enjoying Striped Spatula’s new look and functionality!), and it suddenly struck me that I’ve never shared a recipe for risotto! It’s such a huge omission for me because this blog is, in so many ways, a catalog of the things I love, and risotto is one of my all-time favorite dishes. Since Valentine’s Day is coming up this weekend, I thought it would be a great time to make Champagne and Leek Risotto with Roasted Shrimp. With creamy rice, sautéed leeks, bubbly champagne, parmesan, and the fresh flavors of lemon zest and peas, a pot of this risotto is the perfect meal to share with the person you love.
As a process, risotto is pretty easy to make, though it does require some patience. By slowly cooking the rice (short-grain Arborio or Carnaroli) in single ladlefuls of hot broth, added only when the prior addition of liquid is absorbed, the starches are able to release from the grains and create a creamy sauce (without the addition of cream). The best risotto still has a slight bite (much like cooking pasta “al dente”) and is loose enough to fall from a spoon, without the liquid running in your plate. It isn’t the type of rice dish you can pop onto the stove and revisit in a half an hour. So, put on your comfiest pair of slippers and get ready to stir, stir, stir! The luscious, creamy rice is well worth the effort!
Once you have the basic technique and ratios down pat, risotto is an extremely versatile dish that’s easily customizable for the seasons. I love to make squash risotto in the fall, rich mushroom in the winter, and sweet corn in the summer. This particular recipe is comforting enough to warm you up on a cold winter’s night, but at the same time, is brightened with colors and flavors reminiscent of spring. (Frankly, I don’t care what the groundhog said; I’m ready to serve the cold weather its eviction notice!)
Risotto traditionally starts with a base of onions, but I love the delicate flavor that butter-sautéed leeks bring to the dish. (As I mentioned around this time last year, I’m crazy about leeks and cook with them whenever possible!) When preparing to make this recipe for Valentine’s Day, I decided to swap out the white wine I usually use to deglaze the pan for champagne. Aside from fitting with the holiday theme, it gave the finished risotto both a rounded flavor and a pleasant lightness that we thought complemented the shrimp and leeks well. I like to arrange the simple-roasted shrimp on top of the risotto (it’s how I had a seafood risotto served in a restaurant several years ago, and the presentation was so pretty that I started doing it at home). If you prefer, you can certainly remove the tails after roasting the shrimp, cut the meat into chunks, and stir them into the risotto just before serving. Any way you plate it, this risotto is true love!
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