Smoked Fish Risotto
A few weeks ago we were in New York and, at the request of a Russian friend homesick for Russian things, we made a visit to the Brighton Beach neighborhood in Brooklyn, or, as several guides described it, Little Moscow. After picking up some Russian books and magazines from the list Mila had written out we stopped in at M&I International Foods, on Brighton Beach Avenue. There we found a 40' case full of various charcuterie (mostly garlicky smoked sausages of the kielbasa family) down one side of the store, which faced a 40' case of smoked fish and caviar on the opposite side. One of the delicacies we lugged home for ourselves was a nice smoked whitefish (see below) -- part of which eventually became the basis for this amazing risotto.
I was afraid that the saltiness and the agressiveness of the smoke flavor would be too much for a risotto, since the risotto process can concentrate flavors significantly. However, the result was mild and fresh-tasting, and appropriate for a spring supper -- smokey, and lemoney, with everything in balance. With no cheese the dish had a lighter feel than the typical risotto finished with cheese, and the addition of tiny amounts of turmeric and other spices from the Indian palette added an interesting color and depth of flavor -- without pushing forward enough to distract from the main event of smoked fish with lemon accents.
I served this for a casual midweek supper with a simple salad, a crusty ciabatta and a crisp pinot grigio.
Smoked Fish Risotto
smoked whitefish or trout, about 14 oz
5 C water
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
1 stalk celery, sliced
leek top trimmings, washed, chopped
6 parsley stems
1 bay leaf
1 T fresh savory, chopped
2 T fresh dill, chopped
1/2 C dry white wine
6" section leek, white end, cleaned and cut in 1/4" half rounds
3 T butter
2 T olive oil
1-1/2 C arborio rice
1/4 tsp each: ground mace, ground coriander, ground cumin, ground turmeric
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon
parsley, chopped for garnish
Fillet the fish and cut the meat in strips about 1-1/2" x 1/4," reserving the skin, bones, tail and other trimmings. Set the fish aside.
Combine the fish trimmings, water, carrot, celery, leek tops, parsley stems, bay leaf, savory and dill in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer about 30 minutes. Strain, discarding the solids. Rinse out the saucepan and return the broth to the pan. Add the wine to the broth and set over low heat.
In your risotto pan, warm the olive oil and melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the sliced leeks and cook, stirring, over medium high heat about five minutes, until the leeks have softened but not browned. Add the rice, mace, coriander, cumin and turmeric. Sauté the rice, stirring, for a few minutes until it turns milky white.
Add enough broth to cover the rice completely and adjust the heat to a moderate simmer. Stir, adding more broth as the rice absorbs it, for about 15 minutes. Taste the rice: when done it will be firm to the tooth but not chalky at the center of the grains. It's better to err on the slightly undercooked side if you're not sure, since the rice will continue to take up liquid while it is being finished and served, and you don't want it to go soggy. When you think the rice is almost done, add the fish, lemon juice, half the zest and the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and stir gently to combine the ingredients and melt the butter. Serve immediately, adding another half cup of broth at the very last second and giving the pot one more big stir.
Use a slotted spoon to lift rice from the broth and make a mound in the middle of a warmed shallow soup plate. Then spoon some broth into a moat around the mound and drizzle a little over the mound. Top with a few parsley leaves and a healthy pinch of the reserved lemon zest.