Category Archives: Impressive Dishes

Rock Shrimp Risotto

Rock Me Gently, Rock Me Slowly

Risotto is such a walking contradiction – though it is a total dazzler and a showpiece at restaurants, it’s also such homey comfort food meant to be tucked into on a couch in pjs.  It can be as dressy or as casual as you’d like it to be, just as long as it’s yours.  I think that risotto has gotten a reputation for being fussy because of the many rules for it’s construction.  The grains of rice should be tender while still distinct and firm.  The dish should be creamy but not a mushy porridge.  The ingredients all have different cooking times, but the components to be cooked to perfection all at the same time.  It’s a little daunting.

Rock Shrimp Risotto © Spice or Die

I’m here to put you at ease – risotto is not hard.  I repeat, risotto is not hard.  You can make it if you follow the one major rule of risotto – be patient and give it time.  If you rush your risotto, it will suck.  If you don’t prep all your ingredients before you start, it will suck.  If you walk away from it, it will suck.  Don’t let your risotto suck, I beg of you.

There are a million variations on this recipe, and the good news is that you can use the same ingredients below and just swap out the shrimp for whatever your heart desires – blanched asparagus spears, porcini mushrooms, lobster, roasted butternut squash, you name it.  The only thing that you absolutely cannot substitute is arborio rice.  The grains, short and round, release starch slowly as broth is added during the cooking process – if you use a different type of rice, you won’t get that creamy loveliness that is the trademark of risotto.  You top off the deliciousness by rapidly whipping in butter at the end, a process called “mantecare” in Italian.  Do this, and you’ll be a risotto master.

This risotto uses rock shrimp, a variety that is much closer in taste to lobster despite the shrimp price.  They have hard shells and are difficult to peel, which is why they are sold pre-cleaned and shelled – hooray for you :)  If you cannot find rock shrimp, feel free to use plain raw shrimp, or if your budget allows, some lovely lobster meat.

This recipe makes a ton of risotto (about 8 large servings) – I roll the leftovers into balls around cubes of mozzarella, roll in breadcrumbs, and fry as a lovely appetizer called arancini (or supplí in Emilia-Romagna).  Also, because cheese and seafood is an italian no-no, I pick out the shrimp first.  That being said, if you leave the shrimp in, I won’t be mad at you.  Actually, I’ll be happy that you’re cooking not one, but two impressive dishes – and all with a whole lot of love!

Rock Shrimp Risotto

12-14 c. of stock, chicken, vegetable, shrimp or a combo (see recipe for shrimp stock below)

4 tbs. of olive oil
4 shallots, finely chopped
4 c. of arborio rice
1 pinch of saffron threads (optional)
2 tsp. of white pepper
salt and black pepper, to taste

1 and 1/2 lb. of rock shrimp, peeled and cleaned well
1 bunch of chives, chopped
zest of 1 lemon
4 tbs. of butter

Prep all of your ingredients before you start to make your life easier.  When you begin, you should have dishes of all of your ingredients, measured out and within an arm’s reach.  In a large pot, bring your stock to a simmer and keep warm throughout the entire process.

In a second large pot, add your oil and heat until shimmering.  Add your shallots and cook on medium until translucent.  Add your rice (and saffron if you are using it) and stir to coat the grains with olive oil.  Continue to cook until the rice becomes translucent.  Pour in the wine and stir until the alcohol cooks off.

Grab a ladle and spoon 2-3 ladlefuls of broth into the rice.  Stir constantly to incorporate the broth and keep the rice from sticking.  When all the broth is absorbed, add another 2 or 3 ladles of stock.  Keep adding broth and stirring until the rice is tender (taste it to make sure) and a lovely, creamy sauce has formed.  Once your risotto is cooked to perfection, add your raw shrimp and stir.  The shrimp will need about 2 minutes to turn pink and cook all the way through in the hot risotto.  Turn the heat from medium to low and add the butter in small chunks, stirring rapidly after each addition to melt the butter into the creamy goodness.  Turn off the heat and toss in your lemon zest and 3/4 of the chives.

Spoon risotto into bowls and top with the rest of the chives.  Serve immediately – risotto needs to be eaten right away, or you are missing out in a big way.

Shrimp Stock

shells from 1 to 1 1/2 lbs of shrimp
2 stalks of celery, roughly chopped
1/2 small onion, roughly chopped
4 sprigs of parsley (with stems)
1 sprig of rosemary
1 tsp. of salt
1 tsp. of white pepper
2 bay leaves
8 c. of water

Add all ingredients to a pot and bring to a boil.  Turn to medium low and simmer until stock has reduced by one half.  Strain stock and toss solids.  Save broth for some lovely like a gumbo or a risotto.

Whole Roast Chicken with Mushrooms and Herbes de Provence

A Roast You Can Boast About

I remember this stupid commercial – Perdue, I think – where this woman is freaking out about the prospect of roasting a chicken.  Jim Perdue came to the rescue (“My lucky stars!”) with a pre-seasoned chicken in a bag.  My real issue with the commercial was that it furthered the misconception that roasting a chicken is a daunting task.  Making a savory and deliciously moist chicken takes a few key steps, but the process itself is forgiving, adaptable and completely reasonable.   If you take the time to learn how to do it, roasting a whole chicken will quickly become a part of your recipe repertoire.

