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Lyn Nichols column: What's Cookin': Recipes can create a 'Big Night'

In a recent discussion with friends, we talked about some of our favorite movies and famous movies that either have food as a central thread or that contain significant scenes with food.

In a recent discussion with friends, we talked about some of our favorite movies and famous movies that either have food as a central thread or that contain significant scenes with food.

For me, one movie stands above all others when it comes to a culinary adventure. When a centerpiece dinner party of extraordinary gastronomic creations is served, viewers may want to run to the kitchen in search of food. It so impressed me that I initiated a quest to discover the recipes used in the movie.

With the help of friends, including Russ Parsons of Los Angeles, I found the marvelous Risotto Con Gamberetti that was prepared in the movie.

The movie is "Big Night" (1996). It is a gentle, multi-layered drama/comedy about two Italian immigrant brothers, Italian restaurants and exquisite Italian food.

In the movie, a dazzling dinner is prepared, the likes of which haven't been seen on screen since "Babette's Feast." One of the brothers proudly creates a truly magnificent risotto, but the blasé clientele would rather have spaghetti and meatballs a la Chef Boyardee -- and so the "big night" begins.


The movie, starring Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub, is funny, warm, poignant and full of pathos. It is worth checking out and although the recipe from the movie is time-consuming, it is a delicious Italian classic from Tucci's family.

Here is the famous risotto recipe from "Big Night."

Risotto Con Gamberetti

(Risotto With Shrimp)

Prepare shrimp broth:

1 pound shrimp shells

1 medium onion

1/3 cup carrots


1 stalk celery

1 tablespoon parsley

5 cups water

In large saucepan put shrimp shells (from deveined and cleaned shrimp), onion, carrots, celery, parsley, water and salt to taste. Simmer gently for 20 to 25 minutes. Strain the broth, discarding shells and vegetables. Set broth aside.

Prepare shrimp:

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 pound medium shrimp, deveined and shells removed (use shells to make broth)


Salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat oil in a large skillet. Sauté garlic until lightly cooked. Add the shrimp, season to taste with salt and pepper, and sauté until shrimp is pink. Set aside.

Prepare Risotto:

3 tablespoons olive oil

¼ cup chopped onions

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 cup Arborio rice

1 small tomato, diced


½ cup dry white wine

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. In a large pot add olive oil, chopped onion and garlic. Sauté until garlic and onions are wilted, but don't brown. Add rice. Stir to coat, and add one cup of reserved strained shrimp broth. Cook and stir frequently until rice has absorbed liquid. Add tomato and wine.

2. Continue cooking and stirring until rice has absorbed liquid. Then add one cup of broth at a time, each time waiting to add new cup of broth until liquid is absorbed. After you have added 3 cups of broth and it is creamy, 18 to 20 minutes, add the cooked shrimp. Add more broth if needed. Risotto should not be dry. Stir in the Parmesan cheese just before serving. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Notes: 1) One tablespoon butter may be mixed into the risotto at the end of cooking for sheen and for extra creaminess. 2) You could use a variety of mushrooms to make the dish more interesting. 3) Shrimp broth may be prepared ahead. Canned chicken broth may be used in place of the preparing the shrimp broth, but still boil the vegetables in the chicken broth to make a flavorful broth.

Roasted Italian Vegetables

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves


1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

2 large Yukon Gold or red new potatoes, peeled, and cut into 2-inch pieces.

2 large carrots, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces

½ cup of olive oil

4 or 5 cloves of garlic

Kosher Salt

Freshly ground black pepper


3 tablespoons tomato sauce, optional

1 large yellow squash, cut in half and then into 1-inch pieces

1 large zucchini, cut in half and then into 1-inch pieces

1 large sweet potato, peeled, cut in half, and then into 1-inch pieces

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Combine the chopped herbs in a small bowl and mix. Set aside.

3. Place potatoes and carrots in a large casserole or baking dish, sprinkle with half of the herb mixture and toss to coat. Stir in the garlic and season with salt and pepper.

4. Stir in tomato sauce, if using, and ¼ cup of the olive oil.

5. Bake stirring occasionally, until the potatoes begin to brown and soften, about 30 minutes.

6. Add the squash, zucchini, sweet potato and the remaining herbs and ¼ cup olive oil. Toss to coat evenly.

7. Continue baking, stirring occasionally until all of the vegetables are browned, firm and cooked through, about 1 hour.

8. Drizzle the vinegar and extra virgin olive oil over the vegetables and toss. Serve immediately. Makes 8 generous servings.

Note: A variety of vegetables may be used in this recipe -- substitute with your favorites.

Sautéed Mushroom Crostini

1 pound mushrooms, cut into ¼-inch pieces

¼ cup olive oil

1 clove garlic

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Italian bread loaf, cut into thin slices

Parmesan cheese (finely shredded or grated)

1. Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.

2. Add garlic and cook until slightly softened, but not browned.

3. Add mushrooms and cook until softened and brown, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes.

4. To make the crostini, arrange bread slices in one layer on baking sheets and sprinkle with Parmesan. Toast slices in oven until crisp and golden, about 8 minutes. Cool. (Crostini may be made two weeks ahead and kept in an airtight container at room temperature.)

5. Spoon sautéed mushrooms onto crostini. Sprinkle with the parsley and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately. Makes at least 8 servings.

Note: Use a variety of mushrooms to make the dish more interesting.

Lyn Nichols hosts "What's Cookin'?" weekdays on WDAY-TV. Her column appears Sundays and alternate Wednesdays in The Forum. She can be reached at PO Box 2466, Fargo, ND 58108, or e-mail, lyn@i29.net

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