Are you craving a 3-star Michelin dining experience but your purse says forget it? Making this dish in your own kitchen will transport you to culinary heaven, and it will be a lot kinder to your wallet if you make it from scratch. I confess there is technique involved. I am confident, however, you can master two simple processes without issue: The sear of the scallop and the simmer and stir of the risotto.
First, the sear: Heat your heaviest sauté pan over medium-high to high heat for a minute before adding a thin layer of grape seed or canola oil. When the oil starts to shimmer, add your scallops to the pan.
Don’t touch the scallops for a full minute so they have time to develop a golden brown crust. If you think you are burning them, remove from the heat a few seconds, adjust the heat, but don’t fiddle with the scallops. After they have developed a crust, reduce the heat to medium and cook an additional minute. Then raise the heat, turn them over with tongs and repeat the process. The scallops should be cooked through, and slightly translucent in the center.
Second the risotto: There is some mystique around risotto but it’s simple to master. I’m on the “learn while you burn” plan and have suffered through eating burnt risotto from using flimsy-bottomed pots. Therefore, I would advise using a heavy-bottomed pot, borrowing one from a friend if necessary. Also, avoid multi-tasking when cooking the risotto. It needs liquid and a stir every 1-2 minutes.
You will want to taste the risotto toward the end of the cooking time. Don’t necessarily trust the package recommended cooking time as it varies according to the age of the rice. In Italy, I’ve eaten risotto that was creamy but almost crunchy. The American palate, I’ve found, prefers risotto with less crunch, yet toothsome, and creamy. Tasting the risotto will ensure you have the texture that you prefer.
Whenever “dry-packed” scallops are on sale I buy them. I freeze them. I dream about them until they are all devoured. “Wet-packed” scallops are less expensive but contain STP (sodium tripolyphospate) to increase weight and “shelf” life. My friend, Mike, owns the best seafood business in town. He tells me “The scallop business is full of impostors. Even ‘natural’ scallops can be ‘wet-packed’. You can’t caramelize ‘wet-packed’ scallops because the natural sugar has been diminished. ‘Wet-packed’ scallops also lose their size, tighten up and toughen when cooked.”
Transcendental is how I could describe this eating experience. If you’ve the available risotto ingredients, make extra for leftovers. Butternut Squash and Wild Mushroom Risotto Cakes is tomorrow night’s dinnerFeed!