Summer entertaining doesn’t have to be a grilling occasion. A few weekends ago we invited friends for a casual dinner on the porch, where we skipped the open flames for a light, creamy risotto. And if you want the full truth…I was dying to set the table with my hand-painted shellfish bowls. So this time I let the table setting dictate the main course, and I knew my summery shrimp and corn-studded risotto would be a match made in heaven.
We started the evening with Aperol spritzes (why not go Italian all the way?), then lazed around the table after dinner until raindrops drove us to the living room. While listening to music from our college years, we had another splash of wine and honey roasted apricots over gelato. It was, by all accounts, a night well spent.
Below you’ll find my recipes for the risotto as well as my shellfish and corn stock. You certainly don’t have to make your own stock – save time by substituting store bought chicken stock – but you should know that making it could not be simpler. And the results are well worth it, adding richness and depth you just can’t get from a box or can. I made a massive pot of stock because I had lobster shells hanging around in the freezer from a salad I’d made a few weeks ago, throwing them in with the shrimp shells and corn cobs.
In this risotto, sweet corn and succulent wild-caught shrimp make great bedfellows, and the gentle acidity of summer’s first heirloom tomatoes balance and delight. Tender herbs – basil, chives, tarragon and chervil – complement but don’t overpower the dish. Finish it off with a drizzle of best quality olive oil and a shower of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, if you’d like. I topped ours with a tangle of micro-chervil from Lake Forest Farms.
Shrimp and Sweet Corn Risotto
serves 4 generously
This risotto is equally delicious with lobster. Simply swap one pound cooked and chopped lobster meat for the shrimp.
- 6 cups shellfish and corn stock (recipe follows) or low-sodium chicken stock
- 3 large ears corn, shucked (about 2 cups kernels)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 cloves garlic, minced and divided
- kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling
- 1 lb 16/20 count shrimp, peeled and deveined (shells reserved for stock, if making)
- 2 medium shallots, chopped
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
- 2/3 cup good dry white wine
- 8-10 basil leaves
- zest of a large lemon
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, divided
- 2 tablespoons tarragon leaves, finely chopped
- 1 large heirloom tomato, small diced
- chervil, micro-chervil, or chopped fresh chives for garnish
Pour stock into a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat and cover, keeping warm.
Cut kernels from cob: Invert a small bowl and place in a large bowl (see above photo). Set tip of cob on small bowl and hold cob from stem end. Using a sharp knife, carefully cut downward so kernels and juices fall into large bowl. Drag back of knife down cob to extract any remaining juices. Repeat on all ears. Set empty cobs aside for stock, if making.
Heat one tablespoon butter and half of the garlic in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add corn kernels, season with a pinch of salt, a grind of pepper, and sauté, stirring occasionally, until corn has softened, about 5 minutes. Pour into a bowl and set aside.
Place one tablespoon olive oil and remaining tablespoon butter in pan and raise the heat to medium. Add rest of garlic and 30 seconds later the shrimp, a small pinch of salt, and sauté 1 1/2 minutes per side, or until shrimp are pink and just firm. Place on a plate until cool enough to handle, then chop into bite-sized pieces and set aside.
In a large, heavy bottomed saucepan, heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium. Add shallots, thyme sprigs, and a 1/4 teaspoon salt, sautéeing and stirring occasionally until softened, about 5 minutes. Add rice and cook a couple of minutes, stirring constantly until grains appear semi-translucent. Add the wine, stirring constantly until absorbed, about two minutes.
Add a ladle full of hot stock (about 1/2 cup) to rice, stirring until almost absorbed. Repeat this process, a ladle full at a time, until rice is creamy and perfectly al dente, tasting to make sure it isn’t crunchy, 20-25 minutes. You may have stock left over, and if you run out, don’t panic! Warm some extra broth or water and resume adding and stirring until desired doneness is reached). Remove from heat and discard the thyme sprigs. Tear basil leaves into small pieces over the pot, then stir in lemon zest, 1/4 cup of parmesan, tarragon, shrimp and corn. Season with salt and pepper, and a splash more broth if risotto needs loosening.
Toss the diced tomatoes with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt just before serving (don’t do this ahead of time or juices will release). Spoon generous helpings of risotto into shallow bowls and top with tomatoes, chives or chervil, and remaining parmesan. Drizzle each bowl with a bit of olive oil and serve immediately.
Shellfish and Corn Stock
makes about 2 quarts
Making stock is a simple, unfussy task. If you have extra shells or cobs hanging around the freezer, throw them in the pot. If you only have half an onion or no wine, that’s okay too. Relax! The only requirement here is having 6-7 cups of liquid when simmering is done – enough to make your risotto.
- 3 corn cobs
- shells from 1 lb shrimp and/or any reserved shells you may have
- 1 white or yellow onion, cut into quarters
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/8 teaspoon peppercorns
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 2 1/2 quarts water, or more to cover
Place all ingredients in a large stock pot, adding more water if needed to cover ingredients. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Let simmer for 45 minutes to an hour.
Remove shells, cobs, and onion from pot and discard. Strain through a fine sieve into an extra large bowl. Use immediately or cool and freeze for later use.
Setting the Table
In this post, from top to bottom: hand-painted shellfish bowls by artist Merrill Strange (purchased from an Ocean Reef shop that no longer carries tableware); on table throughout post – French blue opaline water glasses by Portieux Vallerysthal, vintage; wine glasses and linen napkins, Williams-Sonoma; table cloth and coral plates, Zara Home; wicker chargers, Molly Flavin; white woven ceramic basket and blue-green glazed ceramic vases, vintage; Staub cast iron round cocotte in sapphire blue, Williams-Sonoma.