Whole Foods is celebrating their Parmigiano Reggiano cheese again this year and they want to give a lucky reader a $50 gift card to use in their stores! All you have to do is leave a comment at the end of this post and you will be entered for the giveaway. To celebrate this cheese, I'm posting a recipe that I actually made for Valentine's Day dinner this year - a cheesy saffron risotto with poached shrimp on top. It's out of this world. I made it as a first course for the dinner.
** THIS GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED **
Valentine's Day first course
If you've never made risotto before, give it a try now. There's nothing hard at all about making risotto. It takes about 25 minutes and you don't have to stir constantly, just regularly. The idea is to add hot broth to the rice a litttle at a time, until the rice is just tender but still has a little bite to it. You can use whatever broth you like and flavor the risotto in so many ways. It's really a versatile dish to play around with. In this version, I've used a pinch of saffron, a little dry white wine, some onion and garlic, fresh thyme and, of course, plenty of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
look for the dot pattern on the rind to show that it's real Parmigiano Reggiano
If you have a Whole Foods store, it's worth checking out their Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. This is the real deal, from Italy, and if you've never eaten it, you will be surprised. It's much different than the regular Parmesan cheeses in the grocery store. Real Parmigiano can be spotted by the telltale dot patterns on the rind - if the cheese doesn't have this, it's not real Parmigiano from Italy, made under the strict requirements for that label. You can also save the rinds after you've finished the cheese and use these rinds in risottos and soups for more cheesy flavor.
For the shrimp, you need to peel and devein them to get that pretty butterflied look after they are cooked. I like to peel the shrimp in two easy steps. I first pinch the shell just in front of the tail - this usually separates the back section of shell from the front section. Remove that back section of shell by just pulling right off. Then the front section is easily lifted off. You should be able to peel a shrimp in just these two moves. Then take a sharp little paring knife and cut right down the back of the shrimp to reveal the intestinal tract - it may be visible and it may not. It is usually a dark line running inside that cut - just remove it. Now the shrimp is butterflied and will curl up into a nice shape when it is poached.
pinch and pull the shell (above)
you should be able to peel the shrimp in two simple moves
and then use a sharp knife to devein and butterfly them
Never boil shrimp - this will make it tough! The ideal way to cook shrimp is to simply lower it into hot water and let them poach gently for a few minutes. That's all you need for a tender shrimp.
Now, generally cheese is not served in Italy in seafood dishes but this is because you don't want to overwhelm a delicate fish with a strong cheese. So before I get e-mails pointing out this pairing, let me just say that this rule has been taken way overboard by people. So, mi dispiace, but there's nothing wrong in adding cheese to certain seafood dishes. This dish is mainly risotto with the poached shrimp just on top. And it's delicious.
As for which pot to cook a risotto in, I prefer a curved pot with sloping sides, like this 3-quart Saucier Pan from Calphalon. I like the fact that there are no bottom edges in which the risotto can get trapped. When you stir, it's easier with a pan with sloping sides. I have this beautiful Copper pot made by Mauviel for Williams Sonoma that I got years ago - it's not available anymore but if you're really dying to have one, it's available on that e-Bay link. It's my favorite pot for making risotto.
Don't forget to leave your comment to have a chance to win a $50 Whole Foods gift card! Deadline is Tuesday, March 24th at midnight.
for a printable recipe, click here
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup finely chopped onion
1 garlic clove, grated or minced
1 cup Arborio rice
⅓ cup dry white wine
3½ cups hot chicken, vegetable or seafood stock (approximately)
zest of 1 lemon
pinch of saffron
8 jumbo shrimp, peeled, deveined and butterflied (see notes within the post on how to do this)
¾ cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme
In a medium saucepan (a sloped Chef's pan if you have one) gently cook the onion in the olive oil over low heat for about 5 minutes, til onion is a little soft. Add the grated garlic and cook for a minute more. Increase heat to medium and add the rice. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring a couple of times. Add the wine and cook for 2 - 3 minutes, stirring. Add about 1 cup of the broth, the lemon zest and saffron and stir. Cook over medium/low heat so that the rice is just at a low simmer. When the liquid is almost completely absorbed, add about ½ cup of broth more. You know it's time to add more broth when you run a spoon through the risotto and the liquid doesn't pour back in on the bottom of the pan. Keep adding broth a little at a time and stir occasionally until the rice is just tender, about 25 minutes. You may or may not use all the broth. Do not overcook.
Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Turn off heat and wait a couple of minutes. Add the shrimp and poach in this hot water for about two minutes (depending on the size of shrimp) until shrimp turns pink and is just done. It doesn't take long. Drain.
Add the cheese and about ¾ of the thyme to the risotto and blend. Taste and if it needs a little salt, add it now. Divide risotto among four plates. Top with two poached shrimp each and sprinkle the rest of the fresh thyme on top. You can take a vegetable peeler and peel strips of extra Pargmigiano if you want for garnish.