Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Champagne Oyster Risotto

As my third wedding anniversary approached, I wanted to make a special dinner for my beautiful wife, Clare.  I knew that the main course had to incorporate oysters, because she loves to eat oysters.  I also thought that, given we were celebrating our anniversary, some Champagne would also be appropriate.  But, then I got to thinking.  What if I combined champagne and oysters?

Followers of this blog may remember (or may not) that I have previously combined champagne and oysters with champagne when I made Oysters with a Peach Champagne Mignonette.  However, I wanted to make a more substantial meal.  I thought about a meal that I had made the week before ... Seafood Risotto.  Instead of adding shrimp, squid and fish,  I thought I could make a risotto that just included oysters.  In addition, most risotto recipes call for the use of 1/2 to 1 cup of white wine.  I could substitute Champagne for the white wine.  I then googled "Champagne Oyster Risotto" just to confirm that I was not crazy.  My sanity was confirmed when I found a recipe offered by none other than the World Wildlife Fund.  The WWF offered the recipe as part of its effort to encourage "sustainable" eating.

The recipe calls for sauteing the oysters separately in a pan and then adding them once the risotto is cooked.  the problem with sauteing oysters is that they cook very quickly and can overcook very quickly.  I decided that I would simply garnish the risotto with the oysters, allowing the heat of the dish to gently cook the oysters.  Once the dish was served, the oysters could be mixed into the risotto, allowing them to cook even more.  The end result are oysters that are not overcooked.   However, an alternative is to just add the oysters to the pot containing the risotto within the last minute or two of cooking the risotto (or after taking the risotto off of the heat).  This will cook the oysters through enough but avoid overcooking them.

Recipe adapted from World Wildlife Fund
Serves 2-4

12 fresh shucked oysters, liquor reserved
1 cup arborio rice
3/4 cup of shallots diced finely
4 cups of seafood stock
1/2 red bell pepper, diced finely
1/2 yellow bell pepper, diced finely
1/2 cup of Champagne
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt, to taste
1 to2 tablespoons of Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
Black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter

1.  Saute the bell pepper.  Heat two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over high heat.  Add the bell pepper and saute lightly, about three minutes.  The bell pepper should still have a little crunch.  

2.  Saute the shallot.  Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the butter over medium heat.  Add the shallot and saute until soft, about five to seven minutes.  

3.  Cook the risotto.  Add the risotto and toast the risotto, stirring, for about one minute.  Add the Champagne, reduce the heat a little and cook until the alcohol has evaporated and the rice has almost absorbed the Champagne, about three to four minutes.  Add one cup of seafood stock to the rice and continue to cook, stirring often, until the liquid has been absorbed by the rice.  When the liquid has almost been absorbed, add another cup of stock.  Continue adding stock until the rice is cooked al dente.  

4.  Finish the dish.  Once the risotto is al dente, turn off the heat and add the bell peppers and Parmigiano Reggiano.  Stir well.  Spoon the risotto into bowls.  Add six oysters on top of the risotto, letting the heat of the risotto cook the oysters gently. 


Obviously, a good pairing for this dish is Champagne.  Other sparkling wines, such as Prosecco and Cava, will work well with this dish.  If you are looking for a wine that does not sparkle, I would suggest a light, white wine such as a Pinot Gris, an Albariño or a Vinho Verde.  A couple of suggestions include the following: 

Pazo Serantellos -- Albariño
White grape blend
Rias Biaxas, Spain
Flavors of apples, nectarines and white peaches

Lemelson Vineyards -- Tikka's Run Pinot Gris
100% Pinot Gris
Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA 
Flavors of red apples, almonds and even a little fennel


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