There are so many things to love about creamy, flavorful, scratch (and well!) made risotto. One thing to love that goes beyond taste or texture: risotto is a great vehicle to use up kitchen scraps and leftovers. And as a main course meal, it is also the perfect dish to not eat (too much) meat: top a vegetable or mushroom risotto with slivers of roasted chicken, duck or beef, for instance!

This risotto came about when I had a large ziplock full of kitchen scraps from a week’s cooking (see below), and not enough lobster tail to make a meal of it.

FOR THE STOCK

Kitchen scraps I had: fennel core & stems, tough onion peels + the hairy end, kale stems, red capsicum trimmings, 1 bruised tomato that didn’t make it to the salad, carrot trimmings, leek trimmings, parsley stems, celery stalk ends and a squeezed-out lemon half. I kept about a cup of all fennel, capsicum and celery trimmings for later (see ingredients). It was the fennel and lemon (well, plus the fact I had those lobster shells) that determined this should be a stock for seafood.

Add all kitchen scraps as well as lobster shells (shrimp or crab shells work just as well) to a quarter of water. Add bayleaf and fresh thyme, 2-3 crushed garlic cloves, a couple black peppercorns and a good couple pinches salt. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for up to 1 hour. Strain and use stock as needed.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 cup risotto rice (Arborio or carnaroli)
  • 1 quart good (kitchen scraps) stock, well-seasoned
  • 1 roasted yellow beet* finely diced
  • 1 cup kitchen scraps: fennel (core & stalk), capsicum (trimmings) & celery ends (this is optional: use other scraps, or not-scraps), finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup grated parmesan or other hard cheese
  • 1 cooked lobster tails (or more!), shelled and chopped into chunks

In a large pot, melt 1 tablespoon butter and add the onions and rice. Stir until the onions are translucent, then add the kitchen scraps. Stir for 1-2 minutes and start adding stock.

A cooking trick to risotto is “hot to hot”: keep the stock hot to add to the hot pan, stirring it in and when the liquid runs down, add another ladle of hot stock. Repeat for about 25 minutes or until the grains are swollen from the stock and the mixture begins to have a creamy texture. Add the beetroot for the last 10 minutes and make sure not to add too much stock in the last 5 minutes.

Risotto is ready when the rice grains have a bite but are not the least bit chalky (which is usually after 25 minutes from the moment you added the rice to the pan). If you like a runny risotto, add a little stock. If not, cook out remaining liquid for 1-2 minutes.

Take the risotto off heat and stir in the remaining butter and half of the grated cheese. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Divide over plates, sprinkle with remaining parmesan and top with lobster chunks. Garnish with fresh herbs to taste. Serve immediately!

*I roast beets 6-8 at a time and keep them, unpeeled but roasted, in a ziplock in the freezer.

Serves 2 for main course