Having cooked for many years, there isn’t that much that surprises me any more. The real joy in cooking is tasting what you have created and more importantly, having others taste what you’ve created. As Emeril would say, “It’s a food of love kind of thing.”
What I mean is, if you’ve cooked for any length of time, you’ve seen how shrimp changes color as it cooks. You’ve seen how a piece of meat can go from raw to toast based on cooking times and the amount of heat used. You’ve seen how water transforms into soup. It was really cool the first few times it happened. Now you know what to expect. I guess what I’m trying to say is, sometimes the fun comes from learning about a new ingredient. That’s how I feel about risotto.
The next recipe in Tom Colicchio’s book Think Like A Chef is roasted tomato risotto. One of the cool things about this book is that it is taking me out of my “cooking comfort zone.” I love risotto, but it is always one of those things I have avoided cooking. Why? Did you ever watch any of the cooking competitions on TV? You name it, Top Chef, Next Food Network Star, Chopped…someone always goes home because of poorly cooked risotto. If they can’t get it right, what chance do I have?
There were not too many ingredients in this dish. It started out by adding olive oil to a saucepan, and then adding an onion that’s been diced and cooking it over medium heat until soft. It took roughly ten minutes. Then, to the saucepan, you add 1-½ cups of the Arborio rice, along with some salt and pepper, and stir until the rice is heated through and has turned slightly translucent.
Next, I took some chicken stock, which has been warmed, and added two cups to the risotto and began to stir. Again, to quote Emeril, “It’s all in the stirring.” In about seven minutes, all the stock had been absorbed, and the rice began to transform. I tasted it…it was still hard as a rock, but it was slightly puffy. And there wasn’t as much room in the saucepan. Cool!
Next, I added 3 of the roasted tomato halves I cooked previously; some previously roasted garlic, and another cup of stock and kept stirring. Every time the stock looked like it was absorbed, I would taste the risotto. Each time, it was softer, puffier, creamier, and there was less room in the saucepan. It was literally transforming right before my eyes!
Before I started all this, I decided to “Think Like A Chef” and add a protein, so as I was cooking the risotto, I seasoned some shrimp very simply in salt and pepper, added some olive oil to a pan and cooked the shrimp over medium heat.
Around the 25-minute mark, the risotto looked and tasted done, so I added a tablespoon of the “butter – olive oil product” I use and some low fat cheese, tasted and re-seasoned it. I put that in a bowl, and then I put the shrimp on top of the risotto.
The risotto was creamy and perfectly seasoned; the shrimp got done just in time, not overcooked at all. The whole dish was absolutely delicious.
I would make a couple of changes to this dish in the future. First, as creamy as the risotto was, it was slightly sticky, so I think maybe instead of adding ½ cup of stock at the end, I should have added the whole cup. I was unsure how much liquid the rice would actually absorb, and I didn’t want a wet mess.
Also, I think if I decide to add a seafood protein to the risotto, I will use that type of stock rather than chicken stock.
So what did I learn? Well, risotto isn’t as hard as I thought it would be to cook, and it seems that it can be an incredibly versatile food. I can’t wait to make more!