March 30, 2011
I make a very lemony risotto.
Oh. Hello, there. Is it the end of March already? I'd ask where the time has gone, except that I know (all too well): I've been moving. My last few weeks especially have been a haze of restaurant meals, often at odd hours, and foraged food that is less cooked than it is assembled. We're all moved in, now, which is to say that there are boxes everywhere and loads to do, but the kitchen is up and running (thank goodness!) and I hope to be back to more frequent posting now.
But back to the matter at hand. Risotto! Specifically, a deeply yellow, unabashedly lemony risotto that is neither sour nor acidic, but has wonderful lemon flavour that is dialed all the way up to eleven. A little goes a long way, but even a small serving of Lemon Risotto makes a meal feel like a special occasion.
The trick to all this lemony bounty without the pain and suffering is the sneaky third ingredient in the recipe, that is, preserved lemon. Now, I'm sure there are shop-bought preserved lemons that you can buy, and frankly I don't know whether or not they would do the trick here (perhaps they would serve quite nicely), but I can tell you that making your own preserved lemon is both astonishingly easy and very rewarding. For one thing, it keeps for a surprisingly long time (tightly bottled in the fridge), and you only need a little tiny bit of it to get huge flavour. Essentially, preserving the lemon means that you get all of the intense flavour of the zest, without the bitterness of the pith. The lemon simply becomes a wobbly translucent mass - chutney textured if, like me, you wholly quarter your lemons and then slice them, as opposed to leaving them connected at the base in quarters. The clean, sliced lemons are tossed with kosher salt and the spices of your choice (I like to put a bare pinch of turmeric in there, to enhance the colour), packed into a jar and completely covered with freshly squeezed lemon juice. There's a quick version here, which has a very basic, clean flavour profile, but you can also google your way through Nimbu Achar recipes to get something more interestingly flavoured.
This risotto really has a triple lemon threat: the preserved lemon, yes, but also the zest and juice of a fresh lemon. With all that lemon going on, what do you pair it with? In restaurants, it can sometimes be found as a bed for seared scallops or prawns, which is a fine idea. Or, as seen above, it makes a beautiful plate partner with roasted chicken and braised fennel. But, right at the moment, asparagus is in season, and that's my go-to favourite. Anything that could benefit from a lemony kick, really.
The link provides a pretty comprehensive recipe for the risotto, but a couple of extra notes: take your time, when you're making risotto. You don't have to stir it for every single second, while it cooks, but almost! It pays to have all of your prep done ahead, and any other dishes you plan to serve mapped out.
Give a really lemony risotto a try. It's a great way to celebrate Spring.