Dinner Tonight

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Dinner Tonight: Saffron Risotto with Shrimp and Pistachios

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[Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

Risotto alla Milanese, or risotto flavored with saffron and a whole heap of bone marrow, is one of those perfect dishes that I crave exactly twice a year.

I know this precisely because I looked into my kitchen cabinet the other day and found two half empty containers of both saffron and Carnaroli rice (my favorite rice for risotto). Without the time to simmer a fresh batch of beef stock or the want to deal with all that marrow on a weeknight, I wondered if I could whip up a batch of saffron stained risotto quickly and easily for a weeknight dinner. Of course, I'd need to add some additional items to flesh this out into a full meal.

Then came the dilemma: how could I avoid the temptation to screw up the risotto by adding a bunch of extraneous ingredients to the pot?

I didn't want the poor risotto to have to suffer for the sake of a dozen competing flavors, loosing its essential nature along the way. I needed a couple of ingredients to bulk things out, which would also play nicely with the saffron. Shrimp seemed like an obvious choice, since it would also lighten the load by adding a fresh pop of sweet flavor. Still, I wanted something with crunch. Enter pistachios. If I toasted and then chopped them, they could be sprinkled on at the end.

I whipped up a straightforward batch of saffron risotto, withholding the other two ingredients until the very end. Then, with the heat off, I stirred in the other two ingredients, covered the pot, and let the residual heat do the rest of the work. Saving this until the end allowed me to focus most of my attention where it belonged: on the risotto. As I mentioned above, I'm a huge fan of Carnaroli rice, because it maintains a slight bite to it, though Arborio will definitely work. Like Kenji, I also like my risotto on the saucy side. No additional ingredients can save gluey, clumpy risotto.

About the author: Nick Kindelsperger is the editor of Serious Eats: Chicago. He loves tacos and spicy food. You can follow him as @nickdk on Twitter.

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