Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Dinner For A Pal Returned From Foreign Shores - Part 2

I couldn't put it off any longer; with the third course out of the way, it was time to become acquainted with my be-shelled buddies. And even though I knew that they had been cooked before they were frozen, I removed them from their plastic prisons extremely gingerly, expecting one of them to raise a claw and give me a good sharp nip at any moment. Clearly I got over this quite quickly. Lobster can be prohibitively expensive, but at a fiver a pop these beauties are worth buying when you have a bit of cash to spare and have on standby in the freezer for leaner times, particularly when you are entertaining but don't have a huge budget to do so.

Astonished by the relative sparseness of the meat contained within these pinky red shells, I was determined to eke out as much as possible from my purchase, and so I put the inedible parts of the lobsters into a pot to make some stock.

A few veggies, bay leaves and a spell on the hob and I was feeling mightily pleased with myself, as I am generally too lazy to go DIYing it up with the stock.

At the start, I was slightly flummoxed by the resistance of the shells to my puny attempts to crack through to the good stuff, when I hit on the bright idea of using the nut cracker thingy that is incorporated into my kitchen scissors. Knew that'd come in handy one day!

And this was my yield:

With the risotto, I was on home turf, returning to the comfortingly familiar bosom of a dish that I have been leaning on for about 15 years now, ever since my parents bought me a book on Italian vegetarian cooking when I was going through that particular phase in my teens. Yup, there were some years in my life during which I did not eat meat. I know. It was a combination of Morrissey-adulating teenagehood and questionable boarding school food. What wised me up? I went to college and got hungry, basically, and haven't looked back since. Risotto is something that I could cook with my eyes closed, and it never lets me down; as long as I have some arborio or carnaroli rice in the cupboard I will not go hungry. It can be vegetarian or meat-laden, it can be low-fat or highly calorific and it can be a main course or a side dish. Risotto is endlessly versatile, and as such should be an essential in everyone's culinary repertoire. I felt that it was the perfect vessel for my foray into lobster-cooking, and it also offered the attraction of not requiring a cookbook. This meant that I could potter about the kitchen stress-free, without having to refer to guidelines or plonk a book around from spot to spot working around all the other bits and bobs that were essential to the nights cooking efforts. So - in with the celery, garlic and onion, to turn golden in the hot buttery, olive oil-y melt-y-ness in the pot.

After they are nice and soft, about 15 minutes, in with the rice, without stock for about a minute until it is glistening.

Then the dance between the rice and the wine and stock begins. I don't ordinarily bother using white wine in my risotto, as it is such a pain to buy an entire bottle for the purposes of adding a single glass to a dish, but I grabbed a handy small bottle of cooking wine in the supermarket, and so I started out with that.

When I was through with the wine, it was time to crack out my homemade lobster stock. And the nice bottle of red that my guest had very kindly brought with her.

While the risotto was on the go, I quickly threw together the lobster end of things, with a make-y up-y sauce derived from various lobster recipes that I found when I googled lobster risotto. Starting with some mushrooms...

...then in with the chopped up lobster, which had been absorbing a good dose of lemon juice...

...and then doused liberally with tabasco sauce and brandy once on the pan. Now, how frickin easy is that?

But hang on there a wee minute...am I forgetting something?...oh no I am not! Because, somewhere between giving the risotto a stir, pulling biccies out of the oven and firing fancy things on to a pan, I sliced up black pud and popped it into the oven to cook. And when my guest phoned to ask if she could come an hour early (she's lucky I love her, guests who arrive earlier than requested are a pet hate of mine) I threw together some balsamic dressing. So when I twigged at the last minute that it was time to get the starter on the the table, all I had to do was open the bag of leaves (that didn't even need to be washed!), halve the slices of pud, crumble some blue cheese on top and drizzle dressing over it all.

Once we had dispensed with the starter, it was back into the kitchen with me, where I stirred the lobster into the risotto, and gave some asparagus a quick turn on the pan in order to satisfy my need for green-ness on a plate.

The arrangement of risotto on a plate is a cinch even to someone like me who is not big on food presentation skills. Topped with the asparagus and parmesan shavings, it is a rather inviting sight.

Must not forget the pepper.

And so we find ourselves back where we started: the biscuits. Our full bellies required a little stretching out, so the sofa beckoned, and we settled in at opposite ends to munch away in front of a blazing fire.

The Brown Thomas bags in the background of that pic aren't mine, unfortunately - they contain gifts for The Singaporean's boyfriend's family, who she was off to visit the following day. Since even I wouldn't be able to polish off all of those biscuits on my own, I gave her some to add to the offerings.

And when I was cleaning up the kitchen, I discovered that there was enough stock in the pot for a little culinary gift from me to me, to package and label and store in the freezer until a recipe requires it.

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