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Lobster & Leek Risotto

Published on February 6, 2007 4:29 PM | Comments

LobsterrisottoI have been getting into risotto since we got back to Florence after the summer, honing my techniques and trying some new ones. Usually I make Milanese (with saffron) or tartufo bianco (white truffles), but I was inspired recently by the lobster tank in Esselunga - they have North American lobsters, and the price is not that bad. For this dish I only used one lobster, and it was about €16. It was a meal for three of us and could have easily fed four or been a first course for 6 or 8. Follow the link below for the recipe.

First the broth: I cut the claws off the lobster, separated the tail from the body, split the body lengthwise, and put it all (except the tail) in a large pot that had a little bit of olive oil in it that was very hot. You want to sort of "roast" the lobster at first to release some flavors from the shell. Once the shell started to darken and the juices of the lobster were browning I poured in enough white wine (a dry Orvieto) to clean the bottom of the pot off. Then the vegetables and herbs went in: celery, carrots, onion, a leek, some parsley, a little thyme, and a shallot. I also added some dry ingredients: a few black peppercorns, a bay leaf, and some sea salt. After this cooked a bit and the wine had evaporated - I added some more - then I put in enough water to cover everything. When it came to a boil I fished out the claws, removed the meat, returned the shells to the pot, and let it simmer for a couple of hours.

Once the broth was done I strained it into a clean pot and kept it simmering. To start the risotto I put some olive oil and butter into a large pot, and added a diced shallot and 2 finely chopped leeks (the white part only). Once these were translucent I added the rice, about 200 grams, and "toasted" that for awhile until it was translucent. Now for the controversy - when I first started learning about and making risotto it was drilled into me that you had to slowly add the stock and stir constantly until the rice absorbed all the liquid until adding more. Well, I think from both experience and further research that this method, while fine, is not the only way or the correct way to make a risotto. Since my stock is simmering already, I add as much as I think the rice will take (which is never enough anyway) - the trick is to keep it boiling/cooking the whole time. Once I added the first several ladles of stock, I stirred the rice only occasionally and then could do other things, like take the meat out of the tail and (blasphemy!) grate some cheese to add at the end (this is a sin in Italian cooking - you don't use cheese on seafood dishes - but that is another post). Eventually the rice did need some more stock and I had it simmering at the ready. After about 20 minutes the rice will be done - it should have a little tooth to it but be soft at the same time - but definitely never mushy.

I turned off the flame and added: the lobster meat from the tail (still raw), which was cut into small pieces, a couple of table spoons of butter, and about 4 ounces of good grated parmigiano (I thought about a touch of cream instead of the cheese but forgot about it!). The heat from the rice will cook the lobster pieces and leave them soft and delicate. Some recipes call for cooking the tail meat separately in brandy or other fancy things - I don't think that is necessary at all.

To serve I heated the bowls, put a nice amount of risotto in each, and garnished them with the claw and knuckle meat removed earlier (the meat was briefly dipped in the remaining stock to warm first) and a sprig of thyme.

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