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Some of the best tips for making seafood risotto include using Arborio rice and high quality, fresh seafood. It can be helpful to use a warm, light colored broth for the liquid, and as with all risotto, stirring frequently is necessary. Cooking the seafood separately from the risotto can often make the dish easier to prepare.
Arborio rice is a short grained rice ideal for making risotto. The amount of starch in this variety of rice accounts for the creaminess often sought in risotto. This is especially important when making seafood risotto because Italian cooks do not traditionally mix cheese with seafood. Carnaroli, roma, and vialone nano rice can also be used with good results. No matter what rice is included, it is important to lightly toast it in butter or olive oil before adding any liquid.
As with any seafood meal, premium fresh fish or shellfish is ideal for seafood risotto to ensure the entire dish remains flavorful and delicate in texture. If fresh seafood is not available, quality frozen fish or shellfish can substitute. The texture and flavor of canned seafood is typically not ideal.
Light broth that will not overpower the flavor of the fish is best for seafood risotto. Clam or fish broth is typically preferred, although chicken broth can work in a pinch. No matter what type of liquid is used, it should be heated until simmering and kept warm while making the risotto. Once the rice is toasted, the warm broth should be added to the rice a ladle at a time until it is gone. The amount of broth depends entirely on the quantity of rice.
The idea that the creaminess of seafood risotto comes from cheese or heavy cream is a common misconception; it actually derives from the starch of the rice and the cooking method. When making risotto, it is important to add broth a little bit at a time as noted above. After each ladle-full of broth, stir the rice constantly until all of the liquid is absorbed before adding any more. This brings out the natural starch of the rice, thereby making the seafood risotto rich and creamy without adding any actual cream.
Seafood is notoriously easy to overcook, which can harm its flavor and make it rubbery or tough. When preparing seafood risotto, it can be helpful to cook the fish separately from the rice and then add it in at the very end; this can be accomplished by gently folding the cooked seafood into the risotto after the final ladle of broth. If the recipe calls for the seafood to be cooked with the rice, most types of fish and shellfish, especially when chopped or diced, can be added to the risotto for the last five to seven minutes of cooking. In most instances, the seafood will be cooked through at the same time as the rice.
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