Would you be my Valentine's (chef)?
To me, when it comes to celebrate Valentine’s Day-couples edition, it’s all about the connection and intimacy two persons have grown through their relationship. Isn't that something? I mean, a person that knows the best and worst in you, but still it’s the best part what always keeps that person coming back for more of your life together. It is quite special.
Probably by now, lots of restaurants have tried to lure you into their dining rooms for a Valentine’s dinner celebration. There was a moment when I enjoyed that, and I know the idea of being in the kitchen that night could scare a soul or two. But now I appreciate the romanticism behind a Valentine’s date in. Following your own pace. Talking. Admiring or laughing at how the other is handling the food, depending on the culinary skill level. Both relaxing through the process before. Both delighting on the results after. Not one hundred people around, pushy waiters and cold food included. It can be magical.
I created this recipe aiming for that mood. It is spicy, creamy and sweet, as a good Valentine’s Day should be. I combined Italian and Thai flavors, so you have this combination of romantic textures and exotic flavors on the same plate. The roasted seafood gives some smokiness to the whole dish that balance out some of the sweetness. Fancy enough but quite simple.
The idea is that one person could take over the risotto and the other could serve the sparkling wine and prepare a petite cheese tray for the two of you after marinating the seafood. Or one could make the whole meal while the other prepares the dessert. The idea is to start the celebration in the kitchen, biting over delicious foods, sipping wine and laughing for no apparent reason.
1. Risotto is not complicated, it’s actually quite forgiving, but you need to commit 30 minutes to it. That’s all that he asks!
2. The key is to have the stock warm, if you add cold stock to the pan you’ll slow down the cooking process and start messing with the starches of the rice, which is what gives the creamy texture at the end of the cooking process.
3. Other tip is to add more liquid in increments of about ⅓ cup. A full ladle is a good measuring reference.
4. Stir the rice always in the same direction so you don’t break it and always add liquid when you scratch the pan with a wooden spoon and liquid doesn’t return behind, or that you see almost no liquid around the rice grains.
5. Try to keep your heat in medium, but if the liquids are evaporating too fast after the first half of cooking and you feel the rice is too hard, feel free to lower the heat for a couple of minutes while continuing the process, then return to medium heat.
6. This dish is mild to hot. If you don’t enjoy too much hot in your food, you may reduced the amount of chili oil in both of the recipes and substitute with regular olive oil, or vice-versa if you want it very hot. I’m not used to very hot or spicy dishes and the recipe as is was hot enough for me to enjoy it without compromising the flavor combination.
Spicy orange seafood risotto
2 full servings or 4 small plates
Total time – 40 minutesPrep time – 10 minutesCooking time – 30 minutes
Equipment – baking tray, large skillet
Sweet & spicy roasted seafood
Medium red hot chili pepper, stemmed and finely chopped - 1
Chili oil – 2 TBSP
Olive oil – 2 TBSP
Orange marmalade – 2 TBSP
Grand Marnier – 2 TBSP
Lime juice – ½ TBSP (see notes)
Ginger, grated – ¼ inch piece
Large prawns, ready to cook – ½ lb. (6 to 8 prawns)
Mussels in shell, ready to cook – ¼ lb. (6 to 8 mussels)
Fine sea salt – ¾ Tsp + an extra good pinch
In a medium bowl mix thoroughly the chopped chili, chili and olive oil, marmalade, Grand Marnier, lime juice, ginger and the ¾ teaspoon of salt. Toss the seafood and mix to cover them with the marinade. Spread then in a baking sheet and sprinkle all the seafood with the extra pinch of salt. Set aside. Preheat oven to 400°.
When the risotto is in its last 5 minutes of cooking, throw the seafood in the oven and roast for 5 to 7 minutes. Take out of the oven and serve over the risotto.
Seafood stock – 4 cups
Olive oil – 1 TBSP
Chili oil – 1 TBSP
Shallots, finely diced – ¼ cup
Arborio rice – 1 cup
White wine – ¼ cup
Grand Marnier – ¼ cup
Fine sea salt – ¼ Tsp + an extra pinch
Grounded white pepper – ⅛ Tsp
Chopped asparagus (optional) – ½ cup
Butter – 2 TBSP
Grated Parmesan, Asiago or Gruyere cheese - ¼ cup
In a medium saucepan heat the stock in medium low heat. Use a burner near the one you will be cooking the risotto.
In a large skillet heat the oils in medium high heat. Add in the shallots and sauté for one minute, moving them constantly. Add the rice and sauté for two to three minutes, until the rice has absorbed most of the oil. Add the wine and Grand Marnier and sauté for three to four minutes, until the rice has absorbed the liquid. Add the ¼ teaspoon of salt and stir. At this point you may start adding the stock, 1 ladle at a time, which is ⅓ cup approximately. Add the fist one and stir the rice frequently, until the rice has absorbed the liquid. Your cue to add more liquid is when you scrap the pan and liquid doesn’t return behind the spoon. At this point your rice is ready for more stock, always adding between ¼ to ⅓ cup of stock in each addition. Remember to lower the heat to medium low for 1 or 2 minutes if your feel the stock is evaporating too quickly (see notes above), then return heat to medium. It should take you about 25 minutes to add the whole stock. With the last stock addition stir in the asparagus pieces and cook a minute more. Add the white pepper and a pinch of salt to adjust the taste and stir. Your rice should be al dente at this point. Toss in the butter and cheese and stir everything well. Retire from heat. Serve warm with some seafood and some of its drippings poured over them.