Risotto is one of those dishes that’s purely Italian in nature. Most traditionally made with Parmesan cheese, which is stirred in right at the very end of cooking to not only boost the rice’s creaminess but also lend its signature salty, nutty flavor to the dish. Don’t get caught up in tradition though, because risotto is one of the most flexible meals you can make.
While there is nothing wrong with Parmesan, the cheese possibilities for risotto are nearly endless and you quickly discover that the world of this comfort-food staple really has no boundaries.
Risotto is one of those gourmet meals that is really not difficult to make, and it doesn’t take long either. You can have it on the table in 30 minutes or less. It takes some work stirring — not the kind of stirring where you must stand at the stove and stir constantly. You can step away for brief moments, but you do want to do lots and lots of stirring. It’s the stirring that breaks up the starches in the rice and makes the risotto so incredibly wonderfully amazingly creamy.
This rich and creamy risotto with tender shrimp, uses Asiago over Parmesan cheese for a semisweet touch, plus tarragon and flat leaf parsley to give the dish some freshness.
Asiago is a whole milk cheese that originated in Northern Italy, around the Po River Valley where Italy borders Austria. Coming from the mountains, Asiago is similar to other mountain cheeses, such as Switzerland’s Gruyere or France’s Beaufort. Asiago is made in large wheels designed for long-term aging to get through tough winters. Dense and flavorful, Asiago’s flavor profile changes as time polishes the wheels over the course of several months or years. Taken from the milk of cows grazing on the grasses and wildflowers of the mountains, Asiago can have a fresh, fruity flavor or a savory, zesty taste on the palate.
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 3 slices bacon
- 250 gm mushrooms, sliced
- 2 Tbsp butter,
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 1/4 cups (250 gm) Arborio rice
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 85 gm Asiago cheese, grated
- 1-3 Tbsp butter,
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning
- 1/4 tsp onion powder
- 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1 Tbsp EACH butter & olive oil
- 300 gm WILD, jumbo shrimp, peeled & deveined
- Heat 1 tsp oil in a LARGE POT or DEEP SKILLET over high heat. Add bacon & cook until fairly crisp. Blot on paper towel & crumble. Transfer to a small microwave-proof bowl. Leave about 1 Tbsp bacon drippings in pot & discard the rest. Add mushrooms & cook until browned. Remove to a dish, set aside.
- Turn heat down to medium & return pot to the stove. Add butter & melt; then add garlic & onion. Sauté for 3 minutes or until softened. Turn up heat, add rice & stir until grains become partially translucent, about 1 minute (do NOT overcook).
- Add wine & cook, scraping the bottom of the pot to get any brown bits, about 2 minutes. Turn down heat to medium-low; add about 3 cups of chicken stock. Leave, uncovered, stirring just once or twice, until most of the liquid has been absorbed.
- Check firmness of rice & add 1/2 cup of broth at a time, stirring in between until absorbed & rice is cooked to YOUR taste.
- While the risotto is cooking, combine spice mix in a plastic bag. Add shrimp & shake to coat well. In a skillet, heat butter & olive oil; add shrimp & sauté for 2-3 minutes, just until cooked. Keep warm.
- Add the mushrooms back into the risotto towards the end, just to heat through. Right at the end when the risotto is ready, add a 'splash' more chicken broth to make the risotto slightly soupy, then take it off the stove.
- Add butter & Asiago cheese, then stir vigorously (this will activate the starch & make it super creamy). Add shrimp & gently stir to incorporate them into the risotto.
- Serve immediately. Garnish with reheated bacon & extra Asiago if you wish.