Portobello Mushroom Risotto with Poached Shrimp

I went to the library this weekend and scooped up more cookbooks, and found an absolutely phenomenal cookbook called "The Food I Love" by Neil Perry.  The internationally renown chef provides detailed instructions and backgrounds on all the ingredients featured in this book.  One particular one that caught my eye was Risotto.  I have always heard the "wonders" of risotto yet have never tasted one that has tickled my fancy.  I've ordered it several times when eating out only to be disappointed time after time with the results, so I finally gave up.  In my mind risotto was a mushy, gummy, paste reminiscent to a goopy oatmeal, or an overly "soupy" concoction that reminded me of porridge -- both very unappealing views on something that is suppose to be "magical."

AND THEN I figured out why I frequently had these negative experiences with Risotto, the following passage is from "The Food I Love" --

" Risotto is one of those things that you can make at home better than most restaurants can.  Unfortunately, because of either staff restraints or cumstomer impatience, most restaurants and cafes seem hell bent on cooking the risotto first and then finishing it off when ordered.  It is very hard to achieve the right texture using that method."

... then why do restaurants even offer it?  My bad stigma with risotto was instantly erased upon reading that passage, how did I know that the best bowl of risotto I've ever had would come right out of my kitchen?  The directions that Neil provides, though lengthy are very good instructions.  I chose to make a Portobello Mushroom Risotto with Poached Shrimp, I was going to poach my shrimp in butter but  I decided to skimp on the calories and just poached them in white wine and water.  For the stock I chose to use a dashi stock which paired really well with the shrimp and brought out the savory flavors of the mushrooms.

Ingredients for Portabello Mushroom Risotto:

(serves 2-3)

  • 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
  • 2 portabello mushrooms, cleaned and cut into 2 cm dice
  • 6 shrimp, cleaned and deveined
  • 5 cups of chicken stock or dashi stock
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely diced
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine or sake
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmeasan, plus extra, to serve
  • 2 1/4 oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley or scallions
  • freshly ground pepper

Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a large heavy-based frying pan.  First sautee half of the mushrooms and set aside.  Then heat more oil and add the onion, mushrooms, garlic and a little salt and sweat over low heat until soft.  Add the rice and cook, sitrring for about 3 minutes, or until the starch starts to come out of the rice.  The rice will start to stock and become opaque.  Add the wine and simmer, stirring constantly, until the wine is completely absorbed.  Add enough stock to cover the rice and simmer slowly, stirring occasionally.  As the rice absorbs the stock, add more to keep it moist, but don't drown the rice.  If you do, the risotto will lose some of its unctuous quality, but if it is too dry it will stick and retard the creaminess of the finished dish.

It is important to continue stirring at this early stage or the rice will sink to the bottom and stick.  After 15-18 minutes most of the stock should be used and the rice tender.  Meanwhile, poach the shrimp in a small saucepan with water and a little bit of white wine.  When the water is boiling, add the shrimp and cook for 4-5 minutes or until shrimp is fully cooked.  Remove and set aside.  At this point, add the reserved portabello mushrooms, along with the cheese, butter and any remaining stock.  Cover, remove from the heat and rest for 2 minutes.  Remove the lid, stir in the parsley and check the seasoning.  Spoon into four bowls and sprinkle with extra Parmesan and green scallions and place shrimp on top.  Serve immediately.

Variations

  • Using the same formula, you can cook a variety of yummy risottos.  Remember, in the most part, you would cook whatever needs cooking beforehand and simply add to the risotto at the end, at room temperature or warm, to heat up before serving.
  • Pork seems to work well in this dish: fold through sliced ham or prosciutto at the end, or add pancetta at the start with the onion.  Cooked sausage also goes well but make sure it's a pure pork style with good texture and flavour.  Pan-fry or grill (broil) them, then slice.  Add at the end with some fresh herbs.
  • Of course, all manner of vegetables work well...sliced cooked green beans, spinach, nettle, raddichio that has been grilled (broiled), stewed red or yellow capsicums (peppers), braised red or green cabbage... the list goes on.

Were those not well written directions?  Neil Perry you are quite the culinary bad ass.  And the result?  The best risotto I've ever tasted!  I will take 80% of the credit and give 20% to Neil :).  The rice wasn't mushy, and maintained its "unctuous" quality -- each kernel was flavorful with umami from the dashi broth and mushrooms.  If you are not a shrimp person, just leave it off.   To be honest, I placed it on there for a little protein but would've been just as good without.

Here is more food art!  This one is an easy one so I am sure you guys will guess what it is right away ;) Last night I realized that we have not seen the sun in Dallas much at all this winter, it has been mostly dreary, rainy cold and very unpleasant.  Perhaps that explains why my pounch is slowly growing, it is so hard to get the motivation to work out in weather like this!  The groundhog didn't see his shadow so I guess it's six more weeks of winter for us folks, I am praying for a lil sunshine this week, let's see how it goes!