Preserved Lemon Risotto & Market Fish, by Chef Amy Cyrex Sins of Langlois Culinary Crossroads
Amy, chef and owner of Langlois, writes: The dish is perfect for this time of year because it bridges the winter and spring seasons. We’re currently in citrus season, but the produce has to be picked before it gets hit with a blast of cold weather. Before there was refrigeration, salt was a way to preserve the fruit for the following season. This is also a great spring dish, as once you have those beautiful fresh vegetables – asparagus and peas – you can combine it with the preserved lemon in the risotto. It’s the perfect way to get two seasons out of your produce.
Yield: 8 servings
Louisiana drum fish
3 tbsp oil, olive
2 tbsp Pernod or other anise aperitif
3 cloves garlic - minced
1 tbsp Preserved Lemon Peel - diced
2 tsp rosemary leaves - finely chopped
Kosher salt - to taste
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 bunch asparagus - chopped into 2" lengths and blanched in salted boiling water
6-8 cups stock, chicken - hot
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups onions - chopped
1 small fennel bulb - chopped
4 cloves garlic minced
Kosher salt - to taste
2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup Pernod or other anise aperitif
1/2 cup lemon juice
3 tbsp butter, unsalted
2 tbsp Preserved Lemon Rind - rinsed and finely diced
2 cups peas
white pepper - freshly ground
1/4 cup mint leaves - divided, coarsely chopped
1 cup Kosher salt
1/4 tsp red pepper – crushed
1/4 tsp black pepper
Slice lemons thinly. Remove seeds. Place layer of half the salt on shallow non-corrosive pan (stainless steel or glass). In single layer top salt with lemon slices. Completely cover sliced lemons with remaining salt. Cover pan and refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to 7 days.
Remove lemons from the salt and rinse under cold water. On cutting board, chop entire lemon, skin and all, into small dice. Hold till needed in the refrigerator. Keeps three days once rinsed. Can be canned.
Preheat oven to 350°.
On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the fish with the oil, Pernod, garlic, Preserved Lemon Peel, rosemary, salt and pepper. Let the fish marinate at room temperature while you make the risotto.
Prepare all of your risotto ingredients: blanch the asparagus, heat the stock, chop and measure everything out, placing it all close to hand by the stove. Once you start stirring risotto, there’s no stopping.
Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the onions, fennel and garlic and sweat over low heat for about 10 minutes, or until soft and translucent. Season with salt about halfway through.
Add the rice and raise the heat to medium high. Stir to coat and slightly toast the rice for about 3 minutes. You should hear a lively crackling in the pot. The rice will take on a shiny, translucent coat.
Add the Pernod and lemon juice to the rice and continue stirring until the liquid is almost completely absorbed.
Add a ladleful of hot stock to the rice and continue stirring. It’s important to regulate the heat at this point. The rice should neither boil vigorously nor cook too slowly. You’re looking for an even, medium heat that gives the rice a billowy loft and brings some bubbles to the surface.
As the stock is absorbed, continue adding it by ladlefuls and stir constantly. If you watch carefully, you’ll see that toward the end, the rice really gives itself over to the liquid, releasing its starch to make a kind of cream. Stop incorporating stock once the rice is creamy but still al dente, cooked but not too soft. This can take between 20 and 30 minutes, and between 6 and 8 cups of stock.
Remove the risotto from the heat, and immediately fold in the butter, preserved lemon rind, peas, several grinds of white pepper and most of the mint (save some for garnish). The heat of the risotto will cook the peas. Stir slowly to blend, check a final time for seasoning, and carefully fold in the asparagus. Put a lid on the risotto and let it rest while you quickly grill the shrimp. The risotto will expand slightly in volume, and take on a marvelous sheen.
Pan sear fish in hot oil. Spoon the pernod sauce over fish. Finish cooking the fish in the oven for about 5 minutes until fish is opaque.
Garnish with mint and a flourish of pepper, and serve.
Built inside a turn-of-the-century Italian market in the historic Marigny neighborhood, Langlois Culinary Crossroads is a next-generation New Orleans dining experience, combining the quality of a restaurant with the style of a cooking school. Currently celebrating its one-year anniversary, Langlois offers hands-on and demonstration Cajun/Creole cooking classes, private dining events, and team building activities. For more information and to book a class, visit www.langloisnola.com.
Chef Amy outside Langlois located at 1710 Pauger Street, New Orleans