Cheffzilla’s Choice: Seafood Risotto
I had a plate of seafood risotto the other night at a restaurant that I had been avoiding for years. And it was memorable.
Why had I been avoiding it? Location, looks from the outside, lack of vision, obstinance, who knows? It just didn’t feel right where it was. An Asian-fusion restaurant at the confluence of two major roads in Lancaster, PA, and the fact that the building looks like it hadn’t had the outside washed in years (the amount of car traffic passing by every day doesn’t help), plus my wife’s flat refusal to try the place.
If there was ever a perfect example of “looks can be deceiving,” this place is it.
Blue Pacific Sushi and Grill, at the confluence of Oregon Pike and Lititz Pike, in Manheim Township, Lancaster County.
So I decided to try to either replicate the dish or make my own even better. But the idea of seafood risotto really rings happy in my ears, so I had to try one of my own. Here’s the result. Not exactly the same as Blue Pacific’s entree, but I’ll stand mine up against theirs (and anyone else’s) any day. It’s worth a try.
CHEFFZILLA’S OWN SEAFOOD RISOTTO
6 cups seafood stock (8 cups water, shells from 1-2 dozen medium shrimp, 1 teaspoon celery salt, tops from 1 bunch of celery, and 1 bay leaf, simmered uncovered for 30 minutes)
1 16-ounce bottle clam juice
1-2 dozen medium (26-31-count) shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 dozen sea scallops, washed
1 cup lump crabmeat
1/4 cup salted butter
1 large sweet onion
2 cups Arborio rice
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped fine
2 teaspoons Old Bay (or Creole) seasoning, or more, to taste
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese
1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley for garnish
Spanish paprika for garnish
1. Peel the shrimp, place the shells, the celery salt, a bay leaf, the celery leaves and the clam juice in water, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Strain the solids out, put the stock back in the pot, cover, and keep warm.
2. Melt the butter in a large, heavy pot, add the onions and saute over medium heat until transparent, about 10 minutes. Do not brown. Add the rice and saute, stirring constantly, until it is transparent, 3-5 minutes. Don’t allow the rice to brown. Add the wine and cook, stirring constantly, until the wine is competely evaporated. Add 1/2 cup stock and stir until most of the stock is absorbed. Add the thyme and saffron and another 1/2 cup stock, stir until it is mostly evaporated, and repeat, adding 1/2 cup of stock at a time until the rice is almost al dente, 20-30 minutes.
3. Add the seafood and 1/2 cup stock and stir until the shrimp and scallops are firm. and the stock has evaporated. Season with Old Bay or other Creole or seafood seasoning until you can taste it but the taste is not overpowering. Season with additional salt and pepper if necessary.
4. Add 1/2 cup stock to the pot, stir rapidly for 30 seconds, then ladle the risotto into oven-proof bowls, sprinkle lightly with Gruyere cheese, and place under the broiler just until the top and edges begin to brown. Remove from the oven, garnish with paprika and parsley, and serve immediately.