Saturday, July 26, 2014

Summer = Crab: Crab and Sweet Corn Risotto

Remembering the great bassist Charlie Haden (1937-2014)

There’s a restaurant expression, which I will cleanup that goes, “You can sell shoe leather if you put crab on top.” And it’s true. Well, not about the shoe leather part but about the appeal of crab selling an entrée.
Crab is a great summer food. If you don’t believe me, try avoiding all of the chain restaurant ads extolling their crab fests/feasts/follies.
While crab can be expensive, watch for it on sale and stretch it over several dinners. I used it in a risotto one night, Singapore noodles on another, and lastly for crab cakes.
For the risotto, I also added some local corn, off the cob. I used the cobs for stock that went to making the risotto, but you don’t have to. In a restaurant-style twist, I also made a corn/ basil butter. Stirred into the risotto at the end, it elevates the flavor. You can skip this step but it’s not difficult.

Crab and Sweet Corn Risotto
Even though I have made risotto for a long time, I still set a timer (for 18 minutes after the wine is added) and cook the risotto while eyeing the timer.
As I said, I used corn stock for this. You could also use bottled clam juice, vegetable stock or a combination of the two. As for the crab, I added it to the risotto without measuring, eyeballing what “looked” like the correct amount. The recipe measurement is a guideline. Hey, who am I to stop you from using more or less?
If you are making the corn stock, begin with that using the corncobs left from the first step of the recipe.
For two servings:

2 ears of corn (3 ears, if making the corn/basil butter)
1 cup crab meat
2/3 cup Arborio rice
3 cups stock (vegetable or clam juice)
2 spring onions (scallions) chopped
½ cup dry white wine
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 to 3 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, optional
olive oil, for cooking
salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Husk the corn and remove the corn silk. Hold the ear of corn upright in a bowl and carefully slice down the length of the ear to remove the kernels. Repeat with the second ear of corn. Reserve cobs for the stock. Recipe is below. Set aside the corn kernels for the risotto.
2. Place the broth into a saucepan over medium heat and bring it to a simmer. Keep it at a low simmer as you cook the risotto.
3. Place a second saucepan for the risotto over medium heat. When hot, swirl in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the spring onions and sweat for 2 to 3 minutes, until tender; adjust heat if necessary. Add the rice and stir to coat it in the olive oil. Pour in the white wine and stir. Stir until the wine is almost absorbed. Ladle about ¼ cup of the hot broth into the rice. Now begins the process of stirring the rice and adding the broth, about ¼ cup at a time. Adjust the heat to keep the risotto at a gentle simmer. Add broth when the liquid is almost absorbed into the rice; stir throughout at this point of the cooking.
4. Continue cooking the risotto by adding more broth as needed. After about 10 minutes cooking time, you won’t need to stir constantly but watch that there is enough broth in the pot and the risotto isn’t sticking to the bottom of the pot. At this point, add the corn to the risotto. You may need to add additional stock. Season with some salt and continue cooking.
5. After about 18 minutes total cooking time, taste the risotto. The rice should be firm but it shouldn’t have any undercooked crunch to it. If it does, continue cooking for a few more minutes.
6. When the risotto is al dente, remove risotto from heat. Stir in the crabmeat and the reserved crab/basil butter, if using; if not add the unsalted butter. Add the Parmesan cheese, if using. Check the seasoning for salt and add freshly ground black pepper and stir. Cover the pot and set it aside for two minutes. After two minutes, check the risotto. Add a little extra broth if you like your risotto a little loose.
Portion the risotto into two bowls. Drizzle each with a little extra virgin olive oil and serve.

Corn Stock
Corncobs from the corn
¼ onion, chopped (or the green parts from the spring onion)
1 carrot, sliced
2 stalks celery
½ teaspoon salt
5 to 6 cups cold water
1. Place all of the vegetables into a pot large enough to hold them. Fill with water to cover; season with salt. Place the pot over hot water and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook until reduced by 1/3.  The stock should have a good corn flavor; if not, cook a little longer. Remove from heat and strain through a colander, reserving the liquid; discard the solids. Taste and add additional salt if necessary.

Corn/Basil Butter
This can be made ahead of time and set aside until needed.
For two servings:
Corn kernels from one ear of corn
½ cup water
½ teaspoon salt
6 to 8 fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon chopped chives
2 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter
1. Place the cold water and salt into a saucepan and place the pan over high heat. Bring to a boil, add the corn and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook the corn until tender, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the corn from the heat. Let it stand for a minute or two then puree it in a blender or with an immersion blender until smooth. Add the herbs and continue to blend until smooth. Add the cold butter at the end and blend until the butter is emulsified into the sauce. Set the butter aside until needed.

A recipe for Singapore Noodles with Crab will follow in the future.

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