Saffron Risotto Topped with
Braised Fennel and Nuked Prawns
Bart is usually very complimentary about my cooking and often urges me to write down
successful new creations. He raved and raved about this dish -- how the richly
saffron-spiced rice was playfully balanced against the sweet and sour of the braised
fennel, the brightness of the garlicky prawns and the sparkle of a few basil threads woven
into the rice.
This is a classic Sunday Supper. It takes about 1 hour of preparation. If you're
accustomed to making risotto, this recipe is easy.
- Shell and de-vein about 10- 12 medium size prawns. Rinse and dry them thoroughly.
- Put the prawns in a ceramic bowl that is large enough to hold the shrimp in one layer
without much overlapping and that will fit into your microwave oven. Mix them with 2 TBS
olive oil and 1 large clove garlic put through the garlic press.
- Cover with plastic wrap until ready to cook.
Braised Bulb Fennel
- Trim the tough outer leaves of the bulb and cut off the root
end. Cut the bulb into 1/4" slices, slicing from top to bottom.
- Place the slices in a shallow frying pan large enough to hold all the slices roughly in
a single layer.
- Add just a little water to cover the bottom of the pan, 3 TBS olive oil and 4 TBS
- Cook covered over low heat for about 30-40 minutes or so (turning the slices every 10
minutes) until the fennel is quite soft.
- Uncover and boil away any remaining liquid, but don't let the fennel slices fry in the
oil that remains.
- Slice each piece along its length into thin ribbons.
- Set aside until you're ready to assemble the dish.
- 1 1/3 cup arborio rice
- 1 cup fish broth (use Knorr bouillon cubes)
- 1 cup chicken broth (use Knorr bouillon cubes)
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1/2 medium-size yellow onion
- 1 heaping tsp saffron threads
- 2 TBS chopped basil
- 1 large clove garlic
- Brown the rice by sautéing it in a few TBS oil olive in
a large shallow fry pan until it turns light brown. Remove rice from pan and set aside.
- Mix fish broth and chicken broth together and heat in saucepan to a light simmer. Add
the crumbled saffron threads. Keep warm.
- In a separate sauce pan, warm the wine and keep it warm.
- Add a few more TBS olive oil to the same pan used to brown the rice and sauté the
onions lightly. When the onions are a light golden brown, add the browned rice and garlic
(put through a garlic press). Stir for a few minutes to mix them together.
- Reduce the flame to low and start adding the warm broth to the rice, a cup at time,
stirring continuously. Continue in this way until all the broth has been absorbed by the
rice. This will take about 20-25 minutes. Then add the wine a 1/4 cup at a time and stir
continuously until the wine is absorbed.
- Stir in chopped basil. Set aside the risotto until the other components of the dish are
- By the time the rice is finished, the fennel should also be finished.
- Cook the shrimp in the covered bowl in your microwave at "high" setting for
2.5 minutes. (Cooking time will depend on the power of your oven. Try not to overcook the
shrimp. They should be just barely cooked, retaining a little translucence and only a
little resilient to the touch).
Put a serving of risotto on the bottom of your warm bouillabaisse bowl, mound a handful
of braised fennel ribbons on top of the risotto in the center and arrange 5-6 prawns
around the fennel mound.
- Outer leaves: On older fennel the outer leaves can be
stringy like celery stalks. To conserve these leaves rather than removing them completely,
I use a potato peeler to peel off the stringy outer layer.
- Saffron: Fresh truffles and saffron are two expensive
habits. Fortunately, I don't have a good source for fresh truffles, but I do have a good
source for saffron so I use it liberally. I find that most cooks use saffron too
sparingly. They use enough to get the tell-tale yellow color, but not enough to convey the
deeply pungent flavor of saffron. Try not to skimp on the saffron if you take the trouble
to make this dish.
- Basil: This is a simple technique for preserving basil so you
can have "nearly" fresh basil year-round. Basil treated in this way in August,
when basil is abundant, will last through the winter and until the next basil season
- Remove the leaves from the stems and wash the leaves.
- Spin dry and lay out in one even layer on a large dry cookie sheet. Don't let any of the
- Put them into the freezer on the cookie sheet until the leaves are completely frozen.
Quickly and carefully remove the frozen leaves to a large plastic zip-lock bag and put the
bag into the freezer immediately.
- When you need fresh basil, take a handful of frozen leaves from the freezer bag and use
- Browning the rice: No matter what type of rice or
what rice dish I'm making, I always brown the rice in oil or butter before adding the
liquid. It gives the rice a nutty flavor that enhances its otherwise bland taste.