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Homage to Homard

IMG_0525.jpg?fileId=5370283 It was time to kill. I’d killed before, just a couple of weeks ago in fact. It was two of them that time, which made killing only one not such a big deal - though that guilt tinge never seems to totally disappear. Sometimes you have to do terrible things to make a great risotto. The ends are worth the means when it comes to lobster risotto. I have to admit, it makes you more connected to the dish, but I digress. This meal and the wine selected went back to our New Year’s Eve lobster feast that was chosen to go with a beautiful magnum of Henriot Blanc de blancs - a wonderful Champagne deserving an equally wonderful meal. Not wanting to waste the shells from those great lobsters, I froze them and, last weekend while I enjoyed the Sunday New York Times, simmered a lobster stock.

At halftime of the Packers/Cardinals play off, I ran down to the outstanding Osprey Fish Market in Napa and picked up today’s victim. Upon arriving home the first thing I did was to dispatch the evenings main course with a sharp blade. While having no qualms, I see no reason to make them wait. As the Packers attempted their comeback, I cooked the just purchased lobster. Cooking a lobster is easy: a big enough pot of boiling water with plenty of heat. Bring the pot to a boil and put in the lobster (head first please if you’ve not dispatched it already), cover to bring it back to a boil fast and cook for 10 minutes for the first pound and about 3 more minutes for each additional pound. Remove the now rosy lobster and drain and enjoy or hold it at room temperature if you’re planning on making the risotto right away.

The broth for the risotto could not be simpler, especially if you’ve just celebrated New Year’s Eve with a couple of beauties. Oddly enough, I don’t recommend the water you cooked the lobster in for a broth. I had frozen the shells from the feast and pulled them out and rinsed them off. Leaving them to defrost for a while, I melted some butter in a cast iron Dutch oven then quickly sauteed the shells for a few minutes being sure not to burn the butter. Then filling the pan with water, I added some sliced carrots, celery and a quartered onion. Next I added several large dollops of Vietnamese Fish Sauce for both salt and flavor and then simmered (not boiled) for an hour, then strained the broth into a clean stock pot, which you should keep at the simmer. Remove one cup of the hot lobster broth and add some saffron threads to steep.

Now back to the just cooked lobster, carefully remove the claw and tail meat to keep them whole, while getting every last little bit of meat out of every leg and corner you can find. Divide the tail in two pieces lengthwise.

Now you’re ready to start the risotto, but don’t start until everything is assembled and ready to go and everyone is ready to eat in twenty minutes.

Into a sauté pan add 3 or 4 tablespoons of butter at medium heat. When foaming add one-half finely chopped onion and cook slowly until the onion is translucent, but not browned at all. Slightly increase the heat and add one-and-a-half fistfuls of Carnaroli rice (I have big hands) per person. The recipe here is for two as a main course and four as a first course, plan on one whole 2 pound lobster for two people as a main course. After a minute tossing the rice and butter (no browning!) add a cup or so of dry white wine and, stirring continuously, reduce to almost gone, but still moist. Now add the cup of broth with the saffron. Stirring continuously, but not violently, keep adding ladles of the hot broth as the broth in the pan reduces to the point where the rice is still very wet, but not soupy. After about fifteen minutes repeating these steps start to taste the rice. If it needs salt, add more Fish Sauce or salt. When the rice starts to taste cooked, but still “al dente” meaning it’s not too soft and still has some bite, it’s done. In other words each grain still has a firm texture, but the dish is creamy. Just as the rice comes to “al dente” and is creamy, not soupy, remove the risotto from the heat and add all the small pieces of lobster and 2 tablespoons of butter, swirling it into the rice as it melts. In a separate sauté pan melt several tablespoons of butter and briefly sauté the claw meet and the split tail. Divide the risotto into dishes and top with the claw and tail meat and freshly chopped parsley or chives. No Parmigiano please, not with seafood.

What wine for such luxury? That’s easy, Chablis. A white wine loaded with complexity, but with enough backbone and acidity to stand up to such a rich dish. For our dinner, the 2007 Jean-Marc Brocard, Chablis Domaine Sainte Claire could not have been more perfect. Imported by the always reliable Martine’s Wines, this wine was nothing short of gorgeous. A finer chardonnay you’ll not find for the money and, if you’ve come to hate chardonnay, this is a wine that will make you fall back in love with the variety. The aromas mix fresh green apples, kiwi and a racy minerality that challenges and refreshes both the nose and palate. The firm backbone of acidity carries the intense, but restrained fruit. Finished with a screw-cap, this may be a modern package, but it is a classic Chablis. With rich seafood I like a wine that provide counterpoint and this firm beauty lifted our risotto to new heights.

Chablis is a homage to homard.