Lobster and Asparagus Risotto
Saturday, February 14, 2015
So, it’s Valentine’s Day which pretty much is like any other day in my house. Meaning? Well, for one, there probably won’t be flowers, chocolates, or jewels. What there will be? Definitely a little something special cooked up, because, while Paul and I may not be inclined to buy into this faux ode to romance that happens on this day every February, we do love a good romp in the kitchen.
And besides, making risotto at home isn’t as hard as people make it sound, and somehow it always feels special. It’s so much easier than jockeying for the best table at the best restaurant in town or standing in line at Tiffany. Wait. I think I’ve taken this a little too far. Paul, if you’re reading this, Tiffany is never a bad choice. Never.
Making a killer risotto at home just takes some patience and practice. Once you’ve made a perfect risotto, not only will you absolutely utter the words ‘why have I never made this before now?!’, it’s something you’ll know how to do it forever. And, trust me, having this one in your back pocket will come in handy. Often.
So, let’s get started with a few pointers.
First, (and this should be something you strive to do with all of your home cooking), practice the discipline of mise en place (we’re getting all fancy in the kitchen with this one). Essentially this is a very French way of saying ‘get all of your ingredients and tools in place before you get started’. That means having all of the add-ins measured, chopped, etc. and all of your tools handy. Risotto starts off a little slow but, once it gets going, there’s no time to waste in getting everything geared up (is it me, or is there a lot of innuendo in this Valentine’s Day post?)
OK, maybe it’s just me.
Second, you don’t want to let the risotto cook too hot, otherwise you’ll run out of broth before the grain is cooked. A low simmer is what’s in order here (really? Nothing? I know it can’t just be me…).
Third, (here’s where the patience comes in), you’ll be adding the warmed broth 1 ladle at a time, and cooking the rice (stirring pretty consistently) until just about all of the broth as been absorbed before adding another. This will go on for about 20 minutes, just until the rice is al dente.
Sidebar–If you learn only two things from this post, I hope it’s these:
1. Risotto requires love and gentle guidance. Much like your best girlfriend in high school, once a good risotto goes bad, there’s no redeeming it…no matter how hard you try.
2. If you don’t get it right the first time, don’t give up! Like most things worth knowing in life, this risotto thing is probably gonna take some time perfecting (unless you’re some sort of rare risotto prodigy, in which case, just skip the rest of this post and head directly to the recipe).
Fourth, start tasting at around the 15 minute mark and every minute or so there after, until the rice is cooked. This ensures that you’ll know at exactly the right moment to take the dish off the heat (when the rice is just at the al dente stage — it still has a little bite but no crunch). This will also allow you to gauge the seasoning and adjust as needed.
Fifth, as soon as the rice is done, you’ll turn off the heat, add one more ladle of warm broth, a bit of butter, and the lobster and asparagus. A couple of stirs and, like magic, you’ll have a pan of beautiful creamy risotto.
A couple more notes. For this recipe, I used a low-sodium vegetable broth. You could certainly go with a fish or chicken stock, I just prefer the flavor and color of the veggie. Most risottos have a bit of cheese, though I chose to abide by the ‘no cheese with fish’ culinary commandment. You could add a touch of creme fraiche (which is just a combination of heavy cream and a bit of buttermilk), but I really like the simplicity of a touch of butter. I hope you’re noting how flexible and creative you can be with risotto. That’s why I am certain it’s going to become your go-to special occasion dish.
Lobster and Asparagus Risotto
servings: 2 | time: about 40
2 cups chopped asparagus
4 cups low sodium vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups water
2 small to medium raw lobster tails (enough for at least 8 ounces of meat)
2 TBSP olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup risotto (arborio) rice
1/3 cup dry marsala wine
1/8 tsp. white pepper
1/2 tsp salt
2 TBSP. fresh chopped tarragon
2 TBSP. fresh chopped parsley
1 tsp. fresh grated lemon peel
1 TBSP. butter
Get all of your ingredients measured, chopped, etc. and set them aside nearby. This means: Heating your broth/water combination in a sauce pan, and keeping it over low heat. Getting a ladle, wooden spoon, tongs and a couple large plates or bowls (one lined with a clean towel for the lobster). You’ll also want to prepare a large bowl of iced and set aside (for the cooked asparagus). Lastly, make sure the table is set and your serving dishes are standing by.
1. Place asparagus in a covered pan. Add a couple tablespoons water and a pinch of salt. Cover, bring to a low simmer and cook for 4-5 minutes, just until tender. Drain and place into the iced water. Allow to sit in the water for a minute or two, then drain and set aside
2. Add the lobster tails (shell on) to the simmering broth and water. Cover and simmer for 5-6 minutes, until the shell is bright red. Remove from broth and place onto the towel-lined plate or bow. Set aside while you make the risotto. Be sure to keep the broth over low heat so it remains warm
3. Heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add the rice, white pepper, and salt and saute for a couple of minutes, just until you start to smell the aroma of toasted rice
4. Add the marsala wine and cook, stirring constantly, until the wine is almost completely absorbed
5. Add 1 ladle of the warm broth to the risotto. Cook, stirring constantly until nearly all of the liquid is absorbed making sure to never the risotto heat above a very gentle simmer
6. Continue the process of adding the broth, 1 ladle at a time, allowing the broth to nearly completely absorb between additions of more broth for about 15 minutes. At the 15 minute mark, taste the risotto for seasoning and doneness (it will still be a bit undercooked with a little crunch at the center of the grain). Add salt and pepper if needed
7. Continue to taste the rice every minute or two for doneness. You want it to just be tender, with a bit of chew, but no crispiness at the center
8. As soon as the risotto is tender (this should be around the 20-minute mark), and add the tarragon, parsley, lemon peel, lobster meat, asparagus and butter. Cook for 1 minute (no more than 1!). Turn off heat, add one more ladle of broth and stir until you can start to smell the herbs and lemon and the mixture is really creamy. Serve immediately