Sunday, January 18, 2009

Pan Seared Scallops and Spinach and Tomato Risotto with Roasted Red Pepper Aioli

Serves 4

I had something similar to this at Giorgio's in Milford, NH a few years ago. It was delicious and simple and I was so thrilled that mid-meal I told J "I can recreate this!" No, it doesn't taste exactly like theirs but I think I've done a pretty good job in creating a similar dish. And the great thing about this meal is that individually each component can be paired with other dishes. The scallops can be added to pasta or served over a salad. The risotto can be served with steak or chicken or swap the spinach and tomato for mushrooms and peas. The aioli can be spread on crusty bread (can't almost everything?) or used as a pasta sauce. Versatility!

People are always afraid to make risotto because you need stir it "constantly". Constantly is a little bit of an exaggeration. If you cook it at the right temperature, you can walk away from it here and there. Enough so that you can prepare the other parts of this meal (which are easy!). I'll start with directions for the Aioli, since that can be made a couple of days ahead of time or while you start the risotto.

One other thing: The reason I use unsalted butter and real wine (rather than cooking wne) is partially because I have high blood pressure (yay genetics!) and need to be careful about my salt intake but also because I don't like my food super salty. Another reason to use real wine is that it tastes better and that's important because that flavor is going to show up in your risotto.

Roasted Red Pepper Aioli

1 1/2 roasted red peppers, patted dry
3 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, whole or minced
4 tbsp light mayo
kosher salt and black pepper

I run my garlic through a garlic press first so that it evenly distributes finely through the aioli. It's not necessary (since you are using a food processor here) but J and I are both sensitive to textures so its just something I do. Otherwise put all ingredients except the olive oil into a food processor and pulse until the pepper is well chopped and the ingredients are well blended. You may need to scrape down the sides of the bowl and pulse again. Slowly stream in the olive oil with the machine on(most food processors have an opening in the lid for you to do this) until the whole mixture emulsifies. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if needed. Transfer to a squeezable condiment container or a plastic ziplock bag. If using for a recipe other than this, a container with lid is fine.

Simple Risotto

5 cups low sodium chicken stock
2 tbsps unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
3/4 cup white wine
1 large onion, finely diced
2 shallots, finely diced
2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
kosher salt and black pepper
3 ripe tomatoes, diced and dried gently with a paper towel
2 cups loosely packed baby spinach leaves

Pour the chicken stock into a saucepan and turn heat to medium-low. In another saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add the onion and shallots and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the rice and stir well to coat the rice with the pan liquids. When it's well coated add the wine to the pan. Stir and let simmer until it's mostly absorbed. Once the wine is mostly absorbed, add a small ladle of hot stock to the rice and stir. It should be absorbed into the rice in about 2 minutes. Continue adding small ladles full of stock to the rice, one at a time, allowing it to completely absorb ino the rice before adding another. Do this until the stock is gone (20 - 25 minutes). Turn off the heat and stir in the spinach, and tomatoes. Stir well to combine and wilt the spinach. Stir in the parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper.

Pan Seared Scallops

12 Sea Scallops, rinsed well and patted dry
Kosher salt and pepper
2 tbsp butter or olive oil

Liberally season the scallops with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat your choice of fat over medium heat in a medium sized skillet. I use 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp olive oil. The butter helps the scallops to caramelize and the olive oil prevents the butter from burning. You can use one or the other or a mixture. It's a personal preference. I even made them with a generous coating of non-stick spray. Once the pan and oil are very hot, place the scallops in the pan in a single layer (you may need to do this in two batches) and sear for 2-3 minutes. Turns the scallops with tongs (they'll easily give when ready to flip) and sear on the other side for 2-3 more minutes. Hopefully your risotto is ready and you can begin to plate everything. If not, place on plate and cover with foil till ready to serve.

To start plating, trim one of the corners of the plastic bag you have the aioli in. Squeeze a repeating zigzag line on each plate. The aioli will act as a flavoring and a garnish so there's a fine line between using too much and not enough. Top the aioli on each plate with 3/4 cup risotto and 3 scallops on top of the risotto. It'll look like you slaved away all day but if you've made risotto before, you can make the entire meal from start to finish in 45 minutes.

All text and photographs © 2008, 2009 Food is to love / Andrea Quigley

Risotto on Foodista


Karen said...

I remember this meal from that restaurant. Looks like you did a fantastic upgrade on it!