Lobster Prosecco Risotto
When you think Italian and think starch, pasta usually comes to mind. In some regions of Italy, though, the starchy component of the meal is often risotto – the elegant and creamy rice dish that works as a starter or main course. With origins in Piedmont, Lombardy and Veneto – all in the northern part of Italy – risotto can be simple or elaborate. It is made with high-starch medium-grain rices – like Carnaroli, Arborio and Vialone Nano – that release starches during the cooking process to give the dish its creamy texture. There are lots of variations on risotto, incorporating cheese, vegetables, meats, poultry, seafood, mushrooms and herbs.
Relax. It’s easy
Many cooks have a fear of risotto because they think it’s too complicated or volatile to make. This could not be further from the truth. Risotto is basically a simple dish and anyone can make it easily in an ordinary kitchen. Contrary to popular myth, you do not have to stand over it constantly and fret over its imminent self-destruction during the cooking process. Have your ingredients prepared and measured beforehand and follow the simple instructions below to make perfect risotto every time.
2-1/2 cups Carnaroli rice (or Arborio or Violone Nano)
6 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade)
1 yellow onion – chopped fine
4 Tb unsalted butter (divided)
2/3 cup dry white wine
1-1/2 cups grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese – finely grated
Salt and pepper
Bring the stock to a boil in a saucepan and keep it hot during the cooking process. In another heavy saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter (or substitute olive oil) over low heat and saute the onion for 5-6 minutes until softened and translucent. Add in the rice and stir to coat with the oil. Stir and toast the rice in the pan until white spots appear in the centers of the grains – about a minute or so. Add the wine, and stir until liquid is absorbed – about 2 minutes more. Begin ladling in the hot stock until the rice is just covered. Maintain at a simmer. As the stock is absorbed, ladle in more – keeping the rice covered with a “veil” of stock. Continue this process until the stock is gone and the rice is slightly al dente. Remove from heat and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter (not olive oil this time) and the Parmesan cheese. Salt and pepper to taste. Let the risotto rest for a few minutes and serve hot.
An easy variation on this is Risotto Milanese – the signature risotto of Milan. Make as above, but stir in a teaspoon of saffron toward the end of cooking. Grinding the saffron in a mortar and pestle will release more rich saffron flavor. The finished risotto will be a beautiful golden color.
The guilty secret of very rich risotto
I had some friends over for dinner one night and while I was running around trying to get ossobuco onto the table, I asked my friend Rosemarie (a very accomplished cook) if she would put the butter in to finish the risotto. Rosemarie, whose family is Italian, did so and brought the risotto to the table. It was the richest creamiest risotto any of us had ever tasted – absolutely amazing! I later asked Rosemarie how much butter she had put in, thinking she might have put in more than the specified two tablespoons. She told me she put in an entire stick of butter! “That’s how we make it in my family,” she said. It was incredible. Big butter was not lost on Julia Child and Paula Deen. If you want really rich risotto, go for it – and hit the gym the next day!
Lobster Prosecco Risotto
One of my favorite risottos – this makes an amazing main course. Rich lobster, cream (in place of cheese) and a crisp prosecco (dry Italian sparkling wine) create a luscious and decadent dish.
2 small to medium sized live lobsters cooked in water with one tablespoon of salt
3 cups prosecco (Italian sparkling wine) Optionally, use a dry white wine.
3 Tb. butter
1 large yellow onion – minced
1-1/2 cups Carnaroli or Arborio rice
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 cup heavy whipping creme
2 Tb fresh Italian parsley – minced
1/4 cup fresh chives – snipped – plus whole chives for garnish
Freshly ground pepper
Remove the meat (tail, claws and body) from the lobster shells and cut into small pieces. Put the shells back into the cooking liquid and reduce over high heat to 3 cups. Strain cooking liquid through cheesecloth into a saucepan along with the prosecco. Heat to almost boiling and keep hot throughout the cooking process. In a heavy saucepan, melt butter and saute onion over medium heat until soft and translucent. Stir in rice and stir to coat with butter. Saute until white spots appear in the centers of the grains – about a minute or two. Start ladling in stock and keep at a simmer – maintaining a “veil” of stock over the rice. Continue this process until the stock is absorbed, the rice is tender and creamy but al dente – about 20 minutes. As you add the last of the stock, add the lobster meat, cream, lemon juice, chives, parsley and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary. garnish with chives and serve immediately.
Enjoy risotto in place of a pasta course, as a side dish or as a main course. It’s easy, versatile (you can add vegetables, mushrooms, meats, seafood or almost anything else you have around) to create a unique, satisfying and elegant dish.