Monday, March 28, 2011
Even though my daughters haven’t watched The LIttle Mermaid in about 15 years, whenever I go out to visit my friends Doug and Guido I get Under the Sea stuck in my head on an endless loop. It’s not that their house is simply by the sea . It’s the fantastic ceramic frieze that covers one side of their house. This marvelous tableaux depicts all sorts of little darlings, frolicking around. Under the sea. Shrimp, lobsters, fish, and crabs all darting amid techno-colored seaweed. Dating from the 60’s, it’s signed Paris, but no one has figured out who this incredible artist was.
Three things happen when I see this work. The first is Sebastian singing in my head. The second is my unstoppable urge to take yet another 400 photos of all the little fishies. And the third (which I’m sure you’ve already guessed) is the desire to eat those little creatures.
We usually go out to lunch (see my report on L'Acquamarina from a few months back) but this time we decided to make dinner at home, taking advantage not only of Doug and Guido’s huge kitchen with a view of the sea, but also of the super fresh fish from the Saturday market. While Doug bought gamberi and scampi out in Santa Marinella, I stopped by the Farmer’s market here in Rome and loaded up on asparagus.
I had decided to make risotto, since I had a few cans of Acquerello rice. Aged for 7 years, this rice is considered to be one of the best (if not the best) in Italy. Who knew? Not me. But I was thoroughly convinced of its quality during a 7 course rice dinner in Florence a few weeks ago at Ossi di Seppie. So, naturally I wanted to have a go at it myself.
Since I couldn’t decide between a fish or a vegetable risotto, I decided to go for both, making a delicious fishy broth first. Yes, it’s kind of complicated and time consuming, but not really that difficult. And being in Doug and Guido’s seaside kitchen is kind of heavenly, so I like long, complicated projects.
Since I was so busy with the risotto, I left the scampi making up to Doug and his friend Kathy. Their recipe couldn’t have been easier, and was just as pretty as those cuties on the frieze outside.
Risotto ai Gamberi e Asparagi
500 grams (1/2 pound) arborio rice
1 kilo/ 2 pnds of gamberi (shrimp) heads and shells on*
1 kilo/ 2 pnds of asparagus
1 large shallot
3 Tablespoons of olive oil
1 Tabelspoon of butter
1 cup white wine
*if you can't get fresh shrimp, with shells and heads, don't attempt this recipe. The main ingredient for this risotto is the rich broth made from the shrimp.
Clean the shrimp, breaking off the heads and carefully peeling away the shells. Reserve the shells and heads. Carefully cut the shrimp into bite size pieces and set aside.
Wash the asparagus carefully. Cut off the tough bottom part, towards the white end. Take the white, tough parts and cut them into chunks and set aside.
Cut up the dark green, tender parts into neat bite size pieces and par boil boiling water for 4 minutes. Immediately plunge into ice water to cool, then drain and set aside.
In large pot, pour in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Heat gently then add all the shrimp shells and heads,stirring to let them toast a bit. About 5 minutes. Add the white tough parts of the asparagus, and stir. Add enough water to cover by about 2 inches, and bring to simmer. Let cook for about 1/2 hour, until asparagus are very tender. Carefully drain the broth into another pot, pressing with a wooden spoon to extract all the juices.
In a large pot, gently heat the olive oil, and 1 Tablespoon of butter. Add shallots, salt and cook gently until softened. About 10 minutes. Add rice, and stir to coat and toast the rice. About 4 minutes. Add the wine, and let boil away.
Start adding the reserved broth, ladle by ladle, stirring all the while, until the risotto is almost done. When it is about 5 minutes from being done, add the par-boiled asparagus. Keep stirring. Turn off heat and add the cut up shrimp, stirring in the remaining 1 Tablespoon of butter. The heat of the rice should cook the shrimp in about 2 minutes.
1.5 kilos (3 pounds) scampi
1 bunch parsley
3 cloves garlic
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 200c/400f
Using cooking scissors, carefully cut the belly of the scampi up the middle, so that they are butterflied. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet.
In food processor, chop up parsley, garlic, salt and olive oil.
Sprinkle the parsley mixture over scampi, and then drizzle a bit more oil over.
Place in hot oven, on middle rack, for about 12 minutes. Do not over cook.
If you'd like to play with Acquerllo rice yourself, you can order it online at Gustiamo