Crab-Scented Risotto

A few weeks ago, a bunch of friends from work decided to get together for CrabFest 2008. A similar event was held in 2007 and it was such a success that people kept wondering when we would hold the 2008 version. If you remember though, we had a silly oil spill here that coincided with the usual start of crab season, so us crabby folks in the Bay Area have had to wait a while before we can feast on our local crawly friends, making us extra crabby. (Ha! Oh yes, I just went there.)

If you’ve never been to a crab-eating party, what I can tell you is that the aftermath is not pretty, no matter how delicious the crabs were (and ours were quite excellent). There are crab shells everywhere and you tend to find random bits of crab meat in your hair or on your clothes. The home of the host inevitably smells like crab for a few days afterwards and let’s just say there’s a reason you don’t see many advertisements for crab-scented home fragrance.

But wait, there’s a silver (red?) lining to this crabby cloud! If you manage to leave the party with a little pile of crab shells (I like to take 3-4 of the big body pieces since no one really chews on those), you can go home and make yourself a big pot of crab stock. On a lazy night, you can cook up some somen noodles, heat some stock up, add soy sauce to taste, and have yourself a bowl of crab noodle soup for dinner. On a not-so-lazy night, you can make a crab-scented risotto like this one. Of course, you can put actual crab meat in the risotto too – just stir in cooked crab meat at the end.

(ps: Did you spot my oh-so-subtle method to make you jealous in the photo above? Ooo! Look at us! We ate at a fancy restaurant!)

I made a crab stock by simmering a bunch of leftover crab shells, a quartered onion, 2 carrots, 6 sprigs of parsley, 6-8 peppercorns, and 2 bay leaves in plenty of water for 2 hours. Strain in a fine-mesh sieve and store frozen in old yogurt containers.

2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped finely
2 cups arborio rice
5-6 cups crab stock (see below), kept hot on stove
1 meyer lemon, zested, and halved
handful of parsley, chopped
a couple handfuls of Parmesan cheese, grated

Heat olive oil in a large skillet or heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute until softened. Add garlic and cook a minute or so more, making sure garlic doesn’t burn (turn down the heat if it starts to look iffy).

Add rice and stir all around to coat the rice. Cook until the outer layers of the rice grain turns clear.

Add stock to rice one ladle at a time and stir. When that liquid has been mostly absorbed, add another ladle of stock. You can tell it’s time to add more stock if you run a wooden spoon through the rice and the ‘slash’ doesn’t automatically fill up with liquid.

Keep adding stock like this until the rice is cooked – taste as you go along to figure out when the rice is cooked. It shouldn’t be too mushy but it shouldn’t be crunchy either. If you start to think you might run out of stock, add some water to the simmering pot and turn the heat up to quickly warm up the extra liquid (you always want to add hot liquid to a pot of risotto). The whole thing will take about 30-45 minutes.

When risotto is done, stir in lemon zest, a squeeze of lemon juice (watch out for seeds!), grated cheese, and parsley.

Serve hot, topped with extra grated cheese, if desired.

(Makes about 4-6 servings)