In Greece, a favourite pasta shape is that of kritharaki…our name for orzo. This pasta is usually featured in a baked Giouvestsi or stove-top manestra – both very comforting dishes that still transport me to Yiayia’s cooking. Today, I’m making Kritharotto…a play on risotto. Rather than toast Arborio rice then patiently alternate between stirring and adding stock until the rice is al dente and creamy, the same method is applied to kritharaki.
The first kritharotto I saw was from chef Lefteris Lazarou of Michelin-star rated Varoulko in Athens and then I was able to taste another version at Toronto’s new Estiatorio Volos with the menu developed by my friend, Diane Kochilas (esteemed cook book author and Greek cuisine authority).
Although very elegant looking and yes, there’s the lobster as the main ingredient, a kritharotto requires some prep (mise en place), good stock and some patience: add the stock one ladle at a time, stir until the kritharaki has abosrbed the liquid, continue this process until just al dente and creamy.
Lobster Kritharotto (Κριθαρότο με Αστακο)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic minced
500 gr. of Kritharaki (Greek orzo)
1 shot of Ouzo
1 cup of dry white wine
3-4 cups of lobster stock (or vegetable or seafood stock)
1/2 cup diced red & yellow bell peppers
1/3 cup diced zucchini
1/2 tsp. thyme leaves
1/4 cup chopped parsley
3 Tbsp. of chopped fresh tarragon ( or basil)
zest of 1 lemon
2-3 Tbsp. of unsalted butter
fresh ground pepper
- Place a skillet on your stove-top over mediu heat and add the onions, garlic, thyme and stir. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 4-5 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Add the kritharaki and stir with a wooden spoon and cook for another 2-3 minutes to toast the pasta.
- Now add the wine and Ouzo, stir until the kritharaki has absorbed most of the wine. Add your stock 1 ladle at a time, stirring constantly until the stock has been absorbed by the pasta. Keeping stock one-ladle at a time, stir until absorbed, repeat.
- After about 3 cups of stock, the kritharotto is almost done and at this point, add your diced peppers continue adding the stock. When your pasta is al dente, add the lobster, zucchini, lemon zest and some fresh ground pepper and stir to incorporate and heat the lobster meat.
- Taste and adjust seasoning, add the chopped tarragon, parsley and take off the heat. Add cold pats of butter and stir in. Divide and plate and top with any reserved lobster roe. Serve with a chilled Gentilini Robola from the island of Keffalonia.
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