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~ Creamy Lemon-Tarragon & Shaved-Corn Orzotto ~

IMG_8702We're two days away from New Year's Eve and I'm gearing up to cook an elegant feast.  I don't know exactly why, but, when I have to say good-bye to another year, I want to do it in style, and, this year, that means seafood.  Pulling this off in the dead of Winter (especially when we have about a foot and a half of snow on the ground here in Happy Valley), might seem a bit tricky or complicated, but trust me when I tell you:  it is easier than you think.  Here in Central PA, I'll have to rely on frozen seafood, which our town just happens to have some high-quality sources for, so I do not consider this a compromise.  Joe just happened to come home with frozen lobster tails!

6a0120a8551282970b015390c001e4970b-320wiIt was easy for me to decide what I want to serve with these sweet tails: my sweet corn "orzotto".  A couple of years ago (in August), my cousin Victor, a world-class fisherman from New Jersey, visited us.  He arrived with a freshly-caught, sushi-grade tuna, coolers brimming with clams and crabs, plus a bushel of freshly-picked Jersey sweet corn. While Vic wielded his super-sharp filet knife on the tuna, Joe spiced and steamed the clams and crabs. I set out to invent a quick and easy side-dish that would complement the entire seafood feast:

My Creamy Lemon-Tarragon & Shaved-Corn Orzotto was Born!

IMG_8635For the corn:  Note:  I was prepared to make my orzotto substituting some frozen corn kernels today (which you should feel free to do), but lo and behold, Joe found 8 whole, pre-trimmed, ears of fresh sweet corn at our market today too!

8  cobs of corn, or, 4 cups frozen corn kernels that have been cooked & drained

4  tablespoons sugar

IMG_8640Strip away the husks and carefully remove the silks from each cob of corn (as pictured above).  

In an 8-quart stockpot, bring 5 quarts of water to a rolling boil over high heat.  Add the sugar.  Ease the corn cobs, one at a time, into the pot of boiling water.  After the last cob has been added and the water has returned to a rolling boil, cover and cook for 5 minutes.

IMG_8643Remove from heat and drain thoroughly.  Return corn to stockpot, cover, and set aside until corn is cool enough to handle with your hands, about 30-45 minutes.

To shave the corn:

All you really need to do is run a sharp chef's knife down the side of each cob.  That being said, if you have a bundt or tube-type pan, I can 6a0120a8551282970b017615b28309970c-320wisave you a lot of mess!

Place the narrow end of the cob in the tube.  Firmly grip the top of the cob, and, using a sharp chef's knife, slice/shave, from top to bottom, one lengthwise section at a time.  Try to keep the knife as close to the cob as you can when you do this, without cutting into the cob.  The corn will come off in chunky lengths, sections, bits and pieces.  This is exactly what you want!

6a0120a8551282970b015390c05d76970b-500wiFor the orzotto:

1  pound orzo, cooked according to package directions

1  tablespoon sea salt (for seasoning water for pasta)

4  ounces butter, at room temperature, very soft (1 stick)

1/4  cup minced fresh tarragon leaves

2  tablespoons dried tarragon leaves

3/4  teaspoon Greek seasoning blend

3/4  teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning

1/4  teaspoon nutmeg

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1/4  teaspoon white pepper

1  cup heavy or whipping cream, at room temperature

3/4  cup finely-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (grate 1 1/4 cups total)

4  cups cooked and shaved fresh sweet corn, or, cooked and drained frozen corn kernels

1/2  cup additional finely-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for topping orzotto

zest of 1 lemon, for garnish

red pepper flakes, for garnish

6a0120a8551282970b0163025e81c6970d-320wiA bit about orzo:  Orzo is a tiny, rice-shaped macaroni-type pasta, slightly smaller than a pine nut.  In Italian, orzo means "barley", but I personally associate orzo with many wonderful Greek dishes. When it is prepared and paired with the anise-flavor of fresh tarragon (also the flavor of the famous Greek liqueur Ouzo), the result is sumptuous.  By adding some butter, cream and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, I created a dish very similar in texture to Italian risotto, hence the name "orzotto".  When I added fresh tarragon and shaved sweet corn, I created a verstile dish that pairs well with all sorts of things, especially seafood!  

6a0120a8551282970b0154349448fa970c-320wi~ Step 1.  In an 8-quart stockpot, bring 5 quarts of water to a boil over high heat.  Add the salt.  Sprinkle in the orzo, adjust heat to simmer and cook until al dente, 8-9 minutes.

~ Step 2.  In a small bowl, combine the minced fresh tarragon with the dried tarragon, Greek seasoning blend, lemon-pepper seasoning, nutmeg, sea salt and white pepper. 

6a0120a8551282970b015390c0deb8970b-320wi~ Step 3.  Thoroughly drain the orzo (do not rinse it) and return it (while it is still piping hot) to the warm stockpot.  Place the pot on the still warm stovetop.  Add the butter and spice mixture.  Using a large spoon, thoroughly combine, until the butter is melted and the orzo is evenly coated.  

~ Step 4.  Stir in the cream and 3/4 cup of grated cheese.

IMG_8670~ Step 5.  Fold in the the sweet corn.  Cover and set aside for about 15 minutes, to allow orzo to absorb all of the cream and allow all of the great flavors to marry.  Transfer to a serving bowl or plate.  Sprinkle with the additional grated cheese and garnish with lemon zest and red pepper flakes.  Serve immediately:

Note:  Reheat any leftovers you might have in the microwave!

IMG_8693Creamy Lemon-Tarragon & Shaved-Corn Orzotto:  Recipe yields 6 very generous side-servings of orzotto.

Special Equipment List:  8-quart stockpot; chef's knife; cutting board; bundt or tube-type pan; microplane grater; colander; large spoon

IMG_8845Cook's Note:  I'm going to be serving todays orzotto on New Year's Eve with: ~ Elegant & Exquisite:  Butter-Poached Lobster Tails ~  You can find the recipe in Categories 3, 11, 14 or 21. These two dishes (neither of which are hard to prepare), when served together on the same plate, equal one very special meal that is perfect for any holiday or celebration!  

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012) 


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