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Prep for Quick Risotto

post #1 of 29
Thread Starter 
Hey guys & girls,

Next weekend I'm making a rather extensive meal for my girlfriend and I instead of taking her out to eat at a nice restaurant like I usually do. This will be the first time I really will have cooked for her, and so I'd like to make everything as perfect as possible.

I'm running through a 5-course meal and have all the cooking times between plates to a bare minimum so that we can really go at the pace we want. It will be kind of awkward cooking it myself and serving it in courses, but so long as it's good...

Anyway, third course is a lobster risotto. I've cooked risotto a couple of times before, but each time it takes about a half hour to complete. I was wondering if there's some way I can speed this up (a lot). It's kind of the only thing I'm stuck on... everything else I have to spend very little (couple minutes) in the kitchen for.

If it can't really reliably be sped up, do you have any other suggestions instead of a risotto? Here's what I plan on doing...

(1) Caesar Salad, Homemade Dressing
(2) Poppy Seed Crusted Tuna, Pan-Seared, Served chilled over fresh homemade pasta with an olive oil, garlic, and oregano
(3) Lobster Risotto
(4) Filet Mignon, Cabernet Reduction, Sauteed Mushrooms
(5) Chocolate Souffle, Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream, Diced Fruit

Thank you, ladies and gents. :)

Gear mentioned in this thread:

post #2 of 29
There are generally three methods of making risotto, two of which will be helpful to you (since one of them is simply to make the whole thing to order from the start).

a) Make the risotto as you would normally do so, but stop cooking it about half way (rice should still be somewhat hard and chalky). Spread the mixture on a pan and cool quickly. When service comes just finish it as you would normally.

b) Parcook the rice, plain in a large pot of boiling water (like you would pasta) for about 6 or 7 minutes. Drain (do not wash the rice), spread on a pan and cool. For service, saute your aromatics and cook the risotto as you would normally. You will lose a little starch from this cooking process, but it shouldn't be too big a problem... though to be sure finish your risotoo off with a couple knobs of butter.
"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
post #3 of 29
Eliminate it from your menu and replace it with a soup. Tuna with penne, follwoed by lobster risotto is an inappropriate sequence.

post #4 of 29
I say take out the Tuna. Do the lobster then add intermezzo.
post #5 of 29
Or alternatively you can just take out the pasta and do a sashimi or crudo presentation on the tuna.
"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
post #6 of 29
Thread Starter 
Thank you!

That's what I was thinking of doing originally; however, I ran into a little bit of a snag coming up with a soup. I'd like to do something with shellfish in there, though--not chowder and not bisque. The risotto happened to come to mind and I thought it was an interesting idea--I'm not horribly concerned about sequence.

I rather like that idea...

Unfortunately, I rather like the tuna, also.

If it was for any other occasion, I would totally be down for that; however, I would prefer not to feed my girlfriend raw fish. The closest I would be willing to get to that is searing it, chilling it (what I was planning on doing originally, just on top of the pasta), then serving it up on the plate... but I have a feeling that's still not technically correct.
post #7 of 29
Are you chilling the tuna for any particular reason? The standard preparation is to season, sear and serve immediately, leaving the tuna still relatively cool/cold in the middle. Alternatively you can always prepare it a little more well done than that.

if you want to do a soup involving seafood how about making a nice mussel broth? It's very simple, cook the mussels the same way you would normally (some sauteed aromatics, herbs, add mussels, a bit of white wine, stock) and when the mussels are done simply remove them from the vessel and remove the meat from the shell. With the broth you can then add some cream, reduce it a bit and add some additional flavouring agents if you want (say some saffron steeped in hot water, or sauteed thai curry paste with coconut). Serve a small mound of the meat on the bottom of the bowl (along with some vegetables or garnishes if you want, such as blanched potatoes, seared scallops, carrots, etc) and pour the hot soup on top.

