With the festive season just around the corner here is a dish that combines gravitas, extravagant ingredients, is relatively easy to make and will impress your mother-in-law to no end! No mother-in-law? Then impress your friends with your grasp of this tricky but tasty first course. There are two kinds of people, my great-grandmother would say, those who present this at the start of a promising dinner and the fools who would dare to serve it up as a main course. She had a point. It is somewhat filling.
If you really want to learn how to do this properly have a read at this earlier piece which will explain how to select the grain, make the stock, select the cooking pot and the manner in which risotto must be handled. After all it is a capricious dish and requires total attention, a tad like looking after your favorite pet. Or a demanding partner.
With this risotto I would use the carnaroli grain, easily obtainable in good delis and online shops. I prefer it to arborio for its grain length and starch content, and when cooked slowly it remains firm, not at all mushy. It truly deserves slivers of truffle and fresh crab meat.The first pic shows how to flavor the rice simply: stick a whole truffle in the jar for a few days before making it. It will impart a subtle scent to the grains, and make your truffle work harder as it is an expensive item. You can buy a whole truffle online here (UK) and here (US). It’s not cheap but this is a dish that you will not forget. Also resist the temptation to use saffron. I know it would look prettier but it will take some of the truffle flavor away. Simplicity is all.
For 6 to 8 persons (you can stretch it to 10 if needed) you will need: 1 whole truffle, 750 grams of carnaroli, allow 50 grams of fresh crab meat per person (can be bought in good supermarkets but don’t fall for the tinned stuff, tasteless), 50 grams of the best butter you can find, 100 grams (or 6) shallots (finely minced), a dash of extra virgin olive oil, a small glass of Madeira (I did try this with a glass of Champagne instead but I think it’s best to drink it and use Madeira as it goes well with the intense flavor of the truffle), and finally 3 pints of a good chicken stock mixed with a pint of shellfish stock (all stocks recipes are in the first link above). Sea-salt to taste. I would stay away from black pepper for the same reason as the saffron.
How to proceed: first, you must take care of yourself. A nice glass of Champers will do wonders for your concentration as the preparation & cooking of this dish will take the best part of an hour. Ok, I lied, make it two glasses!
Take the truffle from the rice and slice it as finely as you possibly can (that scene in Goodfellas comes to mind, you know the one where Paul Sorvino slices the garlic clove with a razor blade). In your heavy-based pot, over medium heat (remember, this is not fast food), pour 2 tbsp of the extra virgin olive oil with a small knob of butter, add the minced shallots and cook till translucent but not brown. Add the rice and stir for a few seconds before adding the Madeira. Then pour a third of the mixed stock and stir. Add two thirds of the sliced truffle (keeping the remainder for garnish). Simmer till it’s all gone, stir, and add more stock until it’s done. It shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes, depending on your elbow work, then mix in the crab meat (having made sure there are no bits of shell in it), add the rest of the butter and olive oil. Stir well, take the pot off the stove, let it sit for 20 seconds and serve, adding the last of the truffle slivers as garnish.
Next Friday I will repost the Provencal Christmas piece, a yearly event. Well, Christmas does come once a year.