Monday, October 3, 2011

A rare find - Cinnabar-red Chanterelle risotto with Crayfish

Here is something that you do not see every day: a few handfuls of cinnabar-red chanterelles (Cantharellus cinnabarius). You normally find but a few isolated ones, and -given their diminutive size- you would be hard pressed to make a meal out of them. But not today! What a better way to celebrate this unique find that a great risotto that combines these amazing little mushrooms with freshwater crayfish - matching their color almost perfectly and contributing a great platform for their flavor. As it turns out, the cinnabar chanterelles are less intensely flavored than their more common yellow cousins (Cantharellus cibarius) so that they are best paired with subtle flavors.

As with any great risotto, start with a great stock. Put a small onion, a couple of dried chillies, a few peppercorns, and a tablespoon of sea salt in a pot. Bring to a boil and add the fresh crayfish - cook until done (10-15 min). Set aside the crayfish and cook the stock a little longer (15 min), then cool it and filter it before returning to the stove. Keep the pot on low heath so that the stock is just below the boiling point. Start the risotto: 'sweat' a diced shallot on medium heath until translucent, add the rice (carnaroli or vialone nano varieties work best) and toast it on medium-high until translucent as well. At this point, quickly add half a glass of good quality, fruity (not oaky) white wine and wait until it evaporates stirring frequently. Now, add the mushrooms, add a ladle or two of the hot crayfish stock and stir. For the next few minutes you want to monitor the rice closely and keep doing the same: add stock, stir, let evaporate, repeat - this until the rice is cooked quite 'al dente' (~15-20 min, but taste frequently so tha you do not overcook it). The small volume of liquid and the constant stirring ensure that the rice cooks evenly and that the starch breaks off the rice and into the pot producing the 'creamy' texture typical of risotto. Finally turn off the fire, add to the pot a nob of butter, the cubed tail meat of a few of the crayfish, pepper and salt to taste. Finish with chopped parsley, stir everything together vigorously and let sit, covered, for at least five minutes. Serve garnishing with a few of the cooked whole crayfish. Enjoy!

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