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Score Big Smiles with Seared Sea Scallops with Leek Risotto and Lemon-Brown Butter Sauce

Sea scallops are one of those foods that are an occasional treat around our house. They are one of the favorite seafood meals for all three of us, but the cost of sea scallops today make them pretty prohibitive to have often. Even when you can get them on sale, they are very often still around twenty dollars per pound. However, once you are eating them and they are cooked correctly, you tend to forget all about the price and wonder why you do not have them more often. Scallops, like all seafood, requires attention when cooking so that you do not turn them into little disks of rubber and ruin your meal. You can cook them pretty easily, putting a nice sear on them for some color and flavor, in just a few minutes, and when you can find some great dishes to complement the rest of the meal, you will hit a home run. Such is the case with this recipe I tried from Serious Eats for seared sea scallops with a leek risotto and lemon-brown butter sauce. It sounds fancy and complicated, but it is pretty easy to make (save for the stirring of the risotto).

Seared Sea Scallops with Leek Risotto and Lemon-Brown Butter Sauce

For the Leek Risotto:

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil 

1 1/2 cups Arborio rice 

4 tablespoons butter, divided

2 large leeks, white and light green parts only, washed well and diced (about 2 1/2 cups)

1/2 cup dry white wine (or chicken stock if you do not use wine)

5 to 6 cups homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock or water, kept warm

3 tablespoons mascarpone cheese

1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (about 2 ounces)

2 teaspoons lemon zest, finely grated (from about 1 large lemon)

1 tablespoon fresh juice from 1 lemon 

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Lemon-Brown Butter Sauce:

5 tablespoons butter 

1 medium clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon fresh juice from 1 lemon

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Scallops:

8 to 10 large dry-packed sea scallops (about 3/4 pound), dried thoroughly with towels

Kosher salt

1 tablespoon neutral oil, such as vegetable, canola, or grape seed 

2 tablespoons pickled pepper (optional)

For the Leek Risotto: In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat until the oil is shimmering. Add the rice and cook, stirring, until the rice turns translucent around the edges, about 3 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter and the leeks and cook, stirring, until the butter is melted and the leeks are tender but not browned, about 5 minutes.

Add the wine and simmer, stirring, until the wine has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of warm stock and stir the rice mixture until almost all the liquid has been absorbed. Continue cooking the rice, adding the broth in 1/2-cup additions, and stirring until the liquid is absorbed before the next addition, until rice is al dente, about 20 minutes. The rice can be kept warm at this point until you are ready to finish cooking.

 

When you are ready to finish, stir in enough warm stock to loosen the risotto to a creamy consistency. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, mascarpone, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and lemon zest and juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. When the risotto is finished, the grains of rice should be suspended in a thick and creamy sauce; if the risotto thickens too much, simply add additional warm stock or water to restore the risotto to the proper consistency.

 

Meanwhile, for the Lemon-Brown Butter Sauce: Add the butter to a small saucepan set over medium heat. Cook, stirring and swirling the pan every few seconds until the foam subsides and the butter begins to turn golden brown and smells nutty, about 3 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the garlic and let it sizzle for about 10-15 seconds, then add the lemon juice. Season the butter with salt and pepper; keep warm.

 

For the Scallops: Season the scallops with salt. Let the scallops stand in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

 

Remove the salted scallops from the fridge and pat them dry with paper towels. Season the scallops lightly with a little more salt. Heat the vegetable oil in a large stainless steel cast-iron skillet set over high heat until the oil is lightly smoking. Add the scallops, leaving space between each one. Press each scallop down very gently with a spatula to ensure good contact with the pan.

 

Cook the scallops without moving them until they are well browned on the first side, about1-2 minutes. Carefully flip the scallops and cook them until they are seared on the opposite side and medium-rare within, about 1 minute longer. Transfer the scallops to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. To serve the meal, scoop the risotto into warmed bowls or warmed plates, top the risotto with the scallops, and drizzle the scallops with the sauce. Top with a few pickled peppers, if using.

Okay, making risotto is always a bit of a chore because you have to constantly stir it to get the liquid absorbed properly so the rice comes out right. Many people today are making use of their Insta-Pot or pressure cooker to make risotto. I have yet to give it a try myself but some people swear by the results and say it is worth it so if you can do it, go for it. I didn’t mind the stirring all that much (consider it your workout for the day). The flavor of the risotto was very creamy and the leeks really shine through in the dish. The scallops are cooked very simply so that you get the best flavor of the scallops and Michelle and I loved the lemon-brown butter sauce as a topping for it all. I think this is an easy and delicious way to cook your scallops. You could serve it with a nice side of asparagus, broccoli or peas and you have a great meal (don’t forget to use the rest of your white wine from the recipe to go with dinner; it’s a nice touch and pairs well with the meal).

That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for another recipe. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!

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Posted by on March 30, 2017 in Cooking, Dinner, Rice, Seafood

 

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