If you want a thicker consistency you can do quite a few things to it, add a roux, a starch slurry, or puree some well-cooked vegetables (such as potatoes, squash, rice, sunchokes) into the broth after cooking it in there.
"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
post #8 of 29
Thread Starter 
I've chilled tuna on several occasions before after searing, and it just seems a little more interesting than serving it straight off the pan. I do sear mine leaving the middle ruby red (30 seconds a side or so). I'd just rather not serve it entirely raw.

Unfortunately, being in a distant suburb of Chicago, my local seafood availability is rather limited. I can't find mussels without going into the city. Actually, I can't really get ahold of anything fresh besides lobster, scallops, and limited amounts of fish. :-\ I can probably have them put on special order at the local market, but they need a couple weeks notice.

What if I did something similar to that with lobster? Sautee aromatics & herbs, white wine, lobster stock. From there I could go with or without cream (I'm thinking without), then do steeped saffron... pour it on top of lobster meat and arborio, garnish with pan-seared sea scallops.
post #9 of 29
A couple of other ideas:
  • Lobster w/Lemongrass Spring Rolls
  • Fish stew with pernod and saffron
post #10 of 29
I really like your menu, but for your own sake I would keep the tuna, get rid of the pasta and serve it with a refreshing dressing instead. Since you like chilled seared tuna then that is easy enough to make ahead, along with the salad and the dressing. Here's how I would prep for this a few hours ahead.

1. prepare the salad
2. prepare the dressing and keep in a jar in the fridge
3. cut all the vegetables and aromatics for your risotto and mushrooms sliced for later.
4. Heat up your stock.
5. Dice your fruit for dessert and place in the fridge.
6. Sear the tuna and let it cool before placing in the fridge. Do not slice until right before serving.
7. Start your risotto. This basic recipe takes about 15 minutes work from start to finish and then it requires you to turn it off the head and keep the lid on for 3-5 minutes, giving you plenty of time to get your filets done. Jamie Oliver - Recipes - a basic risotto recipe

I don't know how comfortable you are with risotto or how you are preparing your filets but I would be preparing them at the same time so that they are to order.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."


"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

post #11 of 29
Thread Starter 
Thank you! I appreciate the compliment... I've put quite a bit of thought into this.

Risotto is something I'm not super comfortable with, I've only made it a couple of times before. I'll go out and buy some lobster today, make a quick stock and try parcooking it like Blueicus suggested, combining that with the recipe you've given me. It seems like that's similar to what I've done in the past, it just looks about 15 minutes quicker? Perhaps I haven't done it on a high enough heat in the past.

The filets will definitely have to be cooked after the risotto... 3 minutes a side to sear, 2-2.5 minutes a side in the broiler. Rest for 5 minutes, serve. This is fine--I can saute the mushrooms at the same time.

Wasn't really sure whether to do the cab reduction beforehand with prep and then just slowly heat it up while the filets are on, or whether to do the reduction while the risotto is going and leave it on a very low heat. I've never done a cab reduction before.

Thank you, as always. :)
post #12 of 29
At this late stage of the game I suggest you get premade stock. The stuff in a box is fine (when necessary I use the Kitchen Basics brand, it suits me very well and doesn't have an onxious smell.)

A reduction sauce cannot be made ahead. :suprise: All of the flavor relies entirely on the fond you create when searing your filets. Make sure you do not use a non-stick pan, this will defeat the whole purpose of your reduction. Preheat your oven to 375 and then...

1. First make sure your filets are at room temperature! Season with salt, pepper.
2. Heat up your skillet - it should be smoking when you add a little olive oil.
3. Sear the filets. Place them into the skillet and do not move them! Leave them for a couple of minutes and then turn them over and let them sear on the other side.
4. Once they are seared move the whole pan into the oven to continue cooking until desired doneness. (or if you want to get started on the mushrooms immediately then move the filets on to a preheat pan that's already in the oven and use the skillet they were seared in for the mushrooms.)
5. Remove from the oven and place the filets into a dish. Cover with foil.
6. Pour off excess fat from the pan (although there won't be any if you're making filets.) and return to the heat.
7. Sautee the mushrooms in it, turn down the heat a little and let them release their moisture. (you could also add onions and/or garlic, up to you)
8. Deglaze with a little wine (cabarnet in your case). Let it reduce for a few minutes them add a pat of butter until it melts.
9. At this point the sauce is ready to serve. I always like to add a few chopped fresh herbs like parsley or chives just to add a touch of freshness to this heavy dish.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."


