First thing’s first. Scallops. They’re tasty, they’re good for you (more than 80% protein, and packed with magnesium and potassium), and they are easy to overcook.
But they’re worth the effort to get right – and by running a few scallop tests, I intend to save you some trouble. (When you can get a good deal from a fishmonger on scallops – it’s worth testing … and eating your results.)
The quickest way to cook scallops, and the best for a risotto, is to sear them in some olive oil and butter. Before cooking them, make sure they’re dry, and then season each side with a sprinkle of salt and black pepper. Kosher salt or ground rock/sea salt are your best options, but using what you have has always seemed reasonable to me.
After that, the two most important things are heat and time. Make sure that your pan is smoking hot (literally!) and that you have a timer ready.
King scallops, or the big guys seen below, take 1:30 on each side to cook. Nothing crazy is going to happen if you go slightly over, but if you’re anything like me, it just takes one minor distraction to go from soft, buttery scallops to tough, disappointing scallops.
a. dry, seasoned scallops
b. smoking hot skillet with some butter and olive oil
c. a timer (1:30 on each side)
Personally, I like to eat the coral (the orange bit that’s attached) but if you don’t, or you’re not comfortable eating roe, then it’s really easy to remove before cooking. Just pull them off!
Make the scallops as your final step, even though I’ve gone and made everything confusing by talking about them first. But they’re much better hot and fresh out of the pan. Plus, the risotto is less likely to suffer from waiting 3 minutes than the scallops are waiting 30 minutes.
Serves: 2 [and easy to halve for 1]
On the Counter
for the risotto
1 medium onion, finely diced
200 g chestnut or portobello mushrooms, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
25 g butter
1.25 L (5 cups) vegetable stock
120 ml (1/2 cup) white wine
200 g (1 cup) carnaroli or arborio rice
130 g (1 cup) peas, defrosted
50 g unsalted butter, cubed
50 g Parmesan cheese, grated
handful of fresh parsley, chopped
for the scallops
25 g butter, melted in a skillet
1 tbsp olive oil
6 large scallops, cleaned, seasoned and dried. (coral removed if desired)
What To Do
Bring the stock to the boil and set aside once it’s boiled.
Melt the 25 g of butter over medium heat until sizzling. Soften the onion in a skillet, for about 5 minutes, then mix in the mushrooms and cook for another 3 or 4 minutes. Add in garlic, stir and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add the rice. Turn the heat up to medium high, and stir to coat the grains with butter.
Once the grains begin to turn translucent, add the wine. Stir until the wine is mostly gone. Add 1 ladle-full of stock, stir until nearly absorbed and add more stock. (You don’t have to stir constantly, just ensure the rice does not go dry.)
After 10 minutes, stir in the peas, test the rice for doneness, and add stock in smaller portions until the rice is as firm or soft as you like it to be.
As soon as the rice is ready and the stock level in the pan is low, take the risotto off the heat. Stir in the remaining butter and the parmesan cheese. Mix until well combined and creamy.
Set aside, covered (or serve immediately if not making scallops.)
Meanwhile, when the rice is very nearly done, heat the olive oil and 25 g of butter in a skillet until the butter has been sizzling for a few minutes.
Once the butter is hot enough, prepare a timer for 1 minute 30 seconds. Quickly put the scallops in and leave them unit the timer goes off.
Flip the scallops and cook for another 1 minute, 30 seconds.
Serve the scallops on top of the risotto and garnish with chopped fresh parsley.