Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Corn Risotto with Crab Balls

This will appear to be a difficult recipe. However, if the CC can make it on a weekday, so can you.

It's called prep and advance planning. Also, if you read the recipe carefully, you will see that there are fairly obvious "synergies" between the three sections. If you use your time wisely, and this is a skill, you will see that this is a fairly simple recipe.

The herbs are fairly interchangeable. You will get great results with basil, rosemary, sage, or thyme. Tarragon can be a little overpowering so should be used with a spare hand. Combinations also work.

After the recipe below, the CC presents the underlying logic -- why is this dish the way it is? (Hopefully, this section will turn into a regular trend.)

This level of analysis which explains the harmony of flavors, aesthetics, nutrition and palate feel is absolutely necessary if you want to get to the "next level" in cooking.


Corn Broth

6 cobs corn (shucked, keep the cobs)
1 large red onion

Crab Balls

1/2 cup crabmeat
1/2 carrot (grated - read below what to with the remaining half carrot)
1 red serrano (yes! it must be red)
2 eggs
sage (chopped very fine)

Corn Risotto

4 leeks (chopped fine, white parts only)
2 cups arborio rice (or carnaroli or vialone nano.)
1/2 carrot (grated)
1 cup parmigiano reggiano
1 cup chopped wild greens with a bitter edge (mizuna, arugula, etc.)
1 cup white wine
sage (chopped very fine)
black pepper

olive oil


Prepare the corn broth. This step can be done ahead of time.

Sweat the onions in olive oil. Add the cobs, half of the corn kernels and the sage. Fry languidly for 5-7 minutes. Cover with water, and bring to a boil. Skim the impurities, and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the cobs, blend the mixture, and pass through a fine sieve. (Yes, this is a lot of work. Deal with it!)

Combine the crabmeat, very finely chopped serrano, grated carrot, two eggs, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper. The mixture should be loose but fashionable into balls. Create small balls out of them. Pan fry them in a skillet with a layer of olive oil, and drain on paper towels.

Now, we prepare a standard risotto. Keep the corn broth on a simmer.

Fry the leeks languidly (4-6 minutes.) Add the rice, and fry till the kernels of the rice are visible. Add the white wine and stir. Add ladles of the broth, and stir. Repeat.

Two-thirds of the way in, add the grated carrot. Towards the end, add the greens and the rest of the corn kernels.

Add the grated parmigianio-reggiano and the sage.


Recipe Logic

The basic idea started as a corn risotto.

The CC had some corn soup in his kitchen, and it made sense to turn it into a broth, and make the risotto. However, this would've been too mundane - monochromatic if you will - corn flavor would, of course, be amazing but there is nothing to make the dish either visually interesting or amazing on the second bite. For that, we need contrast. Also, there is not enough protein in the dish.

Hence, the need for a topping. Mushrooms were considered but the season for chanterelles is long past. Seared scallops would've been a complete winner. That would be one direction to go into but it was a bit of a cliché. Plus, the texture would be soft on soft. Not a recipe for a knockout.

So the CC went in the direction of a different cliché -- corn and crab -- a classic in many cuisines -- French, American, Vietnamese. From the seared scallops, the CC went with crab cakes but they are mundane so the CC punched it up with a slight sweetness and color (carrot) and spice (serrano). You get a textural contrast as a free bonus -- the soft, wet risotto punched up by a crisp crab ball.

Now, to make the color act as tie-in to the balls as well as a visual punchline, a slight bit of grated carrot would work in the risotto but it would make the dish too sweet (with the corn, corn broth, etc.) so the CC added a base note of bitter greens which also add a dash of green color.

The herbs tie it all together. By making them identical across the board, the dish has a coherent feel.

Please note that the dish has both the aesthetics and nutritional complexity of the very Japanese washoku.

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