"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

post #13 of 29
Thread Starter 
You're awesome. :)

I am doing the whole meal next Saturday (not today), so I will have time to make my own stock. Might as well, seeing as I'll need lobster meat anyway.

I didn't know that about the reduction. You saved me from making a big boo-boo. :)
post #14 of 29
I'm wondering if you really need so much protein and carbs. I would suggest another light vegetarian course for 3)
I know there is a sequence of events when formally dining, but this is informal, and you surely dont want your girl flaking out on you, completely over-stuffed and sleepy??

Just a thought

how about a spicy tomato gaspacho if you want a soup, maybe add some vodka
"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
post #15 of 29
Thread Starter 
Excellent point, bughut, I think I'll reduce some carbs from 3 which definitely takes a risotto or pasta out of it.

I really do like Gazpacho, but I'd prefer to risk having something that she may not like on another occasion.

I'm really kind of stuck on the lobster for 3 though. What about boiling a pair of lobster live for the tail, bringing out the tail in one big piece, then doing a olive oil, butter, saffron cream sauce with fresh basil on top? Maybe some pernod in the sauce...

That should get rid of a lot of the carbs and some protein from the rice, but still let me keep the lobster in there.
post #16 of 29
I'm with you there with the lobster Lucky, but how about keeping it subtle... An Intermezzo between dramatic courses :- 1 lobster tail served delicately. To be shared and picked at while you salivate at the thought of the fillet mignon to follow.

Sometimes less is so much more

Your menu looks so tasty, she's a lucky girl. I love that you're putting so much effort in.
"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
post #17 of 29
Thread Starter 
I do rather like that idea. Served plain, do you think, or maybe if I put together lemon juice and mint for over the top... then I can garnish the plate with more fresh mint to make it look pretty...

Alright, now I'm just thinking out loud. :)

Thank you everyone for your help, and thank you for recognizing that I'm putting a lot of effort into this, bughut. Not very many of my peers (seniors in high school) will put so much thought into a dinner with their girlfriend... even fewer will cook it themselves instead of going out. :) She knows it's coming and is very excited...
post #18 of 29
sounds perfect Lucky.

Have a fabulous night.

Keep us posted
"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
post #19 of 29
I both do and don't agree. The wine reduction itself will be best made to order, and doesn't take long, but to make it take on a full, rich, saucy consistency and depth, you can and should do a good deal in advance. And doing so will make every premade stock I've ever encountered an extremely poor choice.

The easiest technique, assuming you've got time to prep and want minimal time at service, is to make glace de viande. This is basically brown beef stock reduced with some care until it becomes very thick, like syrup. Pour into a flexible rubber bowl and chill, then turn out: it will be like a block of rubber. Cut into cubes.

To make the sauce, remove your steaks from the pan and cover. While they're resting, add 1/2 cup wine to the hot pan and reduce by half, then add 2 cubes of glace de viande. Stir well over heat until the cubes dissolve completely. Plate your steaks on hot dishes. Whisk two or three tablespoons of butter into the sauce, a bit at a time (monter au beurre), then immediately pour through a strainer over the steaks.

If you use premade stock, the problem is that they have quite a bit of salt, and the massive reduction will concentrate the salt. You might get away with it if you use absolutely no salt anywhere else, but that's not going to work if you're seasoning the steaks and using the fond, as you should.

If you're willing to deal with very high heat and a lot of fat, you can double the amount of wine and reduce it drastically, then whisk in a lot of butter, skipping the stock completely. The butter will go a long way toward cutting the acidity of the heavily-reduced wine, and will impart a sauce-like texture. It's not nearly as good a sauce, but it does work. Another possibility would be something like Bearnaise sauce, which if you've learned how can be whisked up in less than the time it takes to sear the steaks.
post #20 of 29
As to the lobster risotto, you might want to look into using orzo in place of the rice. You can make the dish about 75% in advance, then finish it to order -- adding the parcooked lobster tail and claw meat just to warm through. Orzo stands up to this treatment a great deal better than does short-grain (Arborio, etc.) rice.

