This is such a delicious dish for a special occasion. I love the creaminess of the risotto as the host to the shellfish. Although there is no actual cream, the risotto produces that natural consistency as it cooks due to the starch in the rice. For this dish, I went to the extra effort of making a homemade stock that really adds a great depth of flavor to the dish. I bought the least expensive shrimp that were on the small side for my stock and then bought the jumbo shrimp for serving on the risotto with the lobster. You could forgo this step and perhaps substitute a mixture of clam juice and water, but I think the results may be a little disappointing. I have found that making risotto is not an exact science, but don’t get frustrated as you experiment with the gradual addition of liquid to get a risotto that has the perfect consistency. The key is to let the natural starch produce the creamy grains, so be attentive to the stirring and addition of liquid to your pot. An enamel pot is ideal for the preparation of this dish, as it helps prevent browning. I prepared this dish in Florida, so fresh gulf shrimp was easily accessible and I used spiny tail lobster tails which are from the Gulf. You can often find Maine lobster tails or ones from Canada which are much more common. I also grilled the lobster tails, although alternatively, you could steam them.
Serves 4 as main dish, or 6 as side dish
- 1 lb shell on small shrimp
- reserved shells from peeled shrimp (see below)
- 1 small onion, rough chop
- 1 celery stalk, rough chop
- 1 clove garlic, smashed
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoons peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- kosher salt and pepper
for shellfish and risotto:
- 2 cups risotto
- 2 shallots, finely chopped
- 1 lb jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined (reserve shells for stock)
- 2 -8 oz lobster tails, butterflied if grilling
- 6 tablespoons butter, separated
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4-5 cups prepared seafood stock
- 1 tablespoon flour for dusting shrimp
- 2-4 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning
- handful of chopped basil and dill, for serving
In a heavy bottom medium stock pot, heat the butter and oil to medium heat. Add whole shrimp, reserved shells from peeled and deveined shrimp, onion, celery, garlic bay leaf and tomato paste and stir frequently for about 3-5 minutes until onions are fragrant and releasing their juices, but not quite browning. Add white wine and 5 cups of water to the pot. Season with salt and add peppercorns. Bring mixture to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer. Continue to simmer for about 40 minutes. Strain stock through a fine mesh sieve, discarding drained seafood and vegetables. (Stock can be made ahead and refrigerated overnight if desired)
To butterfly lobster for grilling, take a sharp knife and make a vertical cut down the outer spine of the tail. Then turn the tail around, and make a similar vertical cut down the underside of the tail. (you can also ask your seafood guy to do this). Melt 2 tablespoons of butter and using your fingers, baste the lobster meat as best you can with the butter, getting inside the cuts and on the lobster. Season tails with a teaspoon or 2 of Old Bay in the same way. Place lobster on the grill heated at 375 and cook for about 8 minutes/side. Shell will turn bright red and lobster will pull away easily from tail when it is ready. Remove from shell, cut lobster into small chunks and set aside. While lobster is grilling, prepare shrimp. Heat a heavy bottom or cast iron skillet large enough to accommodate shrimp (do in batches if shrimp is overcrowded) with an additional 2 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon of oil. Pat shrimp dry and season with 1-2 teaspoons of Old Bay and dust with a bit of flour to absorb any excess moisture. Place shrimp in skillet and sear on either side for 3-4 minutes a side. Remove from heat and keep warm with lobster while preparing risotto.
In an enamel pot, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter to medium heat. Add shallots and stir frequently for about 3 minutes until fragrant. Add risotto to pot stirring constantly until risotto is well coated and beginning to look translucent (1-2 minutes). Place stock in a large measuring cup and gradually add it into the risotto, about half a cup at a time and continue stirring on medium-low heat until liquid is absorbed. Repeat adding additional liquid to the pot for about 20-25 minutes until risotto is al dente. You want to avoid the risotto sticking to the bottom of pot. As soon as it absorbs liquid, add a bit more stock stirring constantly, adjusting heat as needed. If you have run out of stock, before risotto is fully cooked, you can supplement by diluting your prepared stock with water if necessary. If you prepare the risotto ahead of the seafood, you can leave it a little al dente at about 20 minutes with a bit of extra liquid on the bottom, cover the pot and remove from heat. In this way, it can continue to cook and be ready before serving. The risotto should never be totally dry, so add a bit of liquid if it dries out.
Serve risotto in a large bowl and top with prepared seafood. Just before serving, garnish with handfuls of chopped basil and dill. Enjoy immediately!