Oh, risotto. Loved by all, feared by many. There’s just something about that stirring thing that sends folks right over the edge.
It’s like parallel parking. Parallel parking is super easy — with just a tad bit of practice, seriously, it is — but it psychs folks out big time. In the central business district of downtown Cincinnati, the metered spaces are hilariously far apart — measured, I suppose, to fit the brontosauruses of the SUV world. But still. Faaaaar apart. Like two-smart-cars-in-one-spot far apart. But I still regularly see people pass up a perfectly good place in front of the door of their destination, choosing instead to circle the block to wait for a handy-dandy end space to open up.
Parallel parking IRL:
- If at first you don’t succeed, try try try try try TRY again.
- Meh, close enough
- Smoooooth moves. Like velvet.
- Two inches to spare. Boom!
And that’s why inventors invented park assist: folks would rather turn their car over to an unseen computer tucked away under the hood that they never open than learn to back into a spot. (I get visions of Christine-like “accidents” whenever I see commercials with computer-controlled cars, but that’s probably just me (and too much spent with Stephen King).)
Risotto is the parallel parking of the food world. And lucky for eaters everywhere, adventurous cooks invented park assist for risotto: the oven bake.
As with park assist, I was horribly skeptical of the oven bake, but unlike park assist, I was actually willing to try it.
Risotto in the oven? Would it be as good? How can risotto be risotto without stir-stir-stirring to coax out all of the creamy, starchy goodness in the rice? Could it possibly work?
Turns out, like park assist, it does. It’s a little different — the rice grains end up puffier than their well-formed, al dente stovetop-cooked counterparts — but still really good.
And if it means the difference between cooking risotto at home and not cooking risotto home, please please do the park assist oven bake.
Oh, and in addition to the whole oven baked risotto thing, this is a one-pot oven baked thai risotto (separate pan for the shrimp, though, but if you line the pan with foil … super-easy-clean-up). You start off with a little saute action, add the rice and wine for a spell, then dump in everything else and stick it in the oven.
If you really want to easy things up, put everything (except the shrimp) into the pot at once – except the wine – give it a stir, and stick it in the oven. I skip the wine in this case because — and this is just my personal preference — I don’t care for the for the raw wine’s contribution to the stock: the wine should enhance the rice, not marinate it. I do like the effect of sauteed onions and lightly toasted rice that a brief round on the stovetop brings, so that’s reflected in this oven baked risotto recipe.
And if you’ve spent any time on this site at all, you know that I have real affection for Thai flavors. My local grocery recently started carrying fresh galangal, and I actually squeaked out loud when I spotted it next to the ginger. Galangal is so interesting. The knobby rhizome looks like ginger, but the similarities end there. The flavor is pungent, peppery and … something else … slightly sweet and vaguely pine-y. I’m not sure I would enjoy it raw, like I do ginger, but it really adds something very nice to Thai recipes. (In the absence of fresh galangal, I call for ginger in this baked thai risotto recipe, despite the fact that the two are not similar in flavor. I’ve used ginger in Thai recipes for many years, and know it works to my liking.)
Baked Thai risotto, people. The oven bake really works. So well, in fact, that I might just have to start incorporating baked risotto into my weeknight meals.
- 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 cup coconut milk, well shaken*
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce (optional)
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 1/3 cup chopped shallots
- 1-inch knob of fresh galangal or ginger, peeled and minced or grated
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste
- 1 cup arborio rice
- 1/2 cup dry white wine or sherry
- 1/2 of a fresh lime
- 1 scallion, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro or 1 tablespoon finely chopped Thai basil
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound large shrimp, thawed (if frozen), peeled and deveined
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- juice from 1/2 fresh lime
- 1/2 teaspoon curry powder (your favorite; if you’re not sure, use a mild yellow)
- 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- In a large, deep oven-proof saute pan or dutch oven, heat the coconut over medium until the surface shimmers. Add the sesame oil, shallots and galangal or ginger, and saute until the shallots start to turn translucent, just 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and curry paste, and stir to combine. Add the rice, mixing well with the aromatics, and saute until all of the grains are coated and the garlic is fragrant, about one minute. Pour in the wine or sherry and cook until evaporated, stirring the rice frequently.
- Pour the 2 1/2 cups of stock, the coconut milk, and fish sauce into the pan with the rice and stir to mix thoroughly. (Hold back 1/2 cup of stock for the end of cooking.) Cover the pan with an oven-proof lid or foil and bake in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until much of the liquid has been absorbed by the rice. It will appear a little bit soupy.
- While the risotto is baking, prepare and roast the shrimp (below).
- Remove the risotto from the oven, uncover, and set on a burner turned to medium heat. Stir the risotto to mix in the excess liquid. Add the reserved 1/2 cup of stock and heat through, stirring until all of the liquids are incorporate into the rice. The risotto should be creamy and thick. Remove from heat and squeeze the juice from 1/2 of a lime over the top. Stir in the scallions and cilantro or basil (reserve a few pinches for garnish, if desired). Taste, and season with salt and pepper as needed.
- In a medium bowl, toss the shrimp with the oil, lime juice, spices and big pinches of salt and pepper. Spread them in a single layer on a parchment covered baking sheet.**
- Bake in the oven at 400°F for 8 to 10 minutes. (You can do this right along with the risotto, if you have room). Remove from the oven when the shrimp is pink, opaque and plump (the edges might be slightly caramelized – this is a good thing!).
- Spoon the baked risotto onto serving dishes and top with the roasted shrimp, plus more cilantro/basil, if desired.
*if you used a typical 13 to 14 ounce can of coconut milk, you’ll have about 3/4 cup left over: note that coconut milk freezes wonderfully. I pour the extra into a small ziplock bag, gently squeeze out the air as I seal, and lay the bag flat until frozen.
**if you don’t have enough room in your oven for both the risotto vessel and a baking sheet, use a baking dish for the shrimp, instead. (And you can skip the mixing bowl by seasoning the shrimp right in the dish.) Keep an eye on the time, though, as the shrimp may require a longer stretch to cook through in a baking dish versus on a sheet pan. Or, roast the shrimp on a sheet after you remove the risotto from the oven, and just keep the risotto warming while the shrimp bakes.