Meditations

Shellfish Risotto is the New Best Risotto Ever


crab_risotto.jpg
The lobster and dungeness crab risotto K. and I did for our new food pals Helen and Jason (and our established food pals Mark and Andrea) a while back was such a hit that a recipe is in order. So the former best risotto ever is just going to have to move over. As usual, I kind of winged it, and had Mark’s help to make the beurre blanc, but this is it, as best I can remember…..

The Stock

shells of two lobster (you’ve already eaten the prime bits, of course)
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced carrot
1/2 cup diced celery
dash of brandy
a few whole peppercorns
a few sprigs parsley
1 bay leaf
olive oil

Pull the outer shells off the bodies of the lobster. Do this by sticking your finger in the back between the shell and the dorsal side of the lobster, and pulling the shell off the body/head part. Pick out the gills – they are the grey feathery looking parts along the side of the head, and they will impart a slight bitterness and grey colour to the final stock if not taken out. Sweat the onion until translucent with a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pot, then deglaze with the brandy. Add the remainder of the ingredients, and fill pot with cold water until everything is covered. Bring just to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about an hour. Strain using a spoon to press on the shells against the inside of the strainer, especially on the bodies, to get all the flavour out. Work it pretty hard – there’s good stuff in there. Strain again through a cheesecloth and freeze for future use, or transfer to a smaller pot and keep on a simmer for the risotto.

The Crab

2 medium sized live dungeness crabs

Chill the crabs in the fridge so they move a little more slowly, and boil some salty water (as salty as sea water) in a big pot. Flip one of the crabs on its back, and plunge a chef’s knife through the point where the tail bit that’s curled back underneath the critter meets the two halves of the body. Work the knife front to back a bit, then remove it and pull one half of the crab from the shell by grasping the legs of one side and yanking. Do the same for the other side. Shake out the goop that sticks in some of the body segments. Repeat with second crab, and boil cleaned crab in the salted water for 5-10 minutes until just done. Drain and cool. Pick the meat out of the body and legs and set aside.

The Risotto

the lobster stock
1/3 cup finely sliced shallot
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup whipped cream
1 cup Acquerello carnaroli rice
1 tbsp butter
olive oil

Sweat shallots on medium heat with the butter and a dash of olive oil in a saucepan until they are translucent. Add the rice, and temper it in the pan for a couple of minutes, then add the white wine and stir until it is absorbed. Add a ladle of lobster stock and stir until it is absorbed and repeat until the rice is nearly cooked – about fifteen minutes or so. Check the texture of the rice – It should still be toothsome, but neither hard nor mushy. Season with salt to taste, then fold in the whipped cream and you’re almost ready to roll.

The Beurre Blanc

2 shallots, finely minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup champagne or white wine vinegar
handful of chives
1/3 cup tomato concasse
many knobs of unsalted butter – about a cup?

Add shallots, wine and vinegar to a saucepan. Reduce by two-thirds. Take pan off heat and begin whisking in the butter, one or two knobs at a time, returning the pan to the heat as necessary to keep things moving. Do not heat the pan up too much or the sauce will break. Stop adding butter when the richness and acidity of the sauce are balanced. Does it taste too sour? Whisk in more butter. Season to taste with salt, add the tomato concasse, the crab and the chives and warm them through. It really helps with timing to have another set of hands to put together the beurre blanc while you’re doing the risotto.

Whew. We’re almost there. Now assemble by spooning a portion of the risotto into each of six bowls, then dropping the crab and beurre blanc mixture on top. Garnish with some minced chives, perhaps, and that’s it. Enjoy with a rich white wine – for my taste, a viognier – and happiness will ensue!

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