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  • What's Sr Gregor Eating Now? - Mushroom risotto w/ shrimp

    GUA's own foodie finds out why Gordon Ramsey yells all the time.

    I'll be the first to admit, the Gordon Ramsey shows Hell's Kitchen and Master Chef, as well as Kitchen Nightmares served as my initial inspirations for a lot of my cooking ventures. But it wasn't until I started browsing BBC USA for something other than Doctor Who and Top Gear episodes that I encountered the original Brit version of Kitchen Nightmares and, more importantly, F Word. Ramsey's obvious love of all things culinary, beneath all of the bluster and fury that he unleashes on people doing less than their best in a business he's truly passionate about, shines through. F Word, in particular, has him presenting recipes with various levels of complexity, with direct instructions delivered succinctly and briefly.

    That said, I have yet to find a proper risotto recipe. I've done a very simple preparation a few times - white wine, butter, and a bit of cheese. I wanted to go a bit bigger this time around, and so I stretched a bit and came up with something pretty tasty, though I wish I'd had better mushrooms to play with.

    Our core ingredients here are rice, mushrooms, garlic, shallots, white wine, chicken stock, and some thyme (more precise amounts below). I began with some basic sauteed garlic-mushrooms with the thyme added, half of which I then blended up with some stock to make a mushroom puree. Unfortunately, we only had portabellos and white mushrooms to work with; my preference would have been a small assortment of wild mushrooms: oysters, shitaki, maybe some lobster mushrooms. Alas and alack, I had to make do.

    For the rice itself, start out by sauteeing your shallots in olive oil, a bit of garlic, and a few pinches of fresh-cut thyme. After a minute, add in the rice and swish about for a few minutes to bring about a pale golden color to the rice. Slowly simmer in the white wine first to cook off the alcohol, stirring constantly, allowing it to effervesce and absorb into the grains. Then, move on to adding in the chicken broth, again, slowly, simmering, soaking, until we get an "al dente" consistency - something with a bit of a firm bite in the middle.

    Here we bring back in the mushroom puree we made earlier. Pour over the top and begin to mix in with the rice. Now here's where Ramsey tends to get... oh, let's say... "kvetchy". His biggest complaint, as best as I can tell, is that the chefs on HK turn in "soupy" risotto - too much liquid. So your mixing in should be staged: add a little, stir, reduce, and add a little more. Staging it this way will let it soak in the flavor and keep it from ever getting too much liquid.

    I then added some fresh flakes of Parmesan cheese and a couple pats of butter. Ramsey's other big complaint tends to be a lack of salt. Parmesan, however, is a fairly salty cheese to begin with, so I would recommend against adding granular salt until after this stage. Once the cheese melts into the mix and the texture smooths out, you can add in the other half of your sauteed mushrooms and set the temp on the lowest setting, covered. We've done a lot of reducing at this point, so we want to make sure the risotto retains enough moisture to cook the rice the rest of the way.

    As a general rule, I always want some form of protein in every meal, so I decided to top this off with some sauteed shrimp. Basic garlic in oil, wait until it sizzles, then lay out your shrimp.

    A good rule of thumb in setting the shrimps in your pan is to start at the top and lay them clockwise - the goal here is to be consistent so that when it comes to flipping them over, you start from the same position and the shrimps cook for as close to the same amount of time as possible. This is also where cooking with raw, uncooked shrimp makes a difference.

    Yes, you can buy precooked shrimp. The problem there is that if you cook with them, it's cooking them twice. You'll end up with tough, chewy shrimp, and while there are recipes that might call for that sort of thing, this isn't that sort of recipe. An excellent way to track when you need to flip the shrimp is simply to keep an eye on the outer edge. You want them to turn pink just a touch more than halfway up, then flip them all in sequence.

    When you plate, add a piece or two more of Parmesan, maybe drizzle a flavored olive oil for an added kick, and enjoy. You could even add a couple of toasted slices of french bread and a bit of basil, and serve this up bruschetta-style if you wanted.

    The measures:

    2 cups of Arborio rice
    4 cups of chicken stock
    1/2 cup of white wine
    1 clove of minced garlic
    2 diced shallots
    flaked Parmesan

    1 pound of white mushrooms
    1 pound of portabellos
    1 tablespoon of thyme
    4 tablespoons of butter
    2 cloves of minced garlic

    1 dozen 21-30 raw shrimp
    1 clove of minced garlic
    olive oil