In the summer, I’m always in the mood for seafood. I might have a hankering for a poached salmon salad, or a whole red snapper filled with slices of lemon and fresh dill, surrounded by potatoes and wrapped in foil to roast on the barbeque. I may be in the mood for some wonderful fresh oysters or shellfish. And when I’m of a mind to try something new, I set out to see what enticing offerings my local fish purveyor has in his cases that day.
I recently found some big, beautiful, wild-caught shrimp. While there’s not a foolproof way to predict if that beautiful shrimp will translate to a sweet and delectable dish, I have found that the sous vide technique consistently cooks shrimp to optimal texture and flavor, so it’s never tough or rubbery. Now we frequently indulge in this shrimp and risotto dish on summer evenings. The result is delicious, so try it for yourself!
Serves 4 as an entrée or 8 as a first course
For the shrimp
For the shrimp stock
For the risotto
- Peel and devein the shrimp, reserving the shells and tails for the stock. Blot the shrimp dry. Divide the shrimp, butter, parsley, preserved lemon or lemon zest, and salt equally between 2 large food bags. Vacuum seal the bags and refrigerate until ready to cook.
- Prepare the stock. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped vegetables, parsley, and peppercorns. Cook for about 2 minutes without allowing the vegetables to color. Add the shrimp shells and tails, crushing the shells with a wooden spoon to release all their juices. After about a minute, shake the pan, increase the heat to high, and add the wine and the bay leaf. Continue to cook over high heat for about 3 minutes, allowing the wine to completely evaporate. Add the tomato paste and the water, making sure that the shrimp shells and tails are completely covered by the water. Bring the stock back to a boil, then reduce heat and gently simmer for about 15 minutes. Strain the stock into a clean saucepan large enough to accommodate all the liquid, pressing on the solids to extract all the flavorful juices. You will use most, if not all, of the stock for the risotto preparation. Any remaining stock can be frozen for another use.
- Preheat the water bath to 140°F (60°C).
- Place the two prepared food bags in the water oven and cook for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, begin preparing the risotto.
- Bring the shrimp stock to a gentle simmer. Melt the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed and preferably high-sided pan over medium-low heat. Add the shallot and cook gently until softened but not colored, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir with a wooden spoon, coating the rice in the butter–shallot mixture and toasting the grains of rice. The rice should be hot to the touch but not brown before you add the wine.
- Add the wine and cook, stirring constantly, until the wine is completely absorbed by the rice. Add the simmering stock, about ½ cup at a time, continuing to stir every few minutes. When the stock is almost absorbed, add the next ½ cup. Continue cooking the risotto this way for about 15 to 20 minutes, slowing the additions of stock near the end of the cooking time so that the rice doesn’t become too wet. The risotto is ready for the remaining ingredients when the grains are soft but still al dente.
- After the shrimp has cooked for 20 minutes, and while the risotto continues to cook in the stock, remove the food bags from the water oven and, holding the bags upright, carefully cut open. Remove the shrimp to a cutting board and reserve the accumulated juices from both bags. The two bags should contain approximately ¼ to ⅓ cup liquid. Cut the shrimp in half or in large chunks, or any way you choose.
- Add the shrimp to the risotto and continue cooking for another minute. Add the reserved juices from the food bags to the risotto, stirring constantly until they are absorbed by the rice. Stir in the lemon juice a little at a time, tasting for flavor. Add the preserved lemon or lemon zest and parsley. Taste for flavor and consistency. The risotto should be very creamy but not wet. Serve immediately.