Creamy, comforting and so incredibly versatile, risotto is one of my favorite one-dish meals to cook when the weather turns colder and the leaves disappear from tree-lined streets. With friends arriving for a Saturday night dinner, I ventured out to the market to purchase sweet delicious bay scallops and sustainable Caribbean white shrimp. For color, texture and layered flavors I added red pepper, fresh spinach, Vidalia onion and shallots to my shopping list.
Back in the kitchen, I had about 3 to 4 quarts of chicken stock simmering and on another burner some diced onion slowly sautéeing with the addition of crushed garlic and finely chopped shallots. When the aromatics were beginning to caramelize I added a pound of Arborio rice. The key here is to sauté the grains of rice until their edges become opaque – this activates the starch in the rice to produce a creamy end result.
Slowly adding ladles of hot stock little by little, the risotto needs constant attention, adding more stock once the rice has absorbed most of the previous pour and constant stirring. The process takes about 20 to 30 soulful minutes, ah, the Zen of preparing comfort food. When the risotto was close to perfection, I sautéed bay scallops, shrimp and red pepper with bacon lardons. A splash of white wine deglazed the pan with a squeeze of lemon – spinach, minced garlic and dash of red pepper flakes complemented the shellfish.
Carefully mixing all the components together with a handful of shredded Gruyère and this simple Italian rice dish can transform simple ingredients to extraordinary heights.