Do you have a favorite room in your house? That one place where you are most comfortable, where you always seem to go when you need to relax and take shelter from the storm that life can sometimes be? What is that place for you? Why is it your sanctuary? Perhaps it's your bedroom, a place of quiet softness and rest. Or maybe, for you, it's the living room. A place that welcomes you to sit in an overstuffed recliner while you pour yourself into a favorite novel or get lost in whatever television show you have ready and waiting on the DVR.
That place, for me, is the kitchen. It's the one room in my house that can do everything I need a room to do. It's where I go when I am feeling sad and need to cheer up. I go to the kitchen when I am happy and want to be creative. When I need to relax, off to the kitchen I go. Over our kitchen table so many emotions have been spilled. Happy birthdays, tears over homework, heavy discussions about life's difficulties, joyful revelations. That table has seen it all. All 3 of my children have been raised around it. A marriage was begun and ended at that table. It's been the centerpiece of many a family celebration and where I do the majority of my work. I would go as far as to say the kitchen is the heart of our home.
The last couple weeks seem to be filled with lots of bad news for some of the people closest to me. Death and illness, financial hardships and many difficult life struggles. While many of the things that have been challenging those close to me aren't directly affecting me, I am a highly empathetic person and I tend to take on their stress and pain myself. So, I've been taking to the kitchen to relax and get my mind off all the negativity. I've been most driven to making new recipes and trying some things I've not cooked with before. Of course, the meals of the past couple weeks have included some of our tried and true comfort dishes... but I have gravitated toward recipes that require more time and effort. Not necessarily more complicated or difficult, rather, preparations that demand me to be more mindful while executing them. This risotto was one of those dishes.
Risotto isn't at all difficult to prepare. It's time consuming more than anything. But it's one of those intensely satisfying meals because at the end you are rewarded with a bowl of creamy, comforting, soul filling deliciousness. This particular meal was an ideal stress reliever for me. I'd decided to use Prosecco in place of the white wine that I would typically made this risotto with. Being the recipe only called for a cup of the bubbly stuff meant that I had most of the bottle left. I really dislike to save Prosecco, since it never seems as good the next day so this was perfect. I savored the remainder of the bottle while I prepared my mis en place and while I stood at the stove slowly stirring and adding stock to the risotto as it cooked. I savored the final glass with our meal of this delightful risotto and roasted lemon scented asparagus. It was exactly what I needed. From start to finish. The slow preparation, the sights and scents of simple, fresh food being transformed into something decadent and luxurious. I felt completely pampered by that couple hours spent in my kitchen and when the meal was finished I was completely renewed. Relaxed and full. Not just my belly. My heart was full. Complete joy. From such a simple few things that we so often take for granted. Watching my children enjoy the meal I prepared while spending time connecting with them. Having the means to grace our table with such an amazing meal. Working with beautiful ingredients. Every bit of the process soothed me and brought me into a place of bliss and thankfulness for my life and the people in it.
Food, the kitchen... the connections, the love and happiness that bloom from them.. it grounds me. It is truly what centers me and brings me to my happy place. My hope for all of you is that you find that place, that passion in your own life, whatever it may be.
Lemony Crab Risotto with Prosecco and Chive
* 1 pound lump crab meat
* 8 Tablespoons butter (reserve 2 Tablespoons)
* 1 cup chopped shallots
* 2 cups Arborio rice
* 1 cup Prosecco
* 8 cups chicken or vegetable stock
* Juice from 1 lemon
* Zest from one lemon (for garnish)
* 1/2 cup chopped chives (reserve half for garnish)
* 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (reserve 1/8 cup for garnish)
* Salt and pepper
1: Prepare lump crab meat and set aside.
2: Bring the stock to a simmer in a saucepan. Keep the stock simmering as you use it.
3: In a 4 quart saucepan, heat 6 Tablespoons butter on medium heat. Add the shallots and cook for a few minutes until tender. Add the rice and cook for 2 minutes more, stirring until well coated.
4: Add the Prosecco. Stir, allowing the rice to absorb the wine. Once the wine is almost completely absorbed, add 1/2 cup of stock to the rice. Continue to stir until the liquid is almost completely absorbed, adding more stock in 1/2 cup increments. Make sure you keep stirring and do not walk away; you do not want the rice to stick. Continue adding a little bit of broth at a time, cooking and stirring until it is absorbed, until the rice is tender, but still firm. This should take 30-40 minutes. Remove from heat.
5: Stir in the lemon juice.
6: Stir in the Parmesan cheese and the remaining 2 Tablespoons of butter.
7: Fold in half of the chopped chives.
8: Carefully fold in the crab meat.
9: Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
10: Garnish with a sprinkle of lemon zest, Parmesan and chopped chive. Serve immediately.
Makes 6-8 large servings