Sunday, October 2, 2011

Delicious Oyster Risotto

For me, there are really only two ways I like my oysters: fried, like at Pearl Oyster Bar to go with my lobster roll; or atop a Caesar salad at Palmetto Café in Charleston, S.C. But last summer, I fell in love with oysters again, this time in a light yet filling seafood risotto.

There is only one way I like my oysters. Big, fat, juicy -- with a good dose of salt, thanks to these bivalves' salty sea home. Fanny Bay oysters are my choice weapon here. But I'll warn you: be patient when you're shucking. The shells are flaky and tender, but once you've conquered their muscle, the hard work really pays off.

Inspired by Oysters Rockefeller (shucked oysters topped with green herbs, breadcrumbs, and lots of melted butter, and then broiled), I created a rich-tasting alternative that really isn't all too rich — plus, it's not too seafood-y (for those who'd rather eat a steak than a lobster), and it's gluten-free.

Oyster Risotto
4 cups chicken stock
3 tablespoons butter
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
1/2 cup frozen spinach, defrosted and drained of excess moisture
24 fat and juicy oysters, such as Fanny Bay, scrubbed and shucked
Salt, to taste
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (optional)
Basil or dill, for garnish

In a small pot, bring the chicken stock to a boil, then lower the heat to keep the stock warm.

Heat the butter in a large saucepan until bubbly. Add the onion and sauté until translucent. Add the rice and cook until the outer edge of each grain is translucent, stirring constantly for about 5 minutes. Add the wine and cook over medium heat until fully absorbed, stirring constantly.

Begin adding the warm stock in ½ cup portions, and stir until all the liquid is absorbed. Slowly incorporating the liquid and constantly stirring ensures that the starch from each grain of rice is released into the mixture, resulting in a creamy, butter-like risotto. Continue to add the stock until the rice is fully cooked and has reached a creamy consistency. Add the spinach and continue to cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Add the oysters and a pinch of salt. Cook for 2 minutes then add the Parmigiano. 

Serve immediately with a pinch of dill or basil, for garnish.

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