For me, all of the special techniques involve flavoring the meat and keeping it moist during cooking.  One of the easiest ways to inject flavor into a chicken is to brine it before roasting.  Think back to your days in Chemistry and lessons on osmosis – a porous object placed in a saltwater bath takes in the salt water and expells the unsalted water that is contained inside of it.  Same with the chicken – if you let it hang out in your fridge in some salty water, the seasoning will literally go all the way into the chicken.  Better than just salting the skin and ending up with tasteless chicken.  If you want to make the chicken without planning ahead, skip the brining and just make sure to follow the other two tricks below. Continue reading Whole Roast Chicken with Mushrooms and Herbes de Provence

Cha Gio (Vietnamese Crispy Spring Rolls)

Greatest Wrapper of All Time

Cha gio, the Vietnamese answer to the Chinese spring roll, are a heck of a lot more than a crispy wrapper around a bit of filling.  The complex mix of tender pork, delicate shrimp and crab, and savory vegetables and spices form an addictive amalgamation that trumps the few shreds of cabbage and roast pork in a traditional spring roll.  Combine this roll with the delicious crunch of herbs and lettuce, and finish the whole thing off with a dunk into some sweet and salty nuoc mam, and you are in for a treat.

I always order cha gio with all the fixings at Vietnamese restaurants, and feel that the presentation lends an air of luxury to the dish.  And yet, when I was young, our Vietnamese friends would make the rolls in large quantities and share with anyone deserving of a little treat – cha gio were unpretentious and meant to be shared.  I feel the same way about feijoada completa (the Brazilian national dish of black beans, rice, and assorted condiments) – in a restaurant, the many dishes of food that make up the meal add an element of grandeur to the meal, when in actuality, feijoada is the people’s food at its best.  Just good, honest cooking meant to be shared with friends and family. Continue reading Cha Gio (Vietnamese Crispy Spring Rolls)

Kanom Jeeb (Steamed Thai Dumplings)

Pleat Me and Treat Me

Ah, kanom jeeb – you have officially earned platinum status in the dumpling ranks.  You are a mere morsel of goodness, a two-bite treasure, and I thank you for gracing me with your presence.  Jam from the wonderful food blog “Thai Cooking with Jam” explains that your name is derived from the thai words for “pleated snack”, but I posit that you legally change your name to the thai words for “pleated awesomeness”.  Awesomeness indeed.

I know that you are a textural delight with your essential combination of crunchy carrots and water chestnuts carefully blended with tender shrimp and pork.  You are also a luxurious treat with your delicate topper of lump crab.  And yet, you don’t mind dressing yourself down on certain days with a crispy shallot or two.  You are similiar to your Chinese brother, shu mai, and yet your combo of sweet and savory taste worlds away at times. Continue reading Kanom Jeeb (Steamed Thai Dumplings)

Vegan Potstickers

It’s SO Easy Being Green

My family hails from Brazil, a country that prizes meat consumption in all its glory.  And yet, my sister has been a vegetarian (and a vegan when her multiple sclerosis doesn’t give her grief about it) since she was in fourth grade.  Always loving to cook for friends and family (regardless of dietary restrictions), I quickly altered my repertoire to include non-meat alternatives for all of my tried and true recipes.  As time went by, I came across more and more good friends looking for some sweet, non-meat dining (Drew and Briana, especially).  I never felt put out making “two dinners” – it just meant more time in the kitchen.

Two little tips to keep in mind – the green food coloring, aside from aesthetic purposes, is an awesome way to quickly separate between the veggie and meat dumplings on a platter.  No meat eaten by mistake.  I use green food coloring for the dye action, but if you are using frozen spinach at any time, you can save the water from it to dye your dumpling skins.  The other tip is that although I list a slew of veggies for these guys, do experiment and use whatever you’d like.  Try spinach instead of the cress, water chestnuts instead of the bamboo shoots – be creative and use what’s fresh and available.Vegetarian, vegan or no, give these dumplings a whirl.  If you make them at the same time as the chicken or pork versions, not only will you have a veritable dim sum spread in front of you, you’ll be winning the favor of your non-meat eating friends.  And friends are a good thing, I hear 😉 Continue reading Vegan Potstickers

Spicy Chicken Potstickers

For When You Want No Pork On Your Fork. I Mean Chopsticks

You know I love you guys.  And I have no problem with your dietary restrictions – I still want to fill your belly.  Which is why, if you are not fine with swine, I am posting this lovely recipe for chicken dumplings.

I call for no less than 4 types of pepper in these, so skip the chili oil and Sriracha (thai chili sauce) if you want it less piquant.  If you aren’t down with meat of any kind, check out this recipe for Vegan Dumplings. Continue reading Spicy Chicken Potstickers