In case you were wondering, there is a Padrona of casa Bonfiglio, Mo, but unlike il Padrone, she doesn’t put on any Sicilian airs. After a week of subtle hints, gentle prods, overt suggestions, and, finally, a smack upside my head, I learned that la Padrona should very much like that I post an actual recipe on the blog, to assure all who come and read it, that I actually do know how to cook. “Fair enough,” I say, “I’ll post a pasta dish.” “No you won’t,” says la Padrona, “anyone can make pasta.” Having just posted a bit on the notion that an entire High School graduating class is neither special nor exceptional, la Padrona’s assertion sounds, well…apt. Since the entire notion of setting up a web-site and starting a blog was to establish a platform from which to launch my cookbook, “Second Helpings,” it struck me as rational to excerpt an actual recipe from it, in precisely the form it is in the book. Thus, with no further ado, I offer:
Peach Risotto con Gambero
Che causa é questo? (What is this?)
This is how it works in casa Bonfiglio. I am asked to come up with a risotto dish, and create the one I just described. After a few raves, Mo says, “That was good. Now can you make it with….” (Fill in the blank.) Since I just took the position that once you get the basic risotto recipe down, you can make it with anything, the answer is, “Yes.” This came about because we had shrimp, but no eggplant vinaigrette or zucchini. You can call this a variation on Risotto ala Riccardo, and at its base I admit it is, but the taste is quite different and there is enough variation in the ingredients that enable me to name it separately.
Why do I want to make this dish? (Perché voglio fare questo piatto?)
Either you find yourself similarly situated (sans veggies); or, you like shrimp with rice.
Shrimp lovers, rice lovers and devotees of peach schnapps.
Ingredients (Serves 4 as an entree or 8 as a side)
1 cup of pearly Italian risotto ½ teaspoon of saffron
2 pounds of jumbo shrimp ½ teaspoon of dill seed
1 ½ cans of chicken broth ½ teaspoon of celery seed
1 stick of butter ½ teaspoon of ground white pepper
5 cloves of garlic 2 tablespoons of capers
8 large white mushrooms 1 cup of peach schnapps
1 bunch of fresh asparagus 1 jar of sliced peaches in syrup
2 quart pot wooden spoon
medium bowl cutting board
deep frying pan with cover kitchen knife
measuring cup measuring spoons
How to make it
Using a sharp knife, clean and de-vein the shrimp. Place the cleaned shrimp in a bowl, cover with cold water and set aside.
Remove the stems from the mushrooms, slice the caps into thin, roughly ¼ inch slices and set aside.
Peel the garlic and slice each clove into thin strips and set aside.
Trim the bottom inch off the asparagus spears and set aside.
In a large measuring cup, add the sliced peaches, drained of the syrup, and the peach schnapps and set aside. If you want more “kick” to the marinated peaches, drain off the syrup the night before, add the peach schnapps, cover it with a lid and refrigerate over night.
Bring the 2 quart pot filled ¾’s with water to a running boil on high heat. Add the asparagus and blanch for roughly 5 minutes, then remove from heat and drain. Let the asparagus cool on a plate and set aside.
Place the stick of butter into the large frying pan and place on high heat. After the bottom of the pan is coated with butter, add the garlic slices, then the capers and the mushroom slices and stir gently with a wooden spoon until the capers and mushrooms are thoroughly coated with butter. Now add the blanched asparagus spears and stir some more with the wooden spoon to coat them too. Then add the pepper, dill seed and celery seed, sprinkling same over the vegetables. Then add the risotto and stir in to coat with cooking fluids. Add the 1 ½ cans of chicken stock and cover, lowering the heat to medium.
Cook for roughly 15 minutes, checking the fluid level every 5 minutes and stirring to prevent sticking. If the fluids fully boil off before the rice begins to fluff up, add more stock at the rate of ¼ cup at a time.
After 15 minutes, add in the shrimp (drained of water) and the peaches with the schnapps and the saffron and stir in thoroughly. Cook uncovered, stirring every 2 minutes, until done, (roughly another 5 to 10 minutes, when the cooking fluids have all but disappeared) then remove from heat and place in a covered casserole dish or serve in plates.
Peach Risotto nearly finished
How to serve it
This dish is a stand alone one, and makes a nice Friday night dinner, even when it’s not Lent.
Alterations, permutations and combinations
You can use chunks of lobster or scallops in addition to or instead of the shrimp and have it all work out fine. You can use canned asparagus, but they’re a little saltier and moo shad, so are likely to break up when cooking even more than the blanched asparagus. Piquancy addicts can switch to a ¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper in place of the white pepper. You could also substitute a ½ cup of white wine for the same volume of chicken stock. Lastly, if you have some zucchini flowers on hand, now is the time to get them involved too. As they are delicate, add them when you add the shrimp.
Taste sensations to look for
The rice picks up the totality of flavoring offered by the seasonings while the shrimp plays wonderfully off the noticeable peach flavor, giving the dish a distinctively different taste. The rest of the vegetables and seasonings stay in the background, giving it all a satisfying and unusual, yet pleasant taste sensation, with textural contrast between very soft of the asparagus and peaches, somewhat firmer of the risotto and mushroom and the very firm via the shrimp.
Culinary reflections (riflessioni culinarie)
The chicken broth, butter and garlic combination effectively obliterates any residual fishiness from the shrimp, while still flavoring the rice and asparagus. The additional volume of the peach schnapps is used for the same reason, as well as to enhance the overall “peachiness” of the dish. The peaches continue to offer a nice textural and flavor distinction that is quite different from cooking other fruits, such as apples or berries. Lastly, if you are sentinent, you recognize the saffron, pepper, dill seed and celery seed combination used to flavor the shrimp.
Ascolti il padrone (Listen to the master)
If you learn nothing else from this Book, learn the basic seasoning schemes and go out and be creative. Then you can name a dish after yourself!