Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Lemon Risotto with Shrimp, Asparagus & Peas

Although asparagus and peas are traditionally thought of as being one of the hallmarks of Spring, it's been so unseasonably warm during this month of December in Toronto, that this light and delicate lemon-scented Risotto seemed like the perfect dish to make. As they say, when life gives you lemons, make risotto. The clean, citrusy spark of the lemon zest enlivens both the asparagus and the shrimp, and the addition of fresh mint and shaved pecorino make this risotto a lovely bright dish. Warm, comforting and creamy, this luscious Lemon Risotto with Shrimp, Asparagus & Peas is a perfect springtime dish, even in the middle of winter!

Lemon Risotto with Shrimp, Asparagus & Peas
Serves 4 

20-24 medium shrimp, shelled and de-veined
1 tbsp olive oil
zest of half a large lemon
2 tsp finely chopped chives

For the risotto:
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 tbsp butter
1 tbsp oil
1/3 cup minced onion
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup fresh or defrosted frozen peas
zest of 2 large lemons
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, julienned
fresh chives for garnish
1 cup grated pecorino

In a small bowl, mix 12 shrimp with the oil, zest and chives, and let marinate at room temperature while you make the risotto. Cut the remainder of the shrimp into 1/4" pieces and set aside.

Select a skillet that will accommodate the asparagus, fill it with water and place it over high heat. When the water comes to a boil add a generous amount of salt and the asparagus. When the asparagus are tender, lift them out of the skillet and set aside. Pour 1 cup of the asparagus water into a saucepan and place over low heat and maintain it at a gentle simmer.

Also place the stock in a saucepan and place over low heat and maintain it at a gentle simmer too.

Warm 2 tablespoons of the butter and oil in a large casserole over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 5-6 minutes, until the onion softens.

Add the rice and using a wooden spoon, stir for 1 minute until all the grains are well coated. Add the wine and stir until it's completely absorbed. Then add 1 cup of the simmering asparagus water and stir until it's absorbed. Then begin adding the chicken stock 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding the next 1/2 cup.

After about 18 minutes, when the rice is tender but still firm, add the remaining butter, peas, diced shrimp, lemon zest, mint, 1/2 cup pecorino and several grinds of white pepper, and continue to stir vigorously. The heat of the risotto will cook the peas and the shrimp.

As the risotto is finishing cooking, sear the shrimp in a grill pan for about 60 seconds on each side, or until the flesh is completely opaque. Top each serving of risotto with 3 shrimp and a garnish of fresh chives. Serve with a bowl of grated pecorino on the side.