Risotto à l’huile de homard et au langoustine
This dish consists of a langoustine stock based risotto, seasoned with langoustine oil, tomato puree and parsley, before being finished with lobster oil and thickened with Parmesan cheese. It is accompanied by an assortment of seafood, with garlic fried langoustines and white wine steamed clams.
Langoustines (Nephrops norvegicus), also known as Norway lobsters or Dublin Bay prawns, are one of those ingredients with humble beginnings, but then rose to fame and now can be found on the menu’s of the world’s most luxurious restaurants. Langoustines can be described as a crustacean that sits somewhere between a prawn and a lobster. It’s meat is more tender and sweeter than a lobster, while being more refined and cleaner in taste than a prawn’s, thus giving you the best of both worlds. In my opinion however, a langoustine’s, major downside is that it had a rather low meat to shell ratio compared to prawns and lobsters, with the meat considerably harder to remove. Because of this, whilst I do not like to eat langoustines outright, I like to use their high meat to shell ratio to my advantage, making a langoustine stock that is not unlike prawn stock, but is sweeter and does not have the musky flavour of prawn stocks. The heads of langoustines are also particularly important, as they contain the hepatopancreas, which is the delicious yellow gooey stuff that is rich and full of umami and taste like runny egg yolks. The hepatopancreas in langoustines serves as the both the liver and pancreas, and is the equivalent of tomalley in crabs. I find that adding langoustine heads to a stock releases the hepatopancreas into the stock, thus making it cloudy. To prevent this, I separate the heads from the rest of the shells and fry them up in oil before crushing them to produce langoustine oil.
In my opinion, the core of a good risotto is the stock that you use to make it. The stock you use in a risotto serves as a canvas that you as the chef layer flavours unto. Because of this, it is important that you use a well-flavoured and refined stock, that has no bitterness or impurities in it. This being said, like a piece of canvas, the whole point of it is to turn it into a work of art, and therefore, the stock you use for a risotto shouldn’t be too forward in strong flavours, but be light and fresh while still capturing the essence of the ingredient you use as the base of the stock. As an analogy, imagine trying to paint a picture on a black piece of canvas. No matter what you paint on it, nothing is able to show though the black colour. The same applies for the stock you use in a risotto. If for example you use a brown stock for risotto (one which the bones and vegetables used to make it is first caramelised), any further subtle flavours you add to your risotto later on will be overpowered, while the taste of the brown stock will just concentrate as it evaporates and gets absorbed by the risotto rice.
When choosing fresh langoustines, looks for langoustines that are firm when squeezed, without damaged legs, claws or antennae. Furthermore, they should smell fresh, like the sea, while also having bright shiny black eyes. The rice I use in this risotto recipe is Carnaroli rice, the most traditionally used risotto which comes from the village of Carnaroli in the Po Valley, Italy. This rice has a high starch content that is released when stirred, giving a creamy character to the risotto. If a high enough quality Carnaroli rice is used, it is possible to add in all the stock for the risotto at one, while bringing the pot up to a boil, as the agitating from the boiling water is enough to cause the rice to release its starches.
For this recipe, I use a special pot for cooking a the risotto- an extra thick copper Windsor Pot from E Dehillerin in Paris. E Dehillerin is a cookware shop in Paris and is somewhat of a pilgrimage site for chefs all around the world. They stock their own line of copperware, both lined with stainless steel or tin, in varying copper thicknesses, all made specially for them by Mauviel in the Villedieu-les-Poêles Village in Normandy, France. The prices they sell their copper pots for are the cheapest and highest quality you can find, even cheaper than what you can find on the internet. A Windsor Pot, also known as an “splayed sauteuse evasee”, is a pot with a unique shape, whereby its base is of a smaller circumference than the top of the pot. Because of this difference in surface area, the heat applied to the pot is concentrated at the bottom of the pot, while the large surface area at the top encourages evaporation. This then makes this pot ideal for evaporating sauces, and in this case, evaporating the stock used to make the risotto. Of course this is not necessary to make this recipe and in all honestly, while copper cookware does have its advantages, they never have been, or will be a necessity in cooking and should be viewed as a luxury.
