You might be familiar with risotto, a classic northern Italian dish of creamy rice, simmered in broth. All kinds of broth are fair game, vegetable, chicken, even fish. So I decided to make a seafood risotto (also a friend wanted me to).
Why make risotto with fish? Well, I went fishing with my dad, so that’s why the red snapper is in there, and I’m a big seafood fan. I had all these fish heads and bones and I wanted to try making a fish broth. You can substitute chicken broth if you want though!
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Making The Fish Broth
Why should you make the fish broth? For me, I had the whole fish so I wanted to use every part of it. Feels more sustainable to me. I got a lot out of it too. If you want, you can use chicken broth instead. Just skip ahead.
Basically, I used backbones and fish heads to form the base of the fish broth for our seafood risotto. That’s the only part that’s mandatory. The veggies you use are up to you. Put your own spin on it!
I used leeks and celery, cause that’s what we had in the pantry. Carrots, mushrooms, maybe some extra clams, everything is fair game. The world is your oyster here.
First, melt a few tbsp of herb butter in a large pot. Add the fish heads and backbones and cook for about 6 minutes. Then, you can add a little wine to deglaze and add your veggies. Let those cook for a little bit.
Finally, cover with water and simmer for 30 minutes to an hour. Season to your liking with salt, herbs, etc. Make sure to give it a taste! The fish broth should keep in the fridge for about 3 days, much longer in the freezer. Due to the collagen in the fish, it will be like gelatin when it’s cold.
Making The Seafood Risotto
First, take your broth and heat it up in a separate, small pot on the stove. The rice absorbs hot broth much faster than cold broth, and the seafood risotto will take forever to cook if you don’t do this.
Now, we can start on the risotto pot. Drizzle a couple tbsp of olive oil or sesame oil to a pot and heat up on medium. Stir in shallots and cook for about 4 minutes.
Add 1 to 2 tbsp of butter, garlic, and a diced tomato. Continue cooking for 3 minutes.
Now, it’s time to add what makes risotto, the rice. There are 3 types of rice that are best for risotto: arborio, campanini, and carnaroli. Basically, you want short grain rice for the correct texture. To be honest, I used a long grain I already had. A sin I’m sure, but it did work.
This is where the fun begins. After toasting the rice for a minute, deglaze the bottom of the pot with a little white wine. Add a couple ladles of the fish broth (until the rice is covered) and stir. Wait for the rice to absorb it. Then, add more fish broth and stir. Repeat this process for about 20 minutes, until the seafood risotto is done.
Once the rice is done, season it to perfection with your salt, pepper, lemon juice, etc, and add the seasoned fish. Only stir the risotto initially. When the fish cooks it becomes fragile and will break apart if stirred to much. At the same time you start this, steam the mussels and clams.
Cook The Mussels and Clams
I didn’t have any experience cooking mussels or clams before this. It’s honestly not hard, they can be steamed or boiled. They even tell you when they are done by the shell opening up!
That said, I do think they are unforgiving. They need to be served immediately when they are done. Overcooking them will make them shrivel up and become rubbery. You don’t need to add any salt since they have plenty of salt water inside already.
I ended up boiling them in a separate pot with some white wine, water, and butter. They could be cooked in the same pot as the risotto, but this way you can plate them however you like. I think it makes a prettier picture.
The hard part will be timing it so that the mussels and clams will finish at the same time as the fish. You should start the mussels first, cause it will take longer to heat up the pot and they take a little longer to cook than the fish. Anyway, your seafood risotto is ready to serve!
This recipe was inspired by upbringing on the Gulf Coast of Florida, where seafood reigns supreme. For another local favorite, try my shrimp n’ grits, a popular brunch item in my hometown. Or for something crazy, I tried fusing Cajun and Chinese cuisine with this gumbo recipe.
Seafood Risotto With Red Snapper, Mussels, and Clams
- 1 lb red snapper cubed
- 1.5 lbs mussels
- 20 clams
- 2 cups arborio rice
- 4-8 cups fish broth (or chicken broth)
- 5 garlic cloves
- 2 tbsp olive oil (or sesame oil)
- 3 shallots diced
- 1 tomato diced
- ½ lemon (juiced)
- 1½ cups white wine (1/2 cup for risotto, 1 cup for mussels and clams)
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese grated
- 3 tbsp butter
- 1 cup water
- black pepper
- 1 green onion
- Warm up broth in a separate small saucepan or pot.
- Heat up 2 tbsp of olive oil on medium heat in a large saucepan or a pot. Add the shallots and saute for 4 minutes, or until translucent. Add 1 tbsp of butter and all of garlic and tomato, cook for 2 more minutes.
- Add rice and toast for 1 minute. Add ½ cup of white wine and stir until rice absorbs all the wine.
- Add 1 ladle of broth and stir the rice until it absorbs all the broth. Repeat this process until the rice is fully cooked, about 20 minutes.
- Add salt, pepper, and lemon juice to the risotto. Stir and taste, make any desired adjustments. Add the fish, try not to stir once it is cooked or the fish will break apart.
Mussels and Clams
- In a separate pot, add 1 cup of white wine, 1 cup of water, and 2 tbsp of butter. Add cleaned mussels and clams and heat up on medium high. Cook until the mussels and clams open up, about 6 or 7 minutes.
- Grate the Parmesan on top of the risotto, place the clams and mussels around the plate. Garnish with green onion.