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Risotto Al Nero Di Seppia Is Just Italian for Squid Ink Risotto But It Sounds So Much Prettier

It was the The Kid's 15th birthday and I think I have made it pretty clear that when somebody celebrates a birthday in this house, it's allllll about days of eating whatever the birthday person wants to eat. From our Saturday dim sum feast at Luckee, through to his Saturday night, adult free, all you can eat sushi dinner with a group of his friends all the way to the actual birthday dinner, The Kid got to eat whatever his little heart desired. It also so happens that Easter fell the day before his birthday this year, so a turkey dinner was thrown in there for good measure.

At first, he just requested risotto with either pumpkin pie or a raspberry pie. I got a pumpkin pie for Easter dinner and he was the only one to eat it so the same pie was going to have to do as his birthday dessert and he was A Okay with that but I couldn't pin him down as far as kind of risotto. He said "just plain risotto"

I am NOT making a big bowl of plain risotto for his birthday so after some pushing, he said he would like a clam risotto. I spent the weekend trying to come up with a way to make it a bit more special, since I make clam risotto all the time. Then it came to me. Why I have not used squid ink up until now is a mystery to me since he loves anything that has a bit of a fear factor vibe going on, he loves squid, and it's just so pretty. We picked up the squid ink at our local fishmonger, The Beach Fish House and then went to buy some clams but we ended up with clams, mussels and squid tentacles and the dish finally started to come together in my head.

If you make this, you don't need this much seafood but I wanted to make enough that we would all have some on our risotto but there would still be a big bowl of mussels and clams on the table so that the birthday boy could pig out on them as well. You could certainly get away with half a lb of each if you don't want to serve the majority of them separately.

Don't panic when you first stir in the ink and your rice looks ugly and grey and kind of streaky because it will quickly turn pitch black and velvety. The squid ink doesn't really add a flavour at all, just a briny saltiness and, of course, the beautiful, inky black appearance. Even Shack, who isn't fond of squid at all, loved it and said he couldn't taste any squid taste. The brightness of the gremolata really wakes this rich dish up, so don't skip it.

Next up, squid ink porridge for breakfast! Squid ink congee for lunch! Squid creme brulee for dessert!

Risotto Al Nero Di Seppia Con Frutti Di Mare

serves 4 as main dish

1000ml chicken stock
236ml bottle clam juice

zest from 1 lemon (use a rasp or a fine grater)
1 small handful of parsely, finely minced
1 big clove garlic, finely minced

approx 2 tbls olive oil
2 shallots, finely minced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 1/2 cup caranoli rice
1/2 cup white wine
2 tsp squid ink
3 tbls butter
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan

1 shallot, finely minced
1 clover garlic
1 good glug of olive oil
1 large squid tentacle, cut into a few pieces, lengthwise so you end up with four portions. If your tentacles are really small, get four of them and don't cut them up.
1 lb small clams. cleaned
1 lb mussels, cleaned
1/2 cup white wine
juice from 1/2 lemon
pinch kosher salt
a few grinds of black pepper

make the gremolata by combining the minced parsley, garlic and lemon zest together in a small bowl and set aside.

to get your seafood ready, rinse your clams and mussels and keep fresh in the fridge in a bowl, covered by a damp cloth until you are ready to cook them. If you need to clean the mussels, do that too although most mussels now come pretty clean.

Combine the chicken stock with the clam juice in a pot on a back burner and let come to a slight simmer, lower heat so that it stays hot but doesn't boil.

In a big , deep pot or pan ( I use my 5qt Le Creuset dutch oven), heat about 2 tbls olive oil over med heat. Saute the shallot for a couple of minutes, add in the garlic, saute another minute, stirring constantly so that it doesn't brown. Add in the rice and stir well, sauteing that for a few minutes until the rice becomes opaque and it totally coated in the oil. Now pour in the white wine, stirring constantly in a nice, slow figure 8 pattern, until the wine is almost totally absorbed. Start adding the stock, a ladle at a time, stirring constantly. You add stock, stir until it is almost entirely absorbed, add another ladle full, stir, add another ladle until the rice is almost done or for about 14 minutes. At that time, stir in the squid ink but be careful with that stuff because it does stain so try not to get it everywhere.

Now, right before you added the ink, you started to heat a deep pan with a lid over med to med high heat. Add the olive oil, garlic and shallot and stir that for a couple of minutes - you want the pan really hot. Throw in the squid tentacles and saute quickly, for only about 1-  2 minutes or until it starts to colour a bit around the edges. Remove immediately to a bowl, squeeze the lemon over it, add a tiny pinch of salt and set aside.

In the same pan, throw in the clams and mussels, the white wine and put the lid on. Bring it to a boil and let them steam in there until they are all opened up, or for about 4 to 5 minutes.

This whole time, you have also been stirring your risotto. You may not be stirring it quite as non stop but you need to either be able to juggle the rice and the seafood or get someone to come into the kitchen and take over the rice for a few minutes while you do the seafood. They should be helping out anyway, right?

Using a slotted spoon, remove all of the clams and mussels to a big bowl and then pour the liquid in the pan into the risotto. Keep stirring until most of the liquid is absorbed into the rice and by this point, it should be fully cooked anyway.

When it's done (it usually takes about 20 minutes from the time you added the rice to the pot), take the pot off of the heat and beat in the butter and cheese with your wooden spoon. This process is called the mantecare and the beating in of the butter and cheese gives the rice a finished, silky, homogeneous gorgeous bowl of risotto as opposed to a bowl of rice swimming in liquid.

To plate, put a cup of rice in a shallow bowl, lay a squid tentacle across the top and surround that with a mixture of clams and mussels (you only use the ones that open fully, discard the unopened ones) and sprinkle a generous pinch of gremolata over the whole thing.

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