Langoustine and Lobster Oil Risotto
- Whole Langoustines
- White Wine
- Langoustine Shells
- Fumet (fish stock)
- Fish Bones (Cleaned)
- Bay leaves
- White Wine
- Black Peppercorns
- Lobster Oil
- Langoustine Oil
- Langoustine Heads
- Any neutral cooking oil (not olive oil)
- Parmesan Cheese
- White Wine
- Tomato Puree
- To start of, begin by making the fumet (fish stock) for this recipe. Begin by cleaning the fish bones by either soaked them in cold water for a few hours or quickly blanching them in water.
- After that, finely chop the fennel, carrots and onions into small cubes (mirepoix), before adding them to a clean pot with the fish bones, herbs and lemon juice. Add in a dash of white wine before covering with cold water.
- Bring to a simmer from cold water before simmering for 20 minutes at the maximum. The stock should smell fresh of the sea and not have any bitter aftertaste.
- Once the fish stock has been made, pass it though a chinois strainer lined with cheesecloth to remove the bones, vegetables and any impurities. Next, to make the langoustine stock, add in the langoustine shells into the fish stock and simmer for another 30 minutes, never bringing the pot up to a boil. Add salt to season the stock to taste. Remember that the stock will reduce down in the risotto and the salt will concentrate.
- To prepare the langoustine oil, fry the langoustine heads in any neutral cooking oil with some garlic and parsley, squeezing the heads to extract the flavour.
- Once done, strain the oil to remove the heads before returning the oil to the windsor pot.
- Add in finely minced shallots to the windsor pot to sweat before adding in the risotto rice and fry the risotto rice until fragrant of langoustines. Be careful not to brown the shallots.
- After that, add in a dash of white wine to deglaze the pan before adding in the langoustine stock ladle by ladle, stirring constantly as the stock is absorbed by the rice and flavours concentrate as the stock evaporates.
- In the meantime, prepare the seafood by discard any clams that are damaged or already open before adding white wine into a saucepan along with the clams and langoustines and steam until the clams open and the langoustines change to a bright orange and pinkish colour.
- The second the clams open is the moment when the clams are done just right. Any longer and the clams take on a chewy texture. Discard any clams that did not open.
- When the risotto is almost cooked, add in the parmesan cheese in three separate stages, stirring it in carefully to make sure the parmesan cheese melts into the risotto.
- Stir in a small amount of tomato puree to add some umami before finishing the risotto with fresh chopped parsley and lobster oil.
- Once done, stir in the langoustines and clams from before. The wine left over from steaming the langoustines and clams can be either added to the stock or discarded. If the clams were not clean to begin with, I would recommend discarding the wine.
The point of not bringing the stock at any point above a simmer is to prevent vigorous agitation of the stock which causes bitter flavours in be released and the stock to become cloudy. In this recipe I make a fish stock and then only a langoustine stock because boiling the fish stock longer than 20 minutes would cause the fish stock to develop off flavours while losing its freshness. The point of finely dicing the vegetables before adding to the stock is to increase the surface area of the vegetables, allowing them to contribute their aromas to the stock, thus the vegetables and herbs being called aromatics. Again in this recipe, I do not call for salt except when making the stock as the saltiness of the dish will come from both the seafood as well as the parmesan cheese. A non aromatic oil is used to fry the langoustine heads as the sweetness of langoustine heads is easily overpowered by the taste of an aromatic oil such as olive oil. When preparing the shallots, the finer the shallots are chopped the better, with the best risotto having shallots so fine that they technically almost melt into the risotto. The white wine is added to the risotto before the stock to allow the wine to evaporate, adding acidity to the dish, which balances the sweetness of the seafood.
I personally would pair this dish with a sweet wine such as a Sauterne or Barsac from Bordeaux or a sweet wine from the Loire Valley such as a Coteaux de Layon. I would not pair this dish with a red wine. Alternatively, a Chenin Blanc from South Africa would also pair well, along with most high acidity white wines such as a Riesling. I feel that the high acidity in a white wine would be able to cut though the richness of the risotto. The pairing of this risotto with a sweet wine might seem somewhat unconventional, but I personally enjoy the taste of fresh seafood, particularly that of the langoustines, which have an underlying sweet complex flavour, with the rich honey and velvety taste of a sweet semillon with underlying notes of peaches and pears. If one does not like sweet wines or aromatic whites, I would then recommend a Melon de Bourgogne from Muscadet which has a vague savouriness that is reminiscent of oysters that pairs well with dish. Alternatively, if one if willing to splurge, a good Chablis would of course go well with this dish, as it is a classical pairing.