Sunday, October 21, 2012


Lobster Pumpkin Risotto
The first time that I ever had Lobster Pumpkin Risotto was created by Chef Giancarlo Quadalti who was the executive chef at COCO Cafe, one of the restaurants of Pino Luongo's mini empire back in 1999.  Ever since then, I have been making it and experimenting with various versions of broths/stocks used in the risotto; e.g., vegetable, chicken, and the ultimate pumpkin.

I always found it to be very interesting that lobster is at its peak in the fall, particularly in October, and the best-tasting crustacean is now.   So when steamed lobster chunks are combined with a risotto that has been cooked in a spiced-pumpkin broth with freshly diced pumpkin (also at its peak now) from the farmers' market, it is certainly a comforting dish for a chilly autumn day.  Add to that a drizzling of black truffle oil and it becomes very special.  And since lobster is selling at its lowest price in 20 years, it is a great protein for anyone (who is not allergic to shellfish) to consider.

I've adapted Chef Michael Romano's Pumpkin Risotto recipe from the Union Square Cookbook, added cooked lobster and drizzled black truffle oil to complete the dish. 

The first step is to make a spiced-pumpkin broth/stock that is used to cook the risotto.  In lieu of using canned pumpkin, I prefer to use a fresh pumpkin from the farmers' market for the pulp and the rest of the pumpkin for the risotto. Steaming the pumpkin cuts down on the sodium content from the canned version. It is more work, but certainly worth the extra effort.  Finally, I'm using black truffle oil as a garnish and to keep the food cost within the 25%-range.  But, if lobster is selling for $4.50-$5.00 per pound, maybe I could get fresh truffles?   

Pumpkins at Chelsea Market
A five-pound pumpkin could be used to make both the puree for the broth and for the diced pumpkin that is used in the risotto.  Half of the pumpkin, when steamed, would yield about 2 cups of mashed pumpkin puree.  The rest is for the risotto.

Cut pumpkin in half.  Remove seeds, pulp, and stringy portion. Cut into small pieces and peel. Place half of the diced pumpkin into a steamer or metal colander which will fit in a covered pot (Reserve the rest of the diced pumpkin for the risotto).  Put the diced pumpkin over boiling water, cover, and steam for about 50 minutes, or until tender. Mash, purée in a blender or food processor, or put through a food mill.

 (Yield: 7-8 cups)
1 Tbs unsalted butter
3/4 cup onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1/3 cup celery, thinly sliced
1 leek, washed and thinly sliced, white and light green parts only

2 cups pumpkin puree (alternate is a can of pumpkin puree 15-16 oz)
8 cups chicken stock, preferably home made
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns
1/2 tsp allspice berries
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/2" cinnamon stick
2 Tbs maple syrup

(Serves 4)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 3/4 cups Arborio rice
1 1/2 cups diced (1/2 inch) fresh pumpkin
1/2 cup dry white wine
6-7 cups pumpkin broth
1 Tbs minced fresh sage
1/4 tsp Kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly grated black pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 Tbs fresh parsley

3 tsp clarified butter (if needed)

Dice cooked lobster tail and claw meat from 1 1/2# - 2# lobster, about 1 cup, warmed
Lobster bodies (for garnish)
1 ounce truffle oil (optional)

In a large stock pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery and leek; sauté until tender and moist, about 10 minutes. Stir in the pumpkin puree and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes. Add the chicken stock, bay leaf, spices, and maple syrup. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes. Pour the broth through a fine mesh strainer. In the same saucepan, heat the pumpkin broth to a simmer.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a separate, 3-quart heavy saucepan or skillet. Add the rice and diced pumpkin and stir until mixture is coated with oil. Add the white wine and stir constantly until all the wine has been absorbed by the rice.  Start to ladle 1/2 cup of hot pumpkin broth into the pan and stir until it is absorbed. Continue with the rest of the broth, adding 1/2 cup at a time and letting each addition be absorbed completely into the rice before adding more liquid.  This usually takes about 30-45 minutes.  Finish the risotto by stirring in the salt, pepper, and the Parmigiano. Swirl in the clarified butter.  

Lightly fold in the diced cooked lobster meat into the risotto.  Remove from pan and place on a serving platter.  Garnish with lobster bodies (optional). Drizzle with black truffle oil (also optional) and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

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