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Risotto al Perfume de Ají

A week ago, I got tired of playing kitchen Jenga in my overcrowded pantry.  Deciding to clear the decks, I went through every can and bottle, checked expiration dates, and relined the shelves.  While there weren’t as many items to throw away as I’d feared, there were enough to make me feel more than a little ashamed and wasteful.  I hate throwing away food to the core, and there’s no excuse for it.

I’m always finding inspiration in stores and markets, but it’s given me a slight case of kitchen ADD.  I was excited to come across the tiny (albeit expensive) dendê oil but never got around to using it.  The giant bottle of orange blossom water had great value, but only saw the light of day one teaspoon at a time and had to go.  Even a few cans that you would expect to find in a nuclear fallout shelter were months past their sell by dates.  Between this site and other projects, I always have a reason to bring home a hard to find ingredient but my follow-though needs work.

Before I put everything back, I made a quick list of at-risk items that were likely candidates for the next go around if I didn’t do something with them soon.  At the top was the jar of preserved ají amarillo from Peru.  A few months ago, it was the closest thing I could find to the peppers I needed for salsa a la huancaína but had moved on to fresh (or freshly frozen) since then.  Consulting Yanuq, one of my favorite sites for Peruvian food, I found this recipe for risotto al perfume de ají made with a strong dose of ground peppers.  The combination of creamy al dente rice and lip-stinging heat reminded me of my favorite seafood risotto, so I decided to sautée a few shrimp as well.

Risotto al Perfume de Ají
Adapted from this recipe on Yanuq.  I made some adjustments to the amount of crema de ají to tame the taste – just a little, there was still plenty of heat.

Crema de Ají:
8 ounces aji amarillo, jarred in brine, drained, seeded, and chopped
1-2 tablespoon safflower or olive oil
1 tablespoon sugar
Freshly ground pepper

6 cups chicken broth
1 cup white onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely diced
1/2 pound large shrimp (10-12), shelled and deveined
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cups of rice (preferably Carnaroli)
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon of thyme leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 cup crema de ají
1 cup corn kernels, cooked
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
½ cup  Parmesan cheese, finely shredded
Freshly ground pepper

Queso fresco (optional)

In a blender or food processor, combine all the ingredients for the crema de ají and pulse until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside.

Bring broth to a steady simmer in a saucepan.

Heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat.  Add the onions and garlic and sautée until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add shrimp to skillet and stir until opaque and cooked through, about 3 minutes.  Remove shrimp and set aside.

Add the rice and stir until coated.  Add 1/2 cup (full ladle) of simmering broth and stir until most of the liquid is absorbed.  Add another ladle of broth and stir until liquid is absorbed, kept at a simmer and covered in between additions.  Stir in wine, thyme, and crema de ají (kept warm if possible).  Continue adding remaining broth, stirring constantly until the liquid is absorbed before adding more, about 20 minutes.

Stir in the shrimp and corn and cook until the rice is al dente, an additional 5 minutes.  Off heat, stir in the parsley and Parmesan.  Adjust seasonings to taste.  Garnish with thyme.  Serve with cubed queso fresco.

11 Comments Post a comment
  1. Flory Velarde #

    Good choice of recipes Ana, I have tried them all and they are delicious……
    Keep up the good Work
    Un beso

    Enviado desde mi iPad

    El 19/10/2012, a las 05:08 p.m., “hungry sofia” escribió:


    19 October 2012
  2. Looks delicious. I love risotto, and using stuff in your pantry like that is a great idea.

    23 October 2012
    • sofia #

      I also love risotto and i really don’t find it so difficult to make, when you have the right ingredients at home; just time consuming. I always read your site to find new things to include in my recipes. You share lots of wonderful ideas. Keep on cooking! Thank you.

      Oh, I discovered a new small restaurant in Coral Way, in Miami, with very tasty and healthy food, low on salt. This one is called Villa Habana

      26 October 2012
      • hungrysofia #

        Thank you! I’ll have to go next time I’m home.

        28 October 2012
  3. I play jenga in my whole house… maybe that should change too! Recipe looks great!

    28 October 2012
  4. daisyandthefox #

    ooooo yum!! this looks so delicious!! 🙂

    31 October 2012
  5. Janet Rörschåch #

    Lovely! Again, I will need to tweak about for my gf status, but absolutely lovely.

    27 November 2012
  6. Hmm it seems like your site ate my first comment (it was super long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up
    what I had written and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog.
    I as well am an aspiring blog blogger but I’m still new to everything.
    Do you have any helpful hints for beginner blog writers?
    I’d really appreciate it.

    27 July 2014
  7. VEOrtiz #

    Looks good but shrimps are not in the ingredient list. How much and raw or cooked

    24 August 2014
    • hungrysofia #

      Thank you for catching that (no pun intended)! I’ve made the correction.

      26 August 2014

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