I have always been a good eater. My mother never had to worry about me cleaning my plate when I was a child. Contrary to my youngest sister who had an aversion to cheese and whose favorite meal was a bowl of Froot Loops, I liked most everything…well, except vanilla ice cream. I didn’t understand the appeal of plain vanilla when chocolate was the other option.
I’ve since outgrown my dislike for it but I had another peculiar habit. As much as I have always loved peas, I would always pick out the last few pieces from my plate towards the end of the meal and not eat them. It never failed–as the meal progressed, pleasure would turn to near-disgust at the thought of having to eat another harmless pea.
Fortunately, like my early dislike for vanilla ice cream, I outgrew the silly pea habit. When I spotted fresh English peas at the farmers market last week I promptly filled a bag with one dish in mind. I planned to serve a simple risotto with peas as a side dish to grilled chicken but when the latter didn’t happen I went to Plan B and made this version instead.
What was intended as a side dish turned into a complete one-pot meal with the addition of saffron and seafood. Think Risi e Bisi (Venetian rice and peas) meets Risotto alla Milanese (Risotto with saffron) and seafood paella. It may sound like a confused mash up of three classics but with less than six degrees of separation in their ingredients, this risotto dish actually ended up quite satisfying. The best part was that it was no harder to prepare than any of the three dishes separately.
And guess what? I ate every last pea.
- 4½ cups broth (vegetable or chicken)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1½ cups arborio rice
- ⅔ cup white wine
- ½ cup peas (I used fresh English peas but frozen would be okay, too)
- 1-2 pinches saffron
- ½ pound seafood (I used combination shrimp, bay scallops and calamari)
- ½ cup grated Parmesan
- Chopped scallions for garnish
- Juice of approx ½ lemon
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Bring the broth to a simmer over medium-hight heat and add the saffron. Cover and keep warm.
- To pre-cook the seafood: add to the simmering stock and cook for about 3 minutes or until the meat is just cooked-through. This may take less or longer than three minutes depending on the size of the seafood you use. You can add the seafood to the stock at any time as you prepare the risotto. Just don't forget to remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside so the meat doesn't get tough.
- To prepare the risotto: Heat the butter and olive oil over medium-high heat in large pan. Add the onions and cook for 3-4 minutes until they're no longer translucent. Add the rice and cook for another 3 minutes until they're toasted. Add the wine and cook for another 1-2 minutes until almost all the liquid has been absorbed.
- Turn the heat down to medium or medium-low and add ½ - ¾ cup stock to the rice. Cook, stirring frequently, until almost all the liquid has been absorbed. This will take 5-6 minutes. Repeat this process, adding ½ cup stock at a time until the rice is tender. Season the rice with salt and pepper as needed between additions of stock.
- When you have about 1 cup of stock left, test the rice for doneness. It should be almost ready at this point. Add ½ - ¾ cup of the remaining stock along with the peas and cheese. You can also add the lemon juice at this point. Stir to combine, cover and reduce heat to low. After a couple of minutes, remove the cover and test the rice. Both the rice and peas should be tender by this time. If your risotto looks dry, add the remaining stock. Risotto has a tendency to dry out so you can save any unused stock to add to leftovers before reheating if you have any. Garnish with chopped scallions before serving.