It all started with the morels. I stood there in Whole Foods, and lifted one big, beautiful, lacy one to my nose and inhaled deeply. Suddenly I was in the country, and smelling the slightly damp earth on a summer day. I knew I needed a somewhat neutral palette as a background for this scent, as well as something I could pair with it that would contrast - in color, texture, scent, and yes, in taste. I turned the corner and spied a forest of young asparagus bunches, all standing at attention. Yes, this was what I needed as a counterpoint. But what was the background going to be? As I continued through the aisles, I spotted the bulk grains, and knew immediately that risotto's creamy texture would balance the earthiness of the mushrooms perfectly.
I would have stopped there, but I found myself walking by the seafood counter and spied these large white shrimp and tiny, tender looking bay scallops. Most people here in California ignore bay scallops, but where I grew up on the east coast, we used to incorporate them into lots of dishes - sometimes even in the starring role. I found myself asking for a handful of each.
I've made risotto before, and understood the principle of adding liquid in batches, stirring until it's absorbed, and repeating the process until the risotto reaches it's rich, creamy, perfect texture. So the only question I had was how to deal with the rest of the ingredients. I scored one hit and one miss, but learned something in the process. And fortunately, the final result turned out to be pretty good in spite of my bumbling. My final result would feed three people easily as a main course.
1 1/4C risotto
3 good sized morels, sliced crosswise
2 small shallots, diced
1 handful of asparagus - about 18 - washed, patted dry and cut into 2" pieces
1 handful of raw shrimp, rinsed, peeled and deveined
1 handful of bay scallops, rinsed.
1/2 C white wine
2C chicken broth, heated
Take about 1TBS of butter, add around 2tsp of olive oil and melt. Toss the sliced mushrooms and asparagus in this mixture, spread on a baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast in the oven until it's slightly toasted - about 15-20 minutes.
While the asparagus and mushrooms are roasting, dice the shallots. Put a chunk of butter into a heavy skillet, add shallots and saute over medium heat until tender. Add risotto and stir until all kernels are coated with butter. Add wine and stir until liquid is absorbed. Add heated chicken broth, about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring until all the liquid is absorbed. After the first 1/2 cup of chicken broth has been absorbed, add the shrimp and scallops. Continue adding liquid and stirring until risotto is creamy and soft. Turn off heat and add the asparagus and mushrooms.
Notes: If I did this again, I would add some lemon zest to the mixture. I would also cook the shrimp and scallops separately, as they took much longer to cook this way. My instincts would be to saute them in a little white wine and some truffle oil. In fact, I intended to use truffle oil for the asparagus and mushrooms, but when I opened my pantry I discovered I was out! (Gasp!)
Note to self: Buy some more truffle oil next time you're in Trader Joe's!
Have you ever cooked with morels? What did you do with them? Are they not the most decorative of mushrooms, especially when sliced across? Like lacy rings....
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10 years ago