Since you'll be making lobster stock for this, you might want to consider upping the ante, as it were, by making lobster butter as well, which once again is something done entirely in advance.

First, par-cook your lobster by steaming hard until bright red and dead -- a couple minutes will do it. Pull off the tail and strip out the meat, then let cool, wrap tightly in plastic, and refrigerate. Remember that it's not completely cooked: when you make the risotto, you're going to need to slice the tails into medallions and add them when you start finishing the dish, so they have a few minutes in hot stock mixture to finish.

Second, break up your lobsters into pieces. In a stockpot, sweat a bunch of coarse mirepoix, add the lobster, and then add about 1/2 cup white wine. Cook over medium-high heat until the liquid is almost gone. Add enough cold water to cover everything just barely, then bring the liquid slowly to a very gentle simmer and let cook for two hours. Strain coarse then fine, let the liquid cool to room temp, then cover and chill.

Third, throw all the lobster pieces -- shells, bits of meat, whatever -- into a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and add 2 sticks of cold butter. Turn on the mixer as low as it will go. In fifteen minutes, when the lobster is pretty well broken up and the mixture is a sort of ugly mash, turn it up to the next speed notch. Run for half an hour or more. Now scrape all the mix into a large saucepan and add several inches of cold water. Over gentle heat, bring just barely to a simmer. Remove from heat and let cool, then refrigerate still in the pan. Next morning, remove the block of butter from the top. Place it in a clean saucepan, melt over gentle heat, and then strain very fine to get any remaining fibers and bits of shell out of the butter. The result should be sort of salmon-colored butter. Pour this into an ice cube tray and freeze, then remove the cubes and store in a ziploc bag for up to a couple of months.

Now use the stock for the risotto. When you get about 75% done, remove from heat, spread on a tray, and reserve. To finish, return to the pot, add more stock and the lobster medallions, and continue from there. When nearly done, add two cubes of the lobster butter and continue stirring until melted. Adjust seasoning and serve at once.
post #21 of 29
Please read carefully what you are responding to. I was not suggesting stock for the reduction, I was suggesting it for the risotto because I thought the dinner was happening sooner than later. There is nothing wrong with glace de viande which is actually made with veal stock, but I don't care to jump through so many french hoops when making a simple reduction sauce. Great technique and all but not necessary for my mediterranean palate.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."


"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

post #22 of 29
That's part of what I meant about both agreeing and not agreeing.

If doing a full-bore reduction, premade stock is going to be problematic. In addition, much of the labor of such a reduction happens well in advance, because of the glace de viande. If on the other hand doing a quick reduction pan sauce, as you suggest, it cannot be made ahead almost at all, but is quick enough to do at the time of service.

As to using premade stock in the risotto, I'd much prefer not to make a lobster risotto with anything but lobster stock or something very similar. Lobster has a very delicate flavor, easily overpowered.
post #23 of 29
par-cook the risotto ahead of time and fridge it on a sheet pan, then finish it up in 5 minutes.

I did that recently and it came out very well. A lot of restaurants do it this way as well.
post #24 of 29
I like your idea with the lobster but if you did that, can the tuna as you are serving tuna, lobster and then steak? By the time she gets to the filet, she's going to be stuffed and that love souffle at the end is never going to get touched.

Keep the Caesar Salad..
Do the lobster idea you suggested
With the filets.... add a green veggie of some type... a little broccolini with a hollandaise would be nice as you could serve the hollandaise on the filet as well.
Your souffle with the ice cream...

A little limoncello or amaretto after..

At least the greens would help with the digestion process.

You'll end like me though as she'll like your cooking better and you spend all your time in the kitchen.. not that I'm complaining :lol:
post #25 of 29
Salad's good with everything, albeit a Caesar is pretty rich, so that should stay.

Good steak is an excellent finale (not including dessert) to a romantic meal, so that stays.

