Stir In A Little Comfort


I’ve fallen off the carb wagon.

During the summer I was pretty good. Salads were my hard-core norm. It all seemed easy enough really: I love lettuce. But once the school year started up again and I was slammed with that crazy schedule that begins at 5:00am and ends way too late with me frazzled and exhausted and wondering why I still have so much left to do, I’d let a piece of freshly baked epi loaf slip through. The one where the peaks of dough turn crispy and crunchy and could double as a weapon if I weren’t so dead set on eating it.

That, paired with an oozing slab of Bouyssou cheese is hard to resist.

Friday nights, of course, posed a challenge.

Maybe I won’t light the candles every Shabbat like a good Jew should, but, by God, I’ll eat the challah! The warm, soft, fluffy, extra-thick slice of challah! (Here skip cheese and go straight for creamy butter with a sprinkling of sea salt.)

You know once you have tasted that you gotta have more and more and more. That stuff is primal comfort.

So, maybe my hard core has some cracks in it.

Some restorative, heavenly cracks.

At that point I find myself saying, to hell with it, love handles are not so bad. And justifying, didn’t Lesley Stahl just report on 60 Minutes that it’s better to gain weight as we age, so long as we aren’t obese? Yup. It was something like that.

Have your salad, yes, but sometimes, when you need a bit of culinary love, have your salad on the side.

Risotto is the ideal carb comfort dish. You must, however, pencil it into your schedule. Don’t run away. It’s not a ten-hour ordeal or anything, but you’re in for a good 30 minutes of stirring, which is just the perfect amount of time to savor that crisp Sauvignon Blanc you’ve had chilling in the fridge.

This dish obviously wasn’t created for a multi-tasking solo mother with two starving and overscheduled teens, but maybe that’s when you have a piece of that yummy bread to throw at them and quiet them up for a bit; the challah, not the epi, as they may get hurt if you hurl a piece of that.

The premise to the whole thing is quite simple: onions and risotto fried gently in olive oil, a drizzle of white wine to elevate the flavor, and then, slowly, lazily, pour in tiny hiccups of hot broth which you will diligently stir on medium/low heat until fully absorbed. When you’re done with that, you’ll pour in some more. And then again, and again and again, until your liquid has melded with your risotto and created a creamy, slightly crunchy delight, to which you will add whatever else you wish. In this case, it will be shrimp and crabmeat and the magic ingredient, mascarpone cheese. Risotto is all about patience, none of that flash-in-the-pan business.

I can’t think of any better accompaniment to a green salad.

And a piece of bread. Or two.

Shrimp & Crab Risotto

(Food & Wine, Grace Parisi)


  • 3 cups bottle clam juice
  • 2 ½ cups water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ cup minced onion
  • 1 ½ cup Arborio rice
  • pinch of saffron
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • ½ pound cooked shrimp, cut into thirds
  • ½ pound lump crabmeat
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • ½ cup mascarpone cheese


  1. In a medium saucepan, combine clam broth and water and bring to a simmer. Keep warm.
  2. In a large saucepan, heat olive oil. Add onion, season with salt and pepper and cook over medium heat, until softened, five minutes.
  3. Add rice and cook for 1 minute. Crumble in saffron and add wine to rice.
  4. Cook, stirring until the wine is absorbed.
  5. Add 1 cup warm clam juice and cook stirring constantly, until nearly absorbed. Continue adding juice, ½ cup at a time and stirring constantly, until it is nearly absorbed between additions. The risotto should be al dente and thick and creamy.
  6. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Melt butter in a large skillet. Add the shallot and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the shrimp and crab and cook until just heated through. Scrap the seafood into the risotto and stir in the parsley and mascarpone. Serve immediately.
  8. Serves 6

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Stir In A Little Comfort

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