The concept of the learning curve applies to nearly every situation which involves progressing from ignorance to enlightenment. Sometimes the learning curve presents itself as a relatively gentle slope; surprisingly, you find that you are able to adapt quickly to new ideas and can easily catch on to recurring patterns. In these rare moments, you may experience the fleeting and exhilarating sensation that you are in fact a latent genius and quite likely one of the smartest human beings alive.At other times, the learning curve is as steep and as cruel as Mt. Everest. Many a brave and talented hero has perished attempting to conquer this zenith of natural creation. When tackling certain life circumstances you may find yourself incapable of grasping even the simplest of concepts or completing the most basic of tasks. This frustrating reality is a telling sign that you are, in fact, catapulting ass-first down the wrong side of the learning curve.The kitchen is my Mt. Everest.
I wish I found more peace in the art of cooking, but I don’t. This doesn’t mean that I’m necessarily the worst cook on the planet. I have been known to make a delicious meal or two, and if I ever find myself living alone I probably won’t starve to death. But cooking, and by extension baking and grilling, does not come naturally to me. I’d rather clean the bathroom than prepare a meal for a party. In fact, I pretty frequently elect this arrangement when the slubs have friends over.
Still, every now and then I contract temporary amnesia and decide I will cook dinner for everyone and furthermore I will have a damn enjoyable time doing it.
A few days ago I strapped on my hardhat to whip up a batch of shrimp risotto. Please take a moment to marvel over this delightful photo I took of the leftovers at work today:
Dan’s Ultimate Shrimp Risotto
This recipe was submitted by Dan Eiref to cooks.com. See the original here. Also, I doubled the recipe for leftovers but prepared it in halves to make two pots of this dish: one with shrimp for the meat-eaters, and one with extra veggies for the vegetarian housemates.
- 5 cups chicken broth (low salt if possible). NOTE: I used vegetable broth instead, in part because that made the recipe vegetarian-friendly and in part because I’ve found that chicken broth makes risotto too salty. But that’s just me.
- ¾ cup dry white wine (might I suggest a chardonnay?)
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 1 to 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
- 1 bay leaf (I didn’t use this and I don’t think the world ended)
- 1 teaspoon tarragon (optional)
- ¾ pound uncooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (AND DE-TAILED)
- ½ cup finely chopped onion
- 1 ½ cups arborio (risotto) rice
- 1 cup spring vegetables such as asparagus tips, peas, corn, or broccoli
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- ¼ cup cream
- ½ cup grated parmesan
Warm broth and ¼ cup wine in the microwave.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add half the garlic and crushed red pepper and sauté for 30 seconds, and then add shrimp, if you’re using the little buggers. Sauté until shrimp begin to turn pink, about 2 minutes. Add remaining ½ cup wine. Simmer until shrimp are just cooked through, about 2 minutes. Do not overcook shrimp or they become tough. Drain shrimp, reserving cooking liquid.
Melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter in heavy large saucepan or skillet over medium heat. Pause to wonder whose idea it was to make butter so delicious but so bad for you. Add onion and remaining garlic; sauté until onion is pale golden, about 4 minutes. Add rice and stir to coat, about 2 minutes. Add ½ cup broth mixture. Simmer until liquid is absorbed, stirring often. Continue adding broth mixture ½ cup at a time, stirring often and simmering until liquid is absorbed before adding more, about 20 minutes total. Don’t “drown” risotto.
Add vegetables and cream.
Cook until rice is just tender and creamy, about 5 minutes longer. Add a final shot of white wine, or a liberal splash if you subscribe to the slub style of cooking. Stir in reserved shrimp cooking liquid. If you made the uneducated mistake of buying shrimp that weren’t de-tailed for you, make sure to do that now. Add shrimp. Add parmesan. Remove from heat.
Stir in 2 tablespoons parsley into risotto, and season with salt and pepper.
This portion size would serve 2 ½ slubs, but probably 4 normal people with room for dessert.
[Additional photo credit: Shannon’s fabulous instagram talent.]