My wife and kids were taken to Story Land this week by my mother in law, affording me the rare opportunity to cook shell-fish. My wife is allergic to the delicious food group, and instead of putting her life in jeopardy, I tend to abstain from the shelled delicacies. Tonight I made a spinach-asparagus risotto to pair with pan seared sea scallops. They complimented each other perfectly. Remember the trick to a good risotto is to constantly stir the dish while it cooks, allowing rice to take on that creamy texture. Enjoy.
Pan Seared Sea Scallops and Spinach-asparagus Risotto
Pan Seared Sea Scallops
12 sea scallops (approximately 1 pound)
2 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
Pinch of salt
Dash of white pepper
2 cups arborio rice
9 cups vegetable stock
1 pound asparagus
1/2 pound baby spinach
1 medium white onion, diced
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
1 cup Sauvignon Blanc
10 cherry tomatoes
2 gloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
In a medium sauce pan bring the vegetable stock to a boil. Cut the asparagus into 2 inch sections. Add to the boiling vegetable stock for two minutes. Remove the asparagus and place to the side. Turn the heat to low to keep stock warm.
Heat a large skillet. Add one tablespoon of olive oil and wilt the spinach. Remove the spinach and set aside.
Bring the skillet back up to medium low heat. Add the other tablespoon of olive oil and the diced onion. Caramelize the onions by continual stirring them. When the onions are sufficiently brown, add the minced garlic. When the garlic releases its aromatics (approximately thirty seconds) add the rice. Stir until the rice, onion, and garlic are uniformly distributed. Add the cup of wine. Stir, and don’t stop stirring. The trick to a risotto is to add the liquid to the rice slowly, one cup at a time. Make sure the rice has absorbed all the liquid before adding more. Once the wine is absorbed into the rice, add a full ladle’s worth of stock. Stir. Repeat this process until the risotto is finished. The recipe calls for 9 cups of stock, but you may need more or less depending on the rice and a myriad of other conditions. Make sure to add less liquid per ladle towards the end and taste the risotto constantly. The rice should be soft, the mixture a little runny, and the texture should be creamy.
Once the rice is at the desired texture add the cheese, reserving some for garnish. Stir until the cheese is melted and incorporated fully into the risotto. Add the cooked asparagus and spinach. Remove the risotto from the heat and stir in the fresh greens.
When you add the cheese to the risotto, it is a good time to heat up a separate frying pan for the scallops over medium high heat and begin the scallops.
When the pan is hot, about one to tow minutes after putting it on the burner, add you olive oil. When the oil is hot add the butter. If you do this in the opposite order you risk burning your butter. Oil first.
Dry your scallops before cooking them by patting them with a paper towel. Dry scallops brown better and cook quicker than wet ones because the heat from the pan does not have to go towards evaporating the excess water. Season with salt and pepper.
When the butter is almost melted add your scallops one at a time in a clockwise direction beginning at midnight (the back of your frying pan). This will ensure that they all have equal cooking time since you will flip and remove them in the same order. Cook the scallops for two to three minutes. The scallops will stick to the pan initially. This is normal and good. When they are done cooking on a side, they will naturally release themselves from the pan. Flip the scallops over and repeat for the other side.
Drizzle the scallops with the remaining butter.
Plate the risotto and scallops. I like to add a few halved cherry tomatoes and some more freshly grated parmesan cheese for garnish. Place the risotto in the middle of the plate and the scallops on the side.
Beer: Try an Ale.
Wine: The Sauvignon Blanc used in the risotto will pair perfectly.
Cocktails: Hendricks Gin Martini with muddled cucumber.