When I made the risotto with zucchini, prawn, and preserved lemon from Malouf, I also made the lamb baked with orzo pasta, tomatoes, and lemon for comparison (also from Malouf). I invited a couple of people over because I always like hearing other people’s perspectives on these recipes (and I didn’t want to eat the full amount both dishes produce by myself ).
Since I know there are a number of people in this world who aren’t huge lovers of lamb, including one of my dinner guests, I made the lamb pasta with boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead of the cubed lamb leg meat. I’m telling you this in a post about the risotto with zucchini, prawn, and preserved lemon because the orzo dish was the winner. That’s not to say the risotto wasn’t great. It was great. But the orzo dish was exceptional.
I’m always a little wary of making seafood dishes at home, after a bad experience with an unseen drip of crab meat juice stinking up the whole apartment for days before it was located. I shoved that fear aside for this risotto. As well as my fear of frozen shrimp being mealy, bland, or otherwise unappealing. I grabbed my two (extra) large zucchini, jumbo shrimp, and preserved lemon from Trader Joe’s, came home and started the orzo pasta around 5:30pm, then got working on the risotto around 6pm. Both dishes were ready by about 7pm, which is probably the fastest I’ve managed to have two wildly different dinner entrees ready before. Both were simple to execute, didn’t require a ton of prep work, and were hugely flavorful.
To make Malouf‘s risotto with zucchini, prawn, and preserved lemon, start by simmer a quart or so of chicken stock in one saucepan and heating a couple of tablespoons of oil in a large Dutch oven. Add your quartered onion to the oil, let it soften a bit, remove the onion (I used mine for something else where I needed softened onion) and then add the rice and stir it around for a few minutes. Add your hot chicken stock, about 1-2 cups at a time, stirring until the stock is fully absorbed, then adding more (the usual way). While this happens, start defrosting your frozen jumbo shrimp (or prawns) by letting them sit in a colander placed in a bowl of cold water for about 10 minutes, then replacing the cold water with fresh and letting the shrimp/prawns sit another 10-15 minutes until fully defrosted. Then drain them and pat them dry. This is also a good time to shred your zucchini using the large holes on a box grater, dice your shallot, flash fry both of them together, and get them draining. You can also chop your parsley, and then rinse and drain your preserved lemon, retaining only the rind and chopping it into small pieces. Once your risotto is almost done (about 20 minutes, depending on the age of your rice), you’ll stir in the zucchini, shallot, parsley and chopped preserved lemon (and butter for additional richness, if desired). Heat a saute pan over medium heat, add a drizzle of oil to the pan, sprinkle the patted-dry shrimp with ras al hanout, and sear them 2-5 minutes, flipping halfway through, until just pink and barely opaque in the center. Place them on top of the risotto and serve with parsley for garnish.
I was skeptical of a few of the steps, and I wished there were a few more size-related details in the recipe. Especially when it came time to flash fry my zucchini and shallot, it seemed impossible that I could fit it all in my regularly-sized skillet and also impossible that the method would achieve anything. I also had a terrible time rummaging around my kitchen for a colander that would work for shredded zucchini, and ultimately I didn’t see any liquid drain out. Furthermore, my skillet was nowhere close to large enough to accommodate all of the jumbo shrimp at once.
Missing details in the instructions notwithstanding, I really enjoyed this lemon-y risotto. Unlike many of the risottos I’ve made (and enjoyed) in the past, this one wasn’t heavy or rich. I didn’t know what to expect from the grated zucchini and the preserved lemon, but the final flavors were fresh and bright and a little tangy. It does need salt, generous amounts of Kosher salt, in both my estimation and everyone else’s. I thought a full preserved lemon might be too powerful, but it wasn’t, so don’t be hesitant or stingy in using it here. I’d make Malouf‘s risotto with zucchini, prawn, and preserved lemon again in a heartbeat, provided I remember to take out the trash before going out of town for a hot weekend….
Risotto with Zucchini, Prawn, and Preserved Lemon
- 160 ml (2/3 cup) olive oil preferably Vialone Nano
- 1 small onion peeled and quartered
- 400 grams (2 cups) Arborio rice
- 1 liter chicken or vegetable stock
- 2 large zucchini grated
- 2 shallots finely sliced
- 1 preserved lemon rind only, washed and finelydiced
- 1 tablespoon flat-leaf parsley chopped
- 100 grams (about 7 tablespoons) butter cubed and chilled
- Kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1-2 teaspoons ras al hanout
- 1 clove garlic finely sliced
- 12-16 King prawns peeled and deveined (and defrosted)
Heat 60 ml (1/4 cup) of the olive oil in a wide Dutch oven set over medium heat. Add the quartered onion and let it fry in the oil for 3-5 minutes to flavor the oil. Remove the onion pieces and discard (or use for another dish). Add the rice to the onion-infused oil and stir for several minutes to let the rice grains become coated in the oil.
Ladle 1-2 scoopfuls of the simmering stock over the rice, using enough stock to cover the rice by the width of one finger. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon until most of the stock is absorbed.
Meanwhile, heat about 50 ml (3 tablespoons) of the olive oil in the widest skillet you own (hopefully at least 12 inches). Once the oil is hot, add the zucchini and shallots. It's going to look crazy, but persevere. Don't stir for 30 seconds, then stir well, remove from the heat, and place it in a fine mesh colander or sieve to drain. (Keep the skillet around for the shrimp later.)
Continue adding stock to the rice, adding about another third of the total amount. Once half of that amount has been absorbed and your rice tastes close to done, add the zucchini, shallots, preserved lemon, and chopped parsley. Continue to stir gently until the stock is fully absorbed.
Finally, add the last 100 ml (about 1/3 cup) of the stock and the butter (if using). Stir until both are fully absorbed. Adjust the seasoning (you will likely need a hefty few pinches of Kosher salt and grinds of black paper). Cover the pot and let it rest off the heat for several minutes.
As the risotto rests, place that skillet back on a heat source. Note: if your skillet is 12 inches or smaller, you may need to do this in batches. Add the final 50 ml (3 tablespoons) of oil. Heat the oil over medium heat, then once it is hot, add the prawns and sprinkle with the ras al hanout. Cook for about 1-3 minutes per side, until just barely cooked through, then add the minced garlic, a little salt and pepper, and stir well.
Divide the risotto among 4-6 bowls, top with the prawns, and serve immediately.