Risotto del Mar
My ideal image of not only the perfect risotto but also my ultimate comfort food would have to be a big bowl of creamy, luxurious risotto, clattering about in my bowl from the sounds of shells clanking around, offering up their tenderly sweet but briny decadence – piccoli gioielli del mare!
Servings Prep Time
4(or 3 greedy people) 20minutes
Cook Time
25 – 30minutes
Servings Prep Time
4(or 3 greedy people) 20minutes
Cook Time
25 – 30minutes
  1. Start by dissolving the baking soda in a very large bowl of water and plunge shellfish into it. Let them soak for 10 minutes, then drain and rinse until gently running cool water. This encourages them to spit out any grit and sand they may have inside.
  2. Next, put the water in a pot that all of the mussels and clams can fit in. Bring it to a boil and then add the shellfish. Clamp on the lid, reduce the heat to low, and let the clams and mussels steam for until they just start to open—just about 5 – 6 minutes, depending on their size, until they’re about halfway open. Remove the clams and mussels from the pan (or strain them out, reserving the liquid, if it’s easier)
  3. Return the steaming liquid to the pot (if removed) and add the stock—there should be 5 cups of liquid, so if you’re short add a bit more water. Cover and place over medium-low heat and bring to gentle simmer. If it starts to boil, reduce the heat so it just simmers at a warm temp.
  4. Measure out the white wine or vermouth and the sherry into a measuring glass and add in the saffron, swirling it around to encourage the saffron to seep out its flavor and color.
  5. Meanwhile, over medium heat, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter and the olive oil in a Dutch oven, braiser pan, or some other heavy bottom or enameled cast iron pan until it’s hot and melted.
  6. Add in the shallots and a bit of salt and sauté until they’re fairly soft—about 5 minutes. Turn the heat down and stir in the garlic, thyme, oregano, lemon zest, and chili flakes. Stir about for just a minute before dumping in the Arborio and stirring well to coat in the butter and oil. Toss the rice in the oils over medium heat until they’re slightly opaque—just about 2 minutes.
  7. Pour in the saffron-infused alcohol and stir into the Arborio until it absorbs most of the liquid. Now, add a ladleful of the stock into the rice and stir constantly. This helps the rice to release its starches all the while absorbing the stock. Continue adding the stock a ladleful at a time, stirring it into the rice until most of the liquid is absorbed. Do not add any more stock until the rice has almost absorbed all of its current stock.
  8. In all, the stock absorbing should take about 20 minute, during which time remove the tender meat from the shellfish and roughly chop them—reserving a few in their shells for decoration and discarding any that stayed clamped shut—in between stirs. In the last few minutes of cooking the rice, when there’s only one or two ladles-worth of stock left, add in the shellfish (both chopped and still in-shell). Finish stirring in the remaining liquid.
  9. Shut off the heat, stir in the parsley, remaining tablespoon of butter and check for seasoning. I salt this pretty sparingly to begin with because the liqueur the clams and mussels give off can be quite salty and depending on how well the seafood stock is seasoned you may or may not need more salt at the end.
  10. Serve in warmed wide bowls with bread.
Recipe Notes
  • See above for tips on buying and storing clams and mussels.
  • Before cooking, make sure any open clams or mussels that don’t close on their own after being lightly tapped or squeezed are discarded. Alternately, any that do not open after cooking should also be tossed.
  • The way I used to make this was by skipping the step of pre-steaming and par-cooking the shellfish, waiting until I was about a third of the way through the stock-adding processes—lets say 12 or so minutes of the 20 left—and then adding the shellfish to pot, shells and all, and letting the residual heat of the pan slowly open them. You’ll need to use a full-sized Dutch oven to do this, and maybe a bit more liquid (no more than 1/2 cup). While the prep is much easier it comes with added difficulty to eat, having to remove the meat from each shell as you eat. Nevertheless, still a viable option.
  • One of the local grocery stores by where I used to live carried Kitchen Basics’ seafood stock and I loved it. Unfortunately, nobody around here stocks it so, in lieu of a store-bought seafood stock, I use a homemade shrimp stock that couldn’t be simpler to make. I hoard shells and tails from “EZ-Peel” shrimp in my freezer for stock-making. In addition to this risotto it’s great in soups and bisque, gumbos and jambalaya, sauces… the list goes on .

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