The tuna is a very different beast from the lobster risotto. I'd think of this kind of sliced basically raw tuna as an appetizer, whereas the risotto is a first course. The tuna is very high in protein and little else, yet has a clean, clarifying taste. The risotto is high in starch and little else -- there shouldn't be all that much meat, really -- and should have a complicated sort of flavor and mouth-feel. The only worry I have is that the two won't go together.

I wonder, then, whether the salad should come after the tuna and before the risotto. If, as FL Italian suggests, the steak is served with a simple green vegetable, its simplicity and purity should contrast nicely with the risotto before it.

But FL Italian rightly worries about everyone getting full. This is particularly worrisome because you're planning to go slow, and with all the protein and starch, it sometimes takes a little while before you realize how full you are. So you've got to keep portion sizes small. Nobody's going to be hungry by the end anyway, because of that nice juicy steak, and then you can just fill up the corners with dessert.

For what it's worth, my suggestions:

Buy considerably less tuna than you might have planned, and just serve a little bit.

Serve the salad small, and don't overdo the rich dressing.

The risotto should again be served in a small portion: you might try packing the finished product gently into a couple of ramekins, unmolding on the service plates, and topping each portion with a couple of the larger bits of lobster. Since you're making most of this ahead, you'll be able to keep back as much as you need to and have a lovely lunch tomorrow.

Feel free to do it up on the steak, just in case the earlier portions were a hair too small by some chance. Remember that leftover cooked steak can be chopped up with potatoes and made into excellent hash in the morning.

Be absolutely sure to get an excellent baguette to carry through this meal. It doesn't go with the tuna particularly, but it doesn't really clash either, and it's nearly obligatory with every other dish. It will help bind the meal into a coherent unity.
post #26 of 29
Thread Starter 
I just wanted to thank everybody for their help, again. It's been extraordinary how much this meal has changed from my original plan, but I'm very happy with what it's become. Dinner is tonight. :)

Here's the final plan...

(1) Caesar salad
(2) Pan-seared tuna, poppyseed crusted, served with a thyme vinaigrette
(3) Lobster, boiled. Serve the tail with lemon juice & mint soaking in it, garnish with mint. (Shared)
(4) Filet mignon, cab reduction w/ mushrooms and garlic. Fresh chopped parsley sprinkled over top. I'll be using Koukouvagia's suggested method for the cab reduction.:roll:
(5) Chocolate souffle, homemade vanilla ice cream, diced banana and strawberry

Going to serve it with just water (bought some shiny new goblets... :) ) and perhaps a glass of wine, seeing as I can get away with it since the parents are out of the house. I'll probably do a good baguette too, like Chris Lehrer suggested.

I ended up getting sushi grade tuna, prime filets, and a 1 3/4lb lobster. All of it is very good quality and comes fresh from a local market... came out to only $63!

Anyway, thank you again. :) I'll let you all know how it goes...

Edit: Here are some pictures of my new friend... Jean-Pierre the lobster! Kyle Baczynski's Photos - Lobster | Facebook

He will serve me well...
post #27 of 29
Excellent plan, you'll have as much fun making it as you will enjoying it. The tuna sounds perfect.

Don't serve water, serve sparkling water! I prefer Vintage seltzer with the lemon/lime twist, but pellegrino would make an elegant statement.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."


"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

post #28 of 29
If it's an option, steamed lobster is superior to boiled, but it's a minor point.

Sounds like fun! Enjoy yourselves.
post #29 of 29
Thread Starter 
It turned out splendid. :)

I was specifically asked to make the filets & cab reduction again in the future, also the souffle and ice cream.

The filets made quite a mess in my oven, though. Who would imagine that two small little things like that would splatter all over the place.

Ended up searing them for 3 minutes on each side, threw them in the oven on a large casserole dish preheated to 500 and did them 2 minutes a side in there, too.

Both were 7oz and cooked perfectly medium rare. :)

Forgot to add some butter to the reduction but it was very good without it. Threw in some fresh pressed garlic, shallots, mushrooms and sauteed all that together, then just reduced it.

Thank you everyone for all your help!
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