Friuli-Venezia Giulia (FVG) is notable for stretching from lagoons to the south to snow caped mountains in the north and plains and forests in between. This recipe combines the best attributes from the two extremes of FVG: the sea and the mountains. It combines wild mushrooms and shrimp to offer a mild yet beautifully contrasting dish. The absence of cheese to finish the dish is very intentional as Italians generally don’t mix cheese with seafood except under very specific circumstances.
Use this recipe as a guide since you can easily substitute different shellfish and mushrooms. For the mushrooms, try flavorful fresh wild mushrooms or dried and reconstituted mushrooms. Save the soaking liquid from the mushrooms, strain through a fine cloth or sieve and add to the fish stock for extra flavor and color. For the shellfish, try crab claws or lobster instead of shrimp.
This recipe makes 4 main course servings and is adapted from the La Cucina cookbook by Accademia Italiana Della Cucina.
Ingredients and Directions:
One onion, diced
1/2 pound thinly sliced Porcini mushrooms, stems removed or other fresh wild mushrooms cut into bit-sized pieces or 2-4 ounces reconstituted dried mushrooms (see description above)
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice or other short-grain Italian rice
One cup, dry white wine
6 cups fish broth (see note)
A handful of arugula (use wild arugula if possible), finely chopped
3/4 pound peeled and deveined medium shrimp
1 tablespoon of butter
Salt and pepper
Special Equipment: A heavy cast iron pot large enough to hold the risotto finished product and a wooden or silicon spoon (a metal spoon will rip apart the mushrooms)
1.General note: This dish really depends on salt and pepper to bring out the flavors of the mushrooms and fish stock. Be sure to add salt and pepper all the way along and taste as you go.
2. Place the fish stock in a separate pot, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.
3. Over medium heat and using the heavy cast iron pot, add a little extra-virgin olive oil (maybe about 3 tablespoon). When the oil is hot, add the diced onions and saute until very soft, about 5-8 minutes.
4. Add the sliced mushrooms to the onions and gently stir with a wooden or silicon spoon until the mushrooms are soft.
5. Add the rice, stirring occasionally and cook for about 1 minute. The rice will become a little transparent. Add the white wine, stir and let it be absorbed into the mushrooms and rice. About another 1 minute.
6. Begin to add the fish stock, one ladle at a time. For this step, you will continue to stir the rice very frequently. Each time you add stock. wait until the stock has been mostly absorbed by the rice and then adding another ladle. The rice will take about 20-25 minutes to cook. If you think you are going to run out of stock before you are done, add water to the stock remembering to raise the heat on the stock to keep it at a simmer. The rice is done when it is still al dente (a slightly firm bite) and not too soupy.
7. At the very end, add the arugula, butter and shrimp and gently stir. Cook for just another minute until the shrimp have turned pink and are just cooked and the butter is melted.
8. Season a final time with salt and pepper and serve. DO NOT serve this dish with grated cheese. It will overwhelm the delicate taste of the shrimp.
Note: If you buy fish broth, it is likely very concentrated. You’ll have to be the judge based on the broth’s color and taste. I diluted a 2 cup container of broth with water to make 6 cups and it worked perfectly.
You can also make your own stock. Using fish heads and bones is the standard method but these can be difficult to find (go to an Asian market if you can). Alternatively, buy unpeeled shrimp with the heads on.
Remove the shrimp heads and add to a pot. Shell the shrimp and add the shells to the stock pot. Search your refrigerator and pantry for stock vegetables (onions, carrots, celery, parsley stems, leeks, other green leaf vegetables) and add some to the stock pot. Cover with water, bring to a near-boil, then reduce and simmer for 1/2 hour. Strain the stock through a very fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth. Add salt and pepper to taste and you are ready to go.
Photo courtesy of Michele Becci – ouritaliantable.com