I find it very fitting that it appears a giant pumpkin exploded all over today’s Coconut Curry Risotto with Crispy Salmon, seeing as it’s the week after the unofficial end of summer.
While it isn’t officially fall until the calendar strikes September 22nd, with Labor Day in the past, I’m deeming it appropriate to slowly dip our toes into the foods that make us all warm and cozy inside. Even though the thermostat still currently reads 75 and sunny.
Risotto is one of those dishes that just feels good to eat this time of year. It’s warm, creamy, and comforting — all attributes that equate to a killer fall food. It’s also a dish a lot of people seem intimidated by, and rightfully so. The way most people talk about it insinuates the time, effort, and skill used to pull it off isn’t worth it. Luckily, I’ve found this to be categorically false, because if my ten-year-old self can do it, so can you.
I wish I could say that I remember the first time I made risotto with astute accuracy, but it’s blurry, at best. All I remember, is that according to Martha Stewart, I needed aborio rice, and by gosh, I was going to get that rice. Back then (22 years ago, but who’s counting??), aborio rice wasn’t nearly as readily available as it is now, so tracking it down was a challenge, well that, and the fact that I didn’t have a driver’s license. Lucky for me, my Mom was well-versed in all things food, and happily provided it for me.
I have flashes of standing over my Mom’s hot Viking stove, relentlessly stirring a pot of aborio rice that never seemed to cook. I couldn’t understand why it was taking so long, and as I was getting increasingly more frustrated, I had a epiphany — adding cold or room temperature broth to something hot will inevitably bring the temperature of the entire dish down, which will in turn, slow the cooking process down and create a mushy risotto.
I’ve been able to make killer risotto dozens of times since then, and now I’m going to share my wisdom with you.
How to make perfect risotto:
1.) Always use hot liquid! I like to keep a pot of simmering chicken stock to the side when I’m making risotto and then I just use a ladle to transfer small amounts of the stock to the rice.
2.) Season as you go! Don’t wait until the end to season your risotto. Taste as you go. If you think it needs salt, add it!
3.) Keep an eye on it! It’s a myth that you need to constantly stir your risotto. Yes, you need to do it frequently, but you can tend to other things while it cooks, just make sure to keep an eye on it, you never want the rice to stick to the bottom of the pan.
4.) It’s done before you think it’s done! Classic risotto is creamy and soft on the outside, but has a slight bite to it on the inside, much like aldente pasta, so don’t overcook it!
The great thing about risotto, is it’s basically a blank canvas, so changing the flavor profile is easily done. Of course when we think of variations on risotto, they almost always come back to their Italian roots, but I thought it would be fun to put a different type of spin on it this time, and the additions of red curry paste and coconut milk were the first things that came to mind.
Surprisingly the flavors are rather subtle, but delicious and such a nice departure from the classic preparation. We’re big into salmon these days, so I topped it with a buttery portion of crispy Atlantic Salmon – sautéed shrimp, grilled chicken or even lobster would also be a wonderful compliment.
- 24-28 oz low-sodium chicken broth see instructions
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 1/2 cup diced onion
- 2 tbsp Thai red curry paste
- 1 cup arborio rice
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 - 13.5 oz can reduced fat coconut milk
- 1 tsp packed brown sugar (light or dark)
- 4 - 5 oz portions center-cut salmon
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp ground garlic powder
- 1/2 cup shredded coconut
- Cast iron skillet
- Add 24 ounces chicken stock to a medium pot. Bring to a simmer, turn down to low and keep hot.
- Heat a dutch oven or large medium pot to a medium heat. Add coconut oil. Add onion and sweat for 2-3 minutes until translucent. Add rice, stir and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add garlic, salt and red curry paste. Cook another 1-2 minutes.
- Using a ladle, slowly start to add hot chicken stock, about 1/2-3/4 cup at a time to rice. Stir with a wooden spoon. Stir once or twice until almost all the liquid has absorbed. Repeat process until all chicken stock is gone. Season to taste with salt and you go. Add coconut milk to pot chicken stock was in and bring to a simmer, keep hot.
- Once all the chicken stock has been absorbed, add brown sugar and a ladle of coconut milk. Repeat the same process until all coconut milk has evaporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If necessary, add a little bit more chicken stock. You want the rice to be creamy, have a soft outside and slight bite to the inside. See above photo for reference. Set aside.
- Season salmon liberally with salt. Evenly sprinkle ginger and garlic powder over salmon. Set aside.
- Heat a large cast-iron skillet to a low heat. Add coconut. Toast until golden brown, set aside. Heat the same pan to a medium-high heat. Add salmon, cook until crispy, about 3-4 minutes. Flip and cook another 2-3 minutes for medium-well.
- Serve salmon over risotto. Sprinkle with toasted coconut.