And mind you, this is not just an ocean thing. Hunters out there, you ever come home with one squirrel, one duck, or a lone quail? For mushroomers it may be just a handful of mediocre edibles.
At any rate, this is what I did. By the time the mixed seafood dish had gelled in my head, the day was almost done and Josh was picking mussels. So the next morning I went to the Sacramento farmer's market and bought some tiny bay shrimp and two pounds of little Manila clams.
I've made a lot of seafood risottos over the years. A few were good. Most, however, I remember as overly fishy and generally, well, thin. They tend to lack that umami thwack! you get from a red meat or cheese risotto.
And then there's the rice. I know enough to make risotto with short-grain rice: long-grain rice lacks amylopectin, a particular starch you need to get that creamy consistency. For most of my life, I'd just bought whatever short-grain was cheapest and called it a day. Recently I'd begun buying real Carnaroli rice, which you can get online from Scott over at Sausage Debauchery.
But then I read in Paula Wolfert's Mediterranean Grains and Greens that while carnaroli is cheaper and works perfectly well in a seafood risotto, the top-of-the-line rice is a variety called Vialone Nano, which is smaller and rounder than most other risotto rices. It absorbs more water than most and makes the perfect Venetian-style risotto, which is loose, almost soupy.
Armed with top-of-the-line rice, I needed top-of-the-line broth. I know a lot of writers say you can freeze a fish or seafood broth, but unless you have a freezer that will hold below -10 F or colder, forget it. Why? Because even the small amounts of fat that you get from a fish broth will go rancid.
Think about it: a cow lives in our world, and its body temperature is about 101 F. Dead and cut up into meat, the animal and its fat, held in a home freezer (typically 0 degrees Fahrenheit), is 101 degrees colder than it was while the beast was alive. Now think about a rock cod or black sea bass, two fish often used for fish stock. They tend to live in water that's about 40 F. So even in a freezer, the difference between the live critter and the frozen meat—or broth—is just 40 degrees. This makes a huge difference.
The answer to this problem is to make fish stock fresh when you need it. Fortunately it doesn't take hours like a meat stock, and is easy when you use shellfish, such as clams and mussels. Put a little water in a stockpot, add some finely chopped veggies and seasonings, then dump in the live shellfish.
If you are using different shellfish, they will need to go in at different times. The mussels Josh collected were far larger than the Manila clams, so they went in three minutes before the clams, which needed only two minutes to open in the boiling water. Once the shellfish open, they release a salty brine that makes this quick broth magic.