Seafood Calling: Risotto ai frutti di mare

One of the main advantages of living in a harbor city is the availability of fresh food, specially fresh seafood.
For an average Italian this is a vital point. In the Italian cuisine the quality of the ingredients is of the utmost importance, since many dishes use a very low amount spices and sauces and tend to exalt the natural flavor of each ingredient.
A walk around the Hamburg fish market inspired us to prepare a seafood risotto, an evergreen of the Italian cuisine.

dsc_6670To feed 3 to 4 people with our risotto we will require:

  • 1kg of Mussels
  • 1kg of Clams
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 250gr of Rice for risotto
  • 4 small shallots (half an onion as a substitute)
  • a glass of white wine
  • a bunch of parsley
  • salt and pepper
  • vegetable soup: 1 carrot, a stick of celery and an onion.

The first very important step when cooking fresh seafood (clams and mussels) is to keep them in salty water for 1-2 hours. Being them fresh, they still have a lot of sand inside their clams. After two hours in the water you will find a lot of sand at the bottom of the bowl. After this, just wash them under the water.

Once the seafood has been cleaned up, it is time to cook it. In a big pot put abundant olive oil and 2 garlic cloves. When the oil is hot enough (not too hot, because olive oil becomes dangerous when it is too hot) put inside clams and mussels and cover the pot. Turn the fire to medium/low and wait about 10 minutes, shaking the pot every 2 minutes. At the end of this preparation clams and mussels will be open and will have released almost all of the soup that you will need to cook the risotto.

Before we start cooking the rice, let’s prepare a soup with carrot, celery and onion. Just let the vegetables boil for 30 minutes in a liter of water.

While the vegetable soup is cooking, filter the seafood soup and remove from the shell 2/3 of the clams and the mussels. The last third will be added to the risotto for decoration.

Now it’s time to take care of the rice.
Cut the shallots in very small pieces and put them in a pan with abundant olive oil. Set the fire to low and let them cook gently.

A small trick to cook them perfectly is to group them all in the middle of the pan and cover them with some tin foil for 2-3 minutes. At the end they will be perfectly cooked, but not fried.

At this point add the rice and keep stirring it in order to perfectly blend it with the oil and the shallot. Turn the fire to medium and keep stirring the rice until it becomes dry and starts to roast a bit. You can realize that the rice is ready for the next steps when the rice grains will start becoming transparent.
This is an important step for the preparation of a good risotto, because it allows the rice to keep its texture during a long cooking process like this, without melting into a rice soup.

Once the rice is roasted add the glass of wine.

Once the alcohol is gone start adding the clams and mussels without the shell and keep stirring.

When you notice that the rice starts becoming dry, add two big spoons of seafood soup.

Alternate the seafood soup with the 1 big spoon of vegetables soup to make the risotto not too salty or fishy. We suggest to keep a ratio of 2 spoons of seafood soup and one spoon of vegetable soup. Every time you see that the rice becomes dry, add the soup. Repeat this process until the rice is fully cooked.
This is one of the critical steps of the cooking of a good risotto. You don’t have to add all the soup necessary for the rice to cook at once (like you do cooking rice in a rice cooker) but you have to add it gradually, 1-2 spoons at a time.
After about 15-20 minutes you should reach the right texture. Just taste the rice and if you feel it is not cooked enough, add another two spoons of soup.

Once the rice is ready, add black pepper and parsley cut in small pieces and take it out of the fire.

Cover it and let it rest for 10 minutes. This is another very important moment in the cooking of a good risotto. During this time the rice will release the starch that will make a good creamy risotto.

dsc_6695After that, put a big spoon of rice in the middle of a flat plate and decorate it with the mussels and clams still in the shell and another sprinkle of parsley.

Buon appetito!

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