Thursday, February 11, 2010

Cooking Under Pressure

Last weekend on the east coast we were awaiting the arrival of a Nor'easter to dump buckets of snow on us; so we prudently put our dinner with friends on hold until later in the weekend. Towards the end of rush hour, with still no snow in the offing, I received a call from our friends asking me what I was cooking for dinner. By now you know that is code for, "We're coming over to eat." Without skipping a beat I answered, "Shrimp risotto."

 Actually, this was not entirely true. I was going to amuse myself by experimenting with pressure cooking risotto. Now, now, calm down. I know--this isn't right--turning that slow, rhythmic process of a time-honored tradition into fast food. Well not so. I pressure cooked a butternut squash risotto just last month. It was surprisingly good, but the timing was off, and I just wanted to fine tune it.

No time for that now. I removed the rest of the shrimp from the freezer and put them to defrost under running water. While that was going on, I heated up the pizza stone and started to pat out the pizza dough. By now you know, too, that I usually have pizza dough on hand on the weekend.  Defrosted, the shrimp were patted dry and cut into thirds. The arborio rice was poured out; the shallots minced; the garlic pressed; the white wine measured.

I poured some olive oil into a skillet and began to saute the shrimp. I added the garlic and salt and pepper and cooked until the shrimp just turned pink, then set them aside for later. I took my favorite copper sauteuse from its shelf, filmed the bottom with some olive oil and a pat of butter. In went the shallots until fragrant and translucent followed by the arborio rice which was stirred until it was coated with the olive oil and butter. Heat off and set aside.

 Risotto, made the traditional way, is really all about the technique. There is always a flavor base such as onions or shallots sauteed in butter or oil.  Then the medium-grain rice with just the right amount of starch, in this case Arborio, is coated well with butter and oil.  It is then cooked, uncovered, while gradually adding small quantities of liquid for the rice to absorb.

 I just had time to change my clothes as John came in through the garage and our friends through the front door.  As John took care if their libations, I thinly sliced two red potatoes, arranged them over the pizza dough, sprinkled them with rosemary, olive oil , salt and some grated Parmesan cheese, then slid the dough onto the screaming hot stone.  Within 10 minutes we were enjoying the pizza with our drinks.

As they sipped I heated the skillet containing the rice.  When it was hot again, I splashed in some white wine and let it reduce for about 30 seconds. Then I began the process of adding the hot broth--two ladles at first--until absorbed. Then I added one ladle at a time, stirring until it was absorbed before adding the next. The rice needs to be tender but still al dente. Just before the rice was done, approximately, 15 minutes,  I added the sauteed shrimp, some salt and pepper and stirred until heated through.  Off the heat, I stirred in a tablespoon or so of unsalted butter and some chopped parsley.  I added a tossed green salad and called it dinner. I thought the Pinot Grigio went well with the dish.

 Okay, the dinner came together quickly and was delicious (although heavy on the carbs)--so I guess I don't need to perfect that pressure cooker risotto after all.


  1. We made risotto and pizza on Sunday for our dinner. Risotto with chicken, followed with homemade pizza (olive oil, crushed tomato, mozz, parm, oregano).

  2. Sounds like the perfect cold weather dinner!