Welcoming the New Year

December 29, 1993|By Betty Rosbottom | Betty Rosbottom,Contributing Writer Los Angeles Times Syndicate

New Year's Eve is my favorite night to entertain. However, rather than giving a large party with a crowd of revelers, my husband and I decided long ago we liked sharing this holiday with a small circle of close friends. So, since the '80s we have been welcoming each new year by cooking a special meal with the same group.

The ritual is always the same. As the hosts, we are responsible for the table setting and the opening course plus the entree. Others prepare appetizers, side dishes and dessert. The food is sumptuous since we indulge ourselves, forgetting about calories and fat grams for this occasion.

This Friday our festivities will begin with slices of bruschetta topped with sauteed wild mushrooms. For the first course there'll be risotto with lobster and snow peas. Garlic-studded baby lamb chops served on a bed of zucchini, yellow squash and sweet red peppers will follow, and a grape sorbet served with amaretti cookies and espresso will end our feast.

The risotto will be one of my contributions. Italian-style Arborio VTC rice (which has short, fat grains and a high starch content) is sauteed along with shallots in butter. Then simmering chicken stock is gradually stirred into the mixture, a little at a time. When the rice is creamy but still firm, seasonings of lemon juice and zest, pieces of cooked lobster meat and snow peas are added. The rice can be made ahead up to where the seafood and vegetables are incorporated. One large 1 1/2 -pound lobster will suffice for a single recipe, which serves 4 to 5 as a first course. The recipe can be doubled if desired.

wish each of you a healthy and joyful 1994 and hope that the year will be filled with many memorable hours spent enjoying good food and friends.

Risotto with lobster and snow peas

Makes 4 to 5 servings as a first course.

1 (1 1/2 -pounds) live lobster

salt

3 1/2 to 4 cups chicken stock

2 to 3 ounces snow peas, trimmed on the diagonal and halved

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup finely chopped shallots

1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (see note)

1/4 cup dry white wine

1/3 cup best-quality imported grated Parmesan cheese (preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano)

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (color portion of rind)

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons chopped parsley, preferably flat-leaf parsley

To cook lobster, bring about 4 quarts water to boil and add 1 tablespoon salt and the lobster. When water returns to boil, start timing. A 1 1/2 -pound lobster should take 12 to 14 minutes. Remove lobster and when cool enough to handle, crack claws and split tail and remove meat. Cut meat into 1-inch chunks. Set aside. (Meat can be cooked a day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature 30 minutes before using.)

Place chicken stock in saucepan and set over medium heat. Bring to simmer. Lower heat and keep at a simmer. Add snow peas and cook just until color is set, about 2 minutes. Remove snow peas with slotted spoon and set aside. Let stock continue simmering.

Heat butter in large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring until softened, about 3 minutes. Add -- rice and stir to coat with butter. Add wine and stir until it has been completely absorbed, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add 1/2 cup simmering stock, stirring constantly with wooden spoon, and cook until all liquid has been absorbed. Continue stirring stock in 1/2 -cup amounts, making certain each addition is completely absorbed before adding the next. (It is important to stir rice constantly while cooking so it does not stick.)

When done in 15 to 20 minutes, rice should be creamy, not mushy, and still have a firmness to it. You may not need to add the last 1/2 cup stock. Stir in cheese, lemon zest and juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Rice can be made several hours ahead to this point. Cool, cover and leave at cool room temperature.)

When ready to serve, reheat rice over medium heat, stirring constantly. Add a little more stock if rice seems too dry. When rice is warm, stir in lobster, snow peas and parsley. Add more salt and pepper if needed. Serve rice immediately in warmed soup dishes.

Note: Arborio rice is available in specialty food shops and some grocery stores.

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