We are in that weird time between seasons, when the great abundance of spring and summer produce hasn’t quite arrived, but the fading greens and gourds of winter are losing their appeal. We’re already for fresh, light fare but nature isn’t exactly cooperating. Citrus to the rescue. Bright sunshiny lemon brings a little brightness and freshness, but this baked risotto is pure comfort food. Topped with lightly seared paprika-dusted shrimp, it’s a delicious meal that perfectly suits the cusp of spring.
Though pretty easy to pull together, this dish really packs a punch. The risotto bakes in the oven, so need to stand stirring over the stove. Fennel and lemon give it a bright flavor, and the well-seasoned shrimp depth. Finely dice the fennel so you get just a little bite in each spoonful of risotto, and a sprinkle of the freshly chopped feathery fronds adds an herbal note. A hint of smoked paprika gives the shrimp a tantalizing touch of the outdoor cooking soon to be in season. If you prefer, you could add a little cayenne to the mix for some spiciness. I like to use big, juicy, wild caught Gulf shrimp. They only take few minutes to sear and cook through, but take on a nice, flavorful crust.
- 1 large shallot
- 1 small fennel bulb
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon Pernod (optional)
- 2 cups Arborio rice
- Zest and juice of one lemon
- 1 Tablespoon chopped fennel frond
- 4 cups (32 ounces) chicken broth
- 1 cup white wine
- 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 pound extra large shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Finely dice the shallot. Remove the tough core from the fennel bulb and finely dice – you want about 1 cup of fennel. Heat the oil in a 2 – quart oven safe dish over medium-high heat. Sauté the shallot and the fennel until soft, stirring frequently to prevent browning. Add the Pernod (if using) and cook until it is evaporated. Stir in the rice to combine everything and remove from the heat. Stir in the lemon zest and fennel frond, then add the chicken broth and white wine. Measure the lemon juice and add water to make ¼ cup of liquid and add it to the pot. Add the parmesan cheese and a generous pinch of kosher salt and stir to combine everything thoroughly. Transfer the pot to the oven and bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring every 20 minutes, until the liquid is almost absorbed and the rice is creamy. Let the cooked risotto rest about 10 minutes before serving.
- Mix the spices together in a shallow bowl. Press both sides of each shrimp in the mixture to coat. Shake off any loose spice, but make sure the shrimp are well coated. Place the spiced shrimp on a plate and refrigerate until the rice is ready.
- While the rice is resting, heat one tablespoon of olive oil over high heat in large skillet. Place the shrimp in the hot oil and cook on each side for a few minutes just until the shrimp is firm and cooked through. Serve the shrimp over the rice.
- If the rice has absorbed the liquid, but is not cooked through, add some more water, stir and cook until done.
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