Monday, August 20, 2007

Seafood and Whisky Risotto

Sat 18 Aug 2007

Yes, you read that right. A quick dive back into my own kitchen, even though my Italian stories aren't yet finished. The latest Australian Gourmet Traveller features risotto and whisky as its 'perfect partners'. Hmm.

But I've been meaning to try one of these food and wine pairings for ages so I thought I'd give it a go. The recipe is actually a Balmain bug and scallop risotto, but I figured my chances of finding Balmain bugs were slim, and decided to substitute prawns. We managed to track down healthy prawns and huge scallops at the market (as well as cow's feet, for just £2.50 a pop - what do you do with a cow's foot?), but for some reason we couldn't find fennel. So, with another substitution underway I headed into the kitchen.

The first part is to make some fish stock. The recipe called for fish heads, but since I was using prawns and had the whole critters, I used the heads, shells and tails of four prawns. I coarsely sliced a fat leek, added it to the prawn detritus, added a couple of bay leaves and some pepper corns and threw in about 100mL of white wine. I reduced this mix and then added water ... enough to fill the pot. I brought this mix to the boil and then simmered for about 20 minutes, before straining (and discarding the solids).

You need to keep the stock warm, as the trick (if it can be called that) with risotto is to use hot stock.

For the risotto, I chopped half an onion and sliced a leek and sweated them in a mix of olive oil and butter before adding (for 2) 200g of carnaroli rice (normally I work on about 75g of rice per person for a good serving of risotto, but it happened that this was the end of the packet). Cook the rice with the leeks, onion and fats for a couple of minutes, ensuring it's well coated and mixed through. Then, start to add the HOT stock, about half a cup at a time. Stir lots and ensure the stock is fully absorbed before adding more. This can be pretty tedious - sometimes the rice cooks really quickly and other times (like Saturday night) it can take ages. That's just the way it goes.

So, after a lot of stirring, I was finally happy with the idea of adding my prawns, stirring them around, adding a touch more stock, until they turned pink. Don't overcook prawns - they become horribly tough and a bit nasty. In something like this, you can consider them done when they turn pink because, after all, they are going to sit around in the hot rice for a bit ... Finally, finish with a splash of single malt whisky.

So, prawns done, and risotto off the heat, I set to cooking the scallops. I don't think I've cooked scallops before and they were a bit expensive (£1 each!) so I was scared of over cooking them and turning them into rubbery pellets. I tossed them in some olive oil and pepper before putting them straight into a hot pan (actually - the non stick top from my Le Creuset marmitout - quite possibly the greatest pot/pan combination ever!) and cooked them for probably just under a minute on each side. The AGT suggested 30 seconds each side, but mine were quite fat and I did poke them (a lot) while they were cooking ... they turned out perfectly.

To serve: plate the risotto, add the scallops and ensure you have a glass of malt whisky to hand.

I was quite underwhelmed by this. The whisky in the risotto did add an interesting (in a good way) flavour, but drinking whisky with a main meal, somehow, just didn't work for me. Maybe I made a mistake in choosing to use a smoky, peaty Islay (seriously, how many single malts am I supposed to have?), and maybe the lack of fennel adversely affected things, but ultimately I thought this dish represented little reward for quite a lot of effort. Next time, I'd be tempted to smarten up the risotto, possibly with dill, or maybe even some fresh basil, or a drizzle of very thin pesto let down with good olive oil. I'd be be keen to omit the whisky, because with it, the risotto represents a next to impossible wine matching exercise.

I would, however, definitely make my own stock again when making risotto. It added very little to the time, and allowed me a great degree of salt and quality control.

tagged with:
Stumble Upon ToolbarStumble It!


Post a Comment

<< Home