As The Scallops Turn

Autumn, Savory Recipes • 2 Dec 2007

Since my aborted culinary school mission, my creative juices have been flowing. I have been spending an inordinate amount of time in the kitchen, both experimenting with new recipes and playing around with old favorites. Part of me is extremely anxious to go back to work; I do not fare well in the face of boredom. However, the little apron-cloaked devil sitting on my shoulder reinforces that I am thriving as a “stay-at-home cook”. The fact of the matter is that my damned little devil has a voracious appetite to feed. It wants nothing but to concoct edible delights. Call it mental castration, but I’m enjoying this lifestyle.

It comes as no surprise that I have been experimenting with risotto. It is a pretty well known fact that risotto is one of my all-time favorite foods. It is a paradigm of perfection: easy to cook, mindless to assemble and undeniably pleasing. The other day, I took a recipe I found in Bon Appetit and amended it for the sake of experimentation. What resulted was the most intensely rich, complexly flavored risotto; it is not a true Italian risotto, since I use whiskey rather than wine to deglaze the pan.

Leek Risotto with Seared Scallops

Leeks:
2 large leeks (white and pale green parts only), halved, thinly sliced crosswise (about 2 cups)
3/4 cup whipping cream

Mushrooms:
1 pound shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, cut into roughly 1/4 thick slices
1 large onion, halved, thinly sliced lengthwise
1/2 stick butter, melted
1 tablespoon white truffle oil
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves

Risotto:
1/2 stick butter, divided
1 large onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/8 cup whiskey
5 cups (or more) hot chicken broth
Chopped fresh parsley

Scallops:
1 pound fresh scallops
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt and pepper
Truffle oil

1. For leeks: Bring leeks and cream to boil in heavy medium saucepan. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until leeks are tender and cream is thick, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

2. For mushrooms: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss all ingredients on rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until mushrooms are tender and light brown around edges, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes.

3. For risotto: Melt 2 tablespoons butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until just beginning to carmelize, about 10 minutes. Add rice; stir 1 minute. Add whiskey and stir until almost all liquid is absorbed, about 1 minute. Add 1 cup hot broth. Simmer until broth is almost absorbed, stirring often, about 4 minutes. Add more broth, 1 cup at a time, allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding next and stirring often, until rice is tender and mixture is creamy, about 20 minutes longer. The risotto should be firm and creamy, not mushy. Stir in leek mixture, mushroom mixture and remaining 2 tablespoons butter.

4. For scallops: Pat scallops dry on paper towels. Season with salt and pepper. Place oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until very hot but not smoking. Add scallops and sauté in single layer without moving them until golden on one side, about 2 minutes. Flip them over and brown on second side, about 2 minutes. Transfer to plate.

5. Serve in wide rimmed bowls and sprinkle with parsley. Place scallops on top of risotto and drizzle with truffle oil.

Yield: Makes 4 main course servings.

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