Hi friends do you know what this week is!? You do. I know you do.
It’s Valentine’s Day week. Which… well it’s really just a day but I’m counting it as a week considering that’s how long I’ll have willed the romantic gesture of flowers into this home come Friday. I don’t ask for much, I just ask that someone reads my mind (or my blog, I suppose) and enthusiastically bring me flowers this Friday. Now I’m asking for enthusiasm in addition to flowers. I’ll chill exactly there.
Aside from my hidden / now very public hopes and dreams, I’ve fashioned a Valentine’s kitchen adventure for you. ‘Adventure’ is an ambitious word for it. The offering is to invite a pal, your best lady, or your sweetest dude into the kitchen to cook with you.
One of you makes the risotto (I always pronounce it the Gordon Ramsey way in my head). The other makes the shrimp étouffée.
I think cooking together is everything. It can be romantic. It can feel playful. It can liven up an otherwise boring dinner prep. No matter who you do it with, it’s just sweet – you’re creating something together. You’re spending time. You’re making a memory. What else are we here for but finding way to connect with one another?
Let’s spend a little time together in the kitchen and save the stack of dishes to save for the morning. It’s fine – they won’t go anywhere unless you have kitchen fairies.
My thought with this dinner is that you stay in this Valentine’s Day. Cook dinner together, have a few sips of wine, turn up a nice playlist, dance around the kitchen a bit. Generously spoon your joint efforts into bowls, light a few candles, and cozy up on the couch together for dinner and your favorite show. This is true romance – I can’t be wrong.
Make this kitchen adventure your own. If you want to make it easier and get to a cozy dinner on the couch faster, skip the risotto and buy a bag of frozen asparagus or mushroom risotto from Trader Joe’s. Easy – the shrimp will come together in 30 minutes. Do what you will, just enjoy.
Get a small head start on the risotto before making the shrimp.
Risotto takes two pans, one to keep the broth warm, and the other to slowly simmer the risotto. Do you need two pans? Yep – warm broth helps the risotto absorb the liquid properly.
While the broth slowly heats, bring together the rice.
Finely dice a bit of sweet onion and a few cloves or garlic.
I like to keep a bit of fresh thyme, butter, and parmesan for finishing the risotto but – we’ll start with onion and garlic.
Saute the onion and garlic in a splash of olive oil over medium heat. Swirl around the pan until the two are married, translucent, and fragrant – five minutes is nice.
Add the Arborio rice to the pan and stir to toast just so. I added a few whole thyme sprigs to flavor the rice as it cooks. You can pull it out towards the end.
After the rice toasts, hit the whole thing with a good splash of dry white wine. Allow it to absorb and evaporate.
With the pot over low heat, add the warm broth a few ladles at a time. Stir the risotto slowly as the broth steams and absorbs. It’s meditative. It’s satisfying. It’s a fun way to cook.
This is the risotto about halfway through cooking if you need a visual.
The rice has considerable bite and the liquid is still loose. It will work its way to creamy as the rice continues to cook and the starches make a velvety texture.
Add most-all of the liquid, though you may not need every last drop. Taste the risotto when it starts to plump. You can stop adding broth once the rice has just a tiny bit of bite.
The best way to know is to taste. You’ll get the feel for it.
Add parmesan cheese by the handful. Stir to allow the cheese to melt.
Add a few pats of butter, sea salt, and black pepper to enrich the rice.
Set aside until the shrimp os cooked through and piping hot.
Any extra broth can be stirred into the risotto just before serving as the rice continues to cook, absorb and thicken even as it rests.
Halfway through cooking the risotto, get started on the shrimp étouffée.
There are all kinds of étouffées to be found in New Orleans. Étouffée essentially means ‘smothered’ – so we’re smothering our shrimp in roux and flavor and serving it over deliciously creamy risotto.
This étouffée recipe is my new favorite. A gem from Ann Maloney, former food editor of the Times Picayune in New Orleans who now develops recipes for The Washington Post.
This étouffée was Ann’s first Post recipe and I’m just going to keep the recipe tab open on my browser until I memorize it. It’s simple yet classic, totally approachable and easy enough for a week night meal. The étouffée also dresses up well, making it a fine partner to our creamy risotto. Also – sans tomatoes is the way to go in my opinion so please – enjoy.
Simmer garlic, onions, celery, diced red bell peppers, scallions, parsley – the trinity plus some amendments and extras. Simmer to soft and fragrant in what feels like a large amount of olive oil. Trust the process.
While the vegetables simmer, whisk together a roux.
