This risotto is full of flavor and excellent paired with local prawns or shrimp. If you’ve never cooked with Pernod before, you are in for a treat. Investing in a bottle is worth it because there are many recipes, especially those with seafood, that are greatly improved with the addition of this delicious spirit. If you don’t have Pernod you could use Pastis, Ricard, Herbsaint or another kind of anisette. It has a licorice/anise flavor, but most of those strong notes mellow out when cooked. You could use Pernod in a salmon dish with fennel, stir it into Bouillabaisse, or use it when steaming mussels among many other applications.
I came across this recipe on Food52 and have altered a couple things and rewritten it below in an easier format to follow. If you don’t have preserved lemon, you can add a teaspoon of lemon zest and a sprinkle of salt as a replacement, but preserved lemon is really delicious.
It’s important to prepare and organize all your components first. Risotto requires that you stir it very frequently so multitasking is difficult.
I’ve organized the directions to help with this workflow.
“Mise en place”, as the French say!
1/8 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small fennel bulb, chopped (save some of the frilly tops for garnish if you have)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup Arborio or Carnaroli rice
1/4 cup Pernod, or other anise apéritif
1/4 cup lemon juice (if using crème fraîche, reduce to 1/8 cup)
4-5 cups hot chicken stock
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup mascarpone (or crème fraîche)
1 tablespoon rinsed and minced preserved lemon
1/8 cup coarsely chopped mint leaves
1 cup peas
1/2 bunch asparagus
16 large de-veined shrimp, shell on
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Pernod, or other anise apéritif
2 cloves of garlic, minced.
Zest of half a large lemon
1 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary leaves
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Get your “mise en place” prepared …
For the Risotto:
Put the onion, fennel, and garlic in a bowl.
Heat the broth to a simmer and reduce heat to low.
In a 10-12” fry pan measure out your olive oil
Measure out the Pernod and lemon juice into a small bowl and set it near the fry pan
Measure out the mascarpone, peas, and butter into a bowl and set near fry pan.
Place the asparagus on a plate and drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and roll the asparagus to coat
For the Shrimp:
Put the garlic, rosemary shrimp, olive oil, Pernod, and lemon zest in a bowl big enough to mix everything together. Toss the shrimp to coat in the marinade and set aside next to the asparagus. Both the shrimp and the asparagus will be grilled
If you’re using a charcoal grill, get the coals started before you begin cooking your risotto so that the fire is ready when the risotto is finished cooking.
Let’s get cooking!
Heat the pan with the oil over medium heat and add the bowl of onion, fennel, and garlic. Sauté for about 5-7 minutes or until translucent.
Add Carnaroli rice to the pan and cook, stirring to lightly toast the rice and coat evenly in oil, 2-3 minutes. It will look slightly translucent.
Increase the heat to medium high heat and add the lemon juice and Pernod, stirring to release any bits of vegetable that may have stuck to the pan. Cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds or until most of liquid has evaporated
Add a ladle of hot broth and stir through the rice. Once the broth has been absorbed, add another ladle and stir through the entire pan. Continue this process for the next 20 minutes until the broth is gone and the rice is done. If you run out of broth and the rice is still too hard, continue cooking, but ladle in hot water instead of broth.
As you cook the rice, it will begin to release it’s starches, which give risotto it’s signature creaminess.
Don’t over stir the risotto. People think that you have to stir risotto constantly, but if you over stir it, it will take the rice longer to cook and could break up the rice creating a gummy texture. Stir the rice frequently, but not constantly.
Make sure the liquid is almost completely absorbed before adding the next ladle of broth or water.
Taste the risotto towards the end of cooking. Add salt and pepper to taste, but go light on the salt as you can always add more later
Once the rice is done, turn the heat off and cover with lid.
Grill the shrimp and asparagus until just done, 2-4 minutes depending on size. Chop the asparagus by thirds
Uncover the rice and stir in the peas, mascarpone (or créme fraiche, if using), preserved lemons, and half the mint. Taste for seasoning and add salt to adjust.
Spoon out 4 servings of risotto into large shallow bowls or on dinner plates and top each with asparagus and 4 shrimp each. Sprinkle with remaining mint, torn fennel fronds and a nice bit of cracked black pepper.