Posted in Recipes

Lobster Risotto with Saffron and Truffle Oil.

Lobster Risotto 1

Before getting to any actual recipe today, I have to point out that what I call a Risotto is a type of rice dish I learned from my father and differs in a few significant ways from the strictly traditional. Essentially, a ‘true’ risotto is based on short grain (typically Arborio) rice that is first sautéed and then is cooked with stock added a little at a time until a creamy, although not quite soupy, consistency is reached. Indeed, rather than being cooked ‘al dente’ a proper risotto is said to be ‘al’onda’, or ‘to the wave’ meaning that, when the pot is tipped, or struck on the side, the surface of the rice should ripple.

My form of risotto is based on long grain rice and is, in culinary parlance, more of a pilaf. The rice is sautéed first, but I add the stock in one go and cook by the absorption method to achieve a somewhat drier result. In any event, whether you call this a risotto, or an Italian-style pilaf, with the inclusion of saffron and truffle oil and in addition to the lobster, today’s dish is going to be truly decadent… Continue reading “Lobster Risotto with Saffron and Truffle Oil.”

Posted in Experiments, Recipes

Bouillabaisse

Bouillabaisse 1

A Bouillabaisse, for those unfamiliar, is a seafood soup claimed, by the residents of Marseille, in southern France, as their very own specialty. For the rest of you who have tried it elsewhere, the chances are virtually certain that it was a derivation of the sort that would have a Marseillaise restaurateur rolling his or her eyes and squawking Gallic epithets of deep disapproval.

According to tradition, a Bouillabaisse, was a very rustic soup made by French fisherman, who employed the less saleable remnants of the day’s catch which they then boiled (‘bouille’) for supper. It is said, in that part of the world, that a true version of the dish must contain at least three or four species of rock fish from the native waters and thus, since these fish are rarely available elsewhere, a Bouillabaisse, in other parts, will necessarily differ. Indeed, whereas a Marseillaise Bouillabaisse, is mostly fish, and only includes the occasional odd variety of shellfish, other versions are often mostly shellfish and can include, lobster, scallops, shrimp and clams. Far be it for me to argue the point with the guild of Marseille restaurateurs (who once drafted a charter specifying exactly what constitutes the dish), but I do recognize that any dish can have a whole variety of otherwise acceptable versions that the strict ‘purists’ will always disavow. Still, I do feel that, to properly be called a Bouillabaisse, certain features must come together:

In my opinion, a Bouillabaisse is a seafood soup based on a broth heavily redolent of the ocean, but infused with the additional flavors of saffron, garlic and fennel, with a bit of dried orange peel optionally added for that special taste. Potatoes, tomatoes and leeks are all welcome additions and a little bit of wine is also very nice. I think that some variety of fish (as opposed to just shellfish) really should be added, but for the present experiment, since I had nothing I thought suitable available, I am using a combination of shellfish only… Continue reading “Bouillabaisse”

Posted in Experiments, Recipes

Paella Valenciana

Paella Valenciana 1

One of my earliest blog recipes was for a Paella with Seafood and Chicken that I posted almost a year ago. Paella is so commonly served with shellfish of some sort that many would regard it as being a seafood dish but, in fact, that isn’t really the case at all. In Spain, Valencia is considered the spiritual home of Paella and the traditional version there, while still based on saffron infused rice, contains snails, usually rabbit, and sometimes chicken or duck. Beans, often a variety, are always included (frequently along with other green vegetables) and tomatoes are required, although the amounts used vary considerably.

I have been meaning to try a Valencian style Paella for ages now but, sadly, it has been about two years since I have seen rabbit in our local grocery store and I have given up hope of obtaining any at present. Still, some Paellas are made in Valencia using only snails so I figure that a ‘bunny-less’ one containing just snails and chicken should still be alright. Beyond that, I will stick to traditional ingredients (although I prefer to use long-grained rather than short-grained rice), but I will make one departure from tradition in the method of cooking… Continue reading “Paella Valenciana”

Posted in Spicery

Spice: Saffron (and Safflower)

Crocus - Courtesy of Wikipedia
Crocus – Courtesy of Wikipedia

The phrase ‘worth it’s weight in gold’ could very easily apply to saffron as it is, by a large margin, the world’s most expensive spice. It consists of the stamens of a particular variety of crocus (pictured above), which is cultivated primarily in Spain,  Iran and India, but also in other places, including England, as well. Each flower produces only three tiny stamens (the three crimson colored ‘threads’ protruding from the center of the bloom), each of which must be collected by hand. This, coupled with the fact that it takes some 50,000 to 75,000 flowers to yield a pound of the spice, accounts for the cost. Thankfully, though a very little goes a long way and just a tiny pinch will lend a dish a beautifully vivid golden-yellow hue and a taste that is all but indescribable….  Continue reading “Spice: Saffron (and Safflower)”