I have a recipe file of dishes that I call my very ‘special occasion’ dishes and this is one of them. I first had a version of this dish in Venice and have never forgotten how wonderful it was. Yes, it was a ‘special occasion’ but the dish transcends any particular memory to become one in itself. Moreton Bay bugs are a specialty of Australia, and are seasonal, so I have also used large prawns and of course, scampi do the dish the justice it deserves. If you can’t get rice polenta, then I have used panko breadcrumbs with success. Thank you to the wonderful Guy Grossi from Grossi Florentino in Melbourne for sharing this recipe.
Risotto Venere with bug tails
2.5L chicken stock
180ml olive oil
4 eschalots, finely chopped
350g rise nero Venere
125ml white wine
15 Moreton Bay bug tails, shelled
25g finely grated parmesan
2 tablespoons rice polenta
300ml pouring cream
80g finely grated parmesan
3/4 teaspoon agar-agar
Place stock in a pan, cover, bring to the boil, then reduce heat and keep at a gentle simmer.
Heat 60 ml oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Add eschalots and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until translucent. Add rice and stir for 2 minutes or until well coated. Add wine, bring to the boil and cook for 1 minute or until reduced by half. Gradually add 250 ml stock and cook, stirring occasionally, until stock has been absorbed. Repeat with the remaining stock until all liquid has been absorbed and the rice is al dente; this will take about 1 hour.
Meanwhile, to make parmesan zabaglione, simmer cream in a small saucepan over medium-high heat for 5 minutes or until reduced by half. Remove from heat, whisk in parmesan and agar-agar, and blend with a stick blender until light and frothy. Season with sea salt and set aside until needed.
Cut 9 bug tails in half lengthwise, leaving the remaining 6 whole. Heat 60 ml oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat and cook halved bug tails, turning, for 4 minutes or until almost cooked. Transfer to risotto. Wipe pan clean and reserve. Add butter and parmesan to risotto, and stir vigorously to form a creamy consistency.
Heat remaining 60 ml oil in the reserved pan over medium heat, dust whole bug tails with rice polenta, shake off excess, then cook for 4 minutes or until golden and just cooked. Drain on paper towel.
Divide risotto Venere among bowls, top each with a whole bug tail and spoon over warmed parmesan zabaglione to serve.