Last night, we had a formal dinner. Well, let’s be honest, the only formality was the food. What was the star of this “formal dinner” you ask? Risotto Nero. Simple. Black. Elegant. An inky black risotto on a stark white plate with a bright red lobster tail atop it. Simple perfection. I guess we need to give thanks to the Veneto region of Italy since they seem to be the region which decided that cooking cuttlefish in the risotto with their ink sacs intact was the “trendy” thing to do. I may never know how and why this happened…. I mean was it just a mistake made by some hurried Italian nona, quickly trying to prepare a meal and forgetting to clean a cuttlefish? Or is it instead due to some bright and curious mind who thought that spicing up the family’s dinner was in order? We may never know, but you should try this dish at least once in your life, even if it’s simply to be able to say you have……
So, Just what can you expect from this dish? First and foremost, smiles of sheer joy (black stained smiles of sheer joy actually)! Word of warning here
this is the time to use those ugly napkins you got as a wedding gift don’t use your grandmother’s white linen napkins that have been passed down to you for this meal. I will not say that I am a a snob, but I do like an actual fabric napkin when I eat a special meal, but this dish may not be friendly to a white napkin or table cloth made from natural fibres like cotton or linen. Tonight chose linens which you do not care about look nice, but will not cause you distress if they are ruined.
You will also find the taste of the sea. While cuttlefish/squid/octopus ink LOOKS like it makes a drastic change to a dish, from a taste profile, it merely adds some “salt of the sea” to the taste. It is not fishy, not overpowering, not off-putting in any way. This dish is one that is an uncommon delicacy which will not be offensive to any sensitive palates.
Many people talk about risotto as if it’s one of the hardest dishes on earth to make. This however is not true. It is not HARD it is merely time consuming. Of course there are those who have created
cheater methods variations on risotto that have bastardized simplified its preparation. If my comments have not yet made it clear to you however, let me be specific. This dish will take at least 30 minutes to make. 30 minutes of your time where you will be tied to your stove. This is not a “set it and forget it” type of recipe. (and to be clear any risotto recipe which allows you to walk away from your stove during preparation, or lists milk or cream in the ingredients, is NOT risotto…. just saying). If you chose to commit your undivided attention toward your cooktop for 30 minutes however, you will be rewarded with a wonderful rice dish which will make you proud (even if it doesn’t completely meet Gordon Ramsay’s strict standards lol)! It a small sacrifice in my opinion, however you are entitled to your own opinions on this topic.
In order to prepare this wonderful dish, the most difficult ingredient to find will be the ink. To help you out here, I will tell you that ink from a cuttlefish, squid or octopus will all work well in this recipe. So, you can start at the fishmongers. If you know of a good fishmonger who sells any of these varieties of seafood, they may be able to help you locate the required ink. Also of use to you in this search would be your higher end “gourmet” grocer. In the Toronto area for example, we find our ink at Pusetari’s (no remuneration has been paid for this mention). While it may seem like an expensive product, the amount needed to make this dish is quite small, and it will be worth the cost. If you have not been able to source fresh ink locally, do not despair. There are online suppliers which provided ink “powder” this can also be used to successfully make this dish.
Ok, on to the actual recipe…….
Oh, one more thing. The following recipe is my version. I’ve reduced the addition of salt (as you do get a lot of salt from the ink) and I do believe the “authentic” way of preparing this is by using fish stock. I chose to use chicken stock the first time I made it, as I did not have any fish stock on hand, and I loved it, as did everyone else at the table 🙂
30 g Unsalted Butter
10 ml Olive Oil
20 g Garlic – Raw Minced
20 g Shallots – Raw Minced
225 g Arborio Risotto Rice (Dry Weight)
200 ml White Wine
20 g Squid Ink
900 ml Chicken Stock – No Added Salt
Prep Time: 15 min
Cook Time: 30 min
Yield: 6 x 1/2 cup servings or 3 cups (approx.)
So, lets get started. You will need to commit to the next 30-35 minutes. Its worth it 🙂
If you are preparing other courses to be served with this, try to have your timing planned right so the serving times line up, or if you have a kitchen helper then that’s all the better. This dish is best served within 15 minutes of it being completed.
In a saucepan bring the chicken stock to a boil, then set aside and reduce the heat to simmer… get your ladle ready.
Begin by adding the butter and olive oil to a sauté pan set to medium high heat. Add the shallot and garlic. Once the shallot is translucent and soft, (keep an eye on the garlic, you don’t want to toast it, if it starts to brown lower your heat a little.) add the Arborio rice. Sauté the rice for about 4-5 minutes. Add the wine. Stir until the wine has almost completely reduced, but the rice mixture is still wet.
Add the squid ink next… keep stirring… don’t stop. This will be your main focus for the next 25 minutes or so. Stir the ink through the rice, when it looks evenly mixed through, start adding the stock to the rice mixture one ladle at a time.
Stir constantly between each addition of stock. Add another ladle when its almost fully absorbed. Keep repeating this, stir, stock, stir, stock… after 25 minutes you should now have a velvety rich creamy rice. You can get a good sense that its done when you can pull your spatula or spoon through the rice, revealing a “trail” that doesn’t fill in quickly.. You can also take a taste to see if the rice is tender. You may end up not using all the stock. If you have a small amount left over don’t worry. It fully depends on the rice, and how much or how quickly it absorbs it. You may also feel that you need a little more… if this is the case you can use water, just be sure you add it Hot! More than likely the 900ml of stock will be enough. I’ve made this dish twice and that amount was near to perfect both times!
Now serve it up! Garnish with prawn, lobster, calamari rings.. Whatever you think will work for you, or compliment the rest of your meal. I used a lobster tail with mine and served it in addition to a 6oz filet mignon and steamed broccoli …
Be sure to post comments, serving suggestions and any questions you may have!
Here is the first go at the recipe… It was a hit!!
Todd & Duane 🙂