Roux is equal parts fat (we’re using butter) and flour, simmered together until deep caramel brown. The flour toasts and the mixture will add thickening and toasty flavor to the étouffée.
Stir the roux into the simmered and softened vegetables.
Delicious delicious we’re getting there.
Add the shrimp, toss to coat, and add a good bit of creole seasoning and cayenne pepper.
Add a lid to the pan to let the shrimp steam and cook until pink and cooked through.
The shrimp will help create a flavorful sauce. I like a spritz of lemon at the end.
Spoon risotto into bowl. Top with a few shrimp.
Bask in the wonder you’ve made. No matter who I’m with, this feels real sweet to me.
Enjoy this fine week – and the fine week after.
This is such a cozy winter meal. Get after it.
Photos with dearheart Jon Melendez.Print
Shrimp Etouffee Risotto: a Valentine’s dinner
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For the Risotto:
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup water
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion, finely diced (about 3/4 cup)
- 2 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
- 3/4 cup Arborio rice
- splash of dry white wine (about 2 to 3 tablespoons)
- sprig or two of fresh thyme
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Sea salt
For the Shrimp Étouffée:
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
- 1 small yellow onion, finely diced (about 3/4 cup)
- 1 stalk celery, finely diced
- 1/4 cup finely diced red bell pepper
- 3 scallions, white and green parts, finely diced
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, plus more for serving
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1 1/2 pounds peeled, deveined medium (41–50 count) shrimp, thawed if frozen
- 1 teaspoon Creole seasoning
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- In a medium saucepan bring broth and water to a low simmer.
- In a large pot over medium-high heat, warm olive oil. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Stir rice into onion mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, until rice is lightly toasted, about 4 minutes. Add the sprig of thyme and stir.
- Pour wine into rice mixture and stir as the alcohol steams off. Cook, until almost evaporated, about 30 seconds.
- Reduce heat to medium and pour a few ladlefuls of warm broth into skillet and cook, stirring gently until broth is absorbed. Continue to cook, repeating adding a few ladlefuls of broth and stirring until broth is absorbed before adding more, until rice is al dente, about 20 minutes. You may find that you have broth left over – that’s just fine. Keep it to the side. You may want to add a splash just before serving.
- Remove skillet from heat and stir in Parmesan . Stir in butter until it melts and season generously with salt and pepper.
- To make the etouffee, in a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the onion, celery, bell pepper, scallion and parsley. Cook, stirring, until softened and with onions just beginning to get translucent, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.
- In a small pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Cook, stirring, until the roux darkens to a light brown color, about 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and continue stirring to allow roux to darken a bit more.
- When the roux is the desired color, add it to the vegetables and stir until fully incorporated.
- Return the skillet to medium heat. Add the shrimp, cayenne and Creole seasoning and stir to combine. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until shrimp turn pink and are cooked through, about 10 minutes. (The cooking time will vary with the shrimp size.)
- Taste and season with more cayenne and Creole seasoning, if desired. Serve right away over risotto.
Dinner tonight, Yum. I forgot the lemon which would have put it over the top. Leftover risotto tomorrow night with salmon!
Just sayin’, leftover risotto only because I made full recipe with half the shrimp.
I live in Australia and I can’t find any Creole seasoning. Do you have any advice for anything I can use instead?
I added the juice from half a lemon before I removed from heat and fresh chopped parsley before serving. Both provided a flavor spike.
I was all set to make steak frites for dinner yesterday, then I saw this post and changed my mind. My boyfriend could not stop talking about how delicious this was! As we gazed at each other by the candlelight he said, “I’m sorry, babe, I just really want to eat this,” when he broke eye contact (not an exaggeration). This is the best meal I’ve ever made, hands-down, restaurant quality without the expense or hassle. Thank you, Joy! I knew you wouldn’t lead me astray!
Wow, Made this tonight for Valentine’s Day. Delicious, thanks Joy!
Outstanding work! Enjoyed your writing!!
My man does not care about Valentine’s Day but he does like shrimp and wine, so he just agreed to this dinner date on Friday! Thanks JTB! And I hope you get a house full of beautiful flowers – tell Tron to step up his game.
Damn, girl. I’m a happily married woman on the far side of the country from you, but this totally has me wanting to show up with flowers :)
Yes! I hope you get your flowers. I MIGHT be able to count on my mom to get me some, but I don’t think my fur-boyfriend, Crawley, will rise to the occasion. Also, better Gordon Ramsey than Giada, IMO. Happy Valentine’s Week!