Oh, how we are dreaming of summer… but until then there is Lobster and Beer Risotto.February 8, 2007
Risotto seems like it would be a humble food. It’s big, fat morsels of creamy rice stewed lovingly over some cooktop with a wooden spoon. But because it has a high-fallutin’ Italian name, it strikes me (and a lot of other diners) as a bit fancier than a mere side dish … This is why restaurants can get away with serving you a big bowl of risotto (um, that would be rice) as your entree.
Well, folks, if risotto is rice dressed up for a night on the town, my husband has just stuffed a wad of cash into its pockets and told it not to return before dawn.
Yes, those tell-tale red morsels of succelent sweet meat resting in the mounds of creamy risotto are indeed lobster. And that creamy and delicious sauce is made up of cheese, and yes, booze. Beer, to be precise. And then there’s a dollop of honey — just for sweetness.
Sound rich? Sound decadent? Sound delicious? Grab your fork… there’s no curfew tonight.
This recipe is completely inspired by the fact it has been cold. Yes, the wife and I live inside DC’s beltway … so it hasn’t been that cold. Indeed, some of our regular commenters are likely scoffing at our teen-temperatures as they don fleece-lined parkas and ski masks against the brutal weather of the Midwest and surrounds. To those folks: You have my sympathy and admiration.
Why does cold weather make me want to mix lobster and beer into a risotto dish? Because I want it to be warm. I want to be at the beach enjoying what I think is one of the best meals you can have: Lobster washed down with a beer. I wish the summer sun were turning my pale flesh the same color as the succulent lobster I’m tearing apart. (Sorry for the disturbing imagery. You get the drift.)
So, now onto the substance of the dish. As much as the lobster is key, the beer is also important. I wanted a dish that had beer’s light hoppy flavor, but without the occasional medicinal qualities that some bitter beers take on. So I chose a clean beer — a pilsner — to really bring some of those clean flavors. Pilsners are top fermented beers that are clear in color and have a distinct taste of hops. However, I wouldn’t be shocked if a nice wheat beer or lager would yield excellent flavor.
But the lobster is really the prize of the dish. It’s not in every bite; another goal was to give it that substance and flavor while trying to stretch a little lobster over a larger number of people. As a result, when you do get a bite of lobster, it’s really tremendous.
For this dish, I also broil the tails. I chose not to boil them because I didn’t want the lobster to lose too much integrity when cooked. However, I think another variation on this dish would be to boil the lobster and then use the cooking water as liquid to build your risotto.
Finally, a quick word about risotto. There are few dishes that are more about technique than risotto. Aside from needing a good short grain rice, such as Arborio or Vialone Nano, you have no set rules. You start with a good fat in the pan, then some aromatics, then it’s all about slowly adding the liquid until the rice is cooked. If you just follow the basics and add the liquid in increments, you will have a great dish soon enough. Here’s to it warming up soon!
Lobster & Beer Risotto
Yield: 4 large servings, or 8-10 side servings
Time: 45 min
3 lobster tails (6’’)
2 cups Arborio or Vialone Nano rice
3 cups water, seafood or chicken stock (warm or at least room temperature)
12 oz. pilsner or hefe weizen (wheat) beer (preferably warm)
1 stick butter
1 large onion (diced)
3 cloves garlic (minced)
½ cup fresh grated parmesan
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley (chopped)
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon thyme (chopped)
2 Tbsp. marjoram (chopped)
1 Tbsp. honey
pepper or grains of paradise
1. Making the lobster tails. Preheat your broiler to high and set your rack to about 8’’-9’’from the heat. Place the lobster tails on a baking sheet with shell side up. Place under the broiler for 4-5 min. You want to check about midway through to see if they are cooking evenly. If you have just an under-oven broiler, check after about 3 min. You don’t want the shells to burn, and being slightly under cooked is what we are going for since we are going to reintroduce the meat into the risotto later. Let the lobster cool for 5 to 10 min., then remove the shell. Cut lobster into medallions of meat, about 4 to 5 pieces per tail.
2 . In a large pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Once the butter has melted and stopped frothing, add the onions, and salt liberally. Let cook for about 3 minutes and then add the garlic. Continue to cook for about another 3 minutes or until the onion is just about to turn brown.
3. Add the rice to the mixture and begin to let the rice toast. You want it to absorb all of the butter; continue to stir regularly for about 5 min. You should start to get a nice nutty aroma from the rice.
4. Once the rice is lightly toasted, add the beer and stir. When the bubbles have completely gone, stir again, making sure the rice is completely covered. Continue to stir occasionally until all the beer is absorbed and the rice begins to feel dry.
Note: If you used cold beer, you will want to turn up the temperature of the stove briefly to bring the temperature back up on both the rice and the beer.
5. Once the beer has been absorbed, add a cup of broth, the lobster and the herbs. Stir regularly. Once the rice has absorbed these liquids, add another cup of broth. Really, at this point you are using your judgment. The goal is to get the rice soft, cooked, and slightly al dente. It could take as much as 3 cups, but really it’s best if you use your judgment. You need to taste it regularly.
6. Once the risotto has reached the right consistency, add the parmesan and honey. Salt and pepper to taste. Turn off the heat. Cover and let rest for about 3-5 min. Serve while still hot. Enjoy!