Shrimp and Tarragon Risotto
1 and one-half fresh large shrimp in the shell
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris
4 cups homemade or canned low-sodium chicken stock
3 cups water
One-half medium onion, coarsely chopped
About 10 fresh parsley stems
About 8 3-inch sprigs fresh thyme
2 fresh bay laurel leaves, or 1 dried
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium shallot, finely chopped (about 6 tablespoons)
1 and one-half cups Arborio rice
1 teaspoon salt, less if using canned stock
One-third cup coarsely chopped fresh French tarragon
One-fourth cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Shrimp stock: Peel and devein the shrimp, reserving the shells. Cover the cleaned shrimp and refrigerate. Heat the olive oil in a medium (3-quart) heavy-bottomed saucepan over high heat until it smokes steadily. Add the shells to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until they turn a deep orange and are just beginning to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Pan-roasting the shells gives the stock much of its flavor, so take the time to do it carefully. The roasted shells should release a concentrated, toasty, shrimp aroma that will fill your kitchen. Add the wine to the pan, first turning off the gas flame to prevent the alcohol from igniting, then return it to medium heat and boil until all the liquid is evaporated. Add the chicken stock, water, onion, celery, parsley stems, thyme, and bay leaves and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting and simmer gently uncovered for 30 minutes. Strain the stock through a fine-mesh sieve into another medium saucepan and place it over low heat. You should have 5 to 6 cups stock. Discard the solids.
2. Starting the risotto: Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring often, until softened but not browned, less than 1 minute. Add the rice and stir over heat for 1 minute.
3. Adding the liquid: Ladle 1 cup of the hot stock and add the salt (omit at this point if you used canned chicken stock to make the shrimp stock). Stir the rice continuously with a large wooden spoon until all the liquid is absorbed. After the first addition of stock, you will need to stir the rice very often, but you don’t have to stir it continuously. It’s all right to set the spoon down for a few minutes at a time, but stay close by and don’t get distracted. You never want the rice to get so dry that it sticks to the bottom of the pan. Keep the heat at medium-low so that the rice is at a steady but very gentle bubble when you stop stirring. When the rice absorbs the first cup of stock, add another. Continue stirring and adding stock in this way, always waiting until the rice absorbs the liquid before adding more. The risotto will take 25-30 minutes to cook from the first addition of stock. When done, the mixture will be creamy and the rice will be puffed and somewhat tender but still have a little bit of a bite in the interior when you chew it. It should not be mushy.
4. Finishing the risotto: When the rice is done, add the shrimp and continue to stir the risotto until the shrimp are not longer translucent and just cooked through, but not curled into a tight circle, 3 to 5 minutes. They should still have a tender snap when you bite into them. If necessary, add a little more stock as the shrimp are cooking to keep the risotto moist and creamy, it should form a spreading mound if spooned onto a plate. Stir in the tarragon and parsley. Season with black pepper, and additional salt if necessary. Spoon the risotto into warmed bowls and serve right away.