Monday, 15 September 2014

Seafood risotto for A Thousand Days In Venice

cookthebooks I don't know what to say about this month's Cook the Books book club pick (this month hosted by Debra from Eliot's Eats), Marlena de Blasi's A Thousand Days In Venice. An exuberant American chef with flamboyant taste in textiles falls inexplicably in love with a repressed Italian bank clerk with daddy issues, and through him falls explicably in love with Venice.

For me, de Blasi just couldn't quite convey why she was attracted to her stranger. She herself seems like a glorious broad who I'd love to go drinking with, but he remained a mystery. But then, this is a memoir, not a romance, and other people's relationships are often a bit baffling. I never understand how people who really like food end up with people who don't much care what they eat.

I've never been to Venice, so my impressions of the food are, I suspect, very much clichés - soft shell crab, risi e bisi, linguine vongole; exorbitantly priced Bellinis and carpaccio and tramezzini at Harry's Bar. Paul was very definite though, he wanted me to make a seafood risotto.

I used the prawn shells, with a little lemon, a shallot, a bay leaf and some peppercorns to make a stock for the risotto.
The murky depths of prawn stock
Then I lightly cooked the peeled prawns in butter, with sweated shallots and garlic. I removed the prawns from the pan and proceeded to make a normal risotto bianco. I added arborio rice to the shallot/garlic/butter remaining from cooking the prawns and let it soak a bit before adding quite a lot of vermouth (we tend to use dry vermouth instead of white wine in cooking because we don't feel tempted to drink it), and the hot, strained stock, stirring constantly between additions. When it had almost absorbed the last quantity of stock, I added the prawns back in, and a tub of 50/50 white and brown crab meat.

When it was just done, instead of the normal mantecatura of butter and parmesan, I added a good spoonful of crème fraîche for extra richness and a touch of acidity, and a bag of rocket leaves and garnished it with snipped chives. It wasn't as loose as a traditional Venetian risotto - it didn't flow in waves - and we had it as a meal in a bowl not as a starter. But I still think it was a pretty good representation of Venice.

11 comments:

leaf (the indolent cook) said...

Mmmmm, the prawn stock must make the risotto so delicious!

leaf (the indolent cook) said...

Mmmmm, the prawn stock must make the risotto so delicious!

mickeydownunder said...

G'day! Great recipe! Pinned!
Congrats for also completing this month's Cook The Books Club challenge!
Cheers! Joanne @What's On The List

Rachel said...

"flamboyant taste in textiles"~! Ha, I'm still giggling after 5 minutes of reading your one-line summation of the book's plot. But I did enjoy reading it. I guess I'm a sook, as Joanne noted. I'd say Paul had a brilliant idea of making that seafood risotto. When I stop giggling, I shall start salivating.

Amy CookingAdventures said...

Love how you summed up the relationship between the author & the stranger! I felt the same way! Great recipe!

Claudia said...

Too true about relationships. I've a few friends you just wouldn't match with who they ended up with. Maybe opposites attracting has something to do with it, or balance? Go figure taste, but that risotto sounds to die for!

Camilla Mann said...

Prawn stock! Love it. I made crabshell stock during crabbing season this year. It was fabulous in a risotto. Thanks for cooking with Cook the Books this round.

Wendy Klik said...

Your description of the stranger made me laugh out loud and I can't wait to try your recipe for risotto.

Deb in Hawaii said...

Oh how i adore a good risotto and this one looks positively amazing. Loved your post too. Like you I didn't quite get the attraction and quick love with the stranger but the food made up for it. ;-)

Simona Carini said...

Good choice Paul! Your risotto looks beautiful. And I like your choice of using rocket leaves and also of finishing it with creme fraiche. Venice is its own thing: I believe everybody should visit it at least once and I understand not falling in love with it (I didn't do it until the second visit).

Delaware Girl Eats said...

I think seafood is the perfect dish to pair with this book about Venice!

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