Friday, January 2, 2009

Scallops, Risotto, and Revelations

I don't have any resolutions for New Years in terms of cooking per se, but I am trying some new things this year. Including scallops. And risotto. I had a scallop, once. Note the singular. It wasn't very good - it wasn't fresh, and it was spongy and strange. But, when I saw fresh bacon-wrapped sea scallops on sale at Whole Foods for 69 cents each yesterday, I couldn't resist. I bought four.

Four scallops, Amanda pointed out, wouldn't go very far dinner-wise. So, we had to scramble for a last-minute side dish. Enter risotto. We had the rice, and I found a great-looking recipe by Mark Bittman for risotto with basil, parsley and tomatoes. I love risotto, but I had never tried to make it at home. I was worried.

Turns out, both the scallops and the risotto turned out fantastic - I'm sold on both, and I think I'll add them both to my repertoire. That is, as long as I can find scallops on sale. To be continued...

Risotto with Parsley, Basil and Tomatoes - from Bittman's How to Cook Everything (serves 2 with healthy leftovers)

- Heat olive oil in a big nonstick skillet (my biggest skillet was just big enough - remember that the rice will swell up as it cooks). Add a small minced onion, and saute over medium heat until they get soft. Add 3/4 cup of uncooked arborio rice and stir it until it's all mixed up/the oil gets on the rice. Salt and pepper - more than you think you need.

- Put 3/4 cup of undrained canned diced tomatoes in. Also, put 1/4 cup of white wine in now. Stir it up again, and about once a minute from then on.

- Now, all you need to do is cook the risotto in the skillet until it changes from dry rice with tomatoes lying on it to nice risotto. As the skillet cooks the rice, the liquid in the pan will bubble up and evaporate, and some of it will get absorbed by the increasingly succulent rice. Whenever the liquid is almost gone (not soupy, but not dry - it should be a little more liquidy than finished risotto is) - ladle about 1/2 cup of simmering chicken stock into the skillet, and repeat. Remember to stir the risotto about once a minute to avoid the rice burning and/or cooking unevenly.

- Start checking the risotto after about 15 minutes from the time you put it in the skillet. After about 20, 25 minutes, it will be soft on the outside and a little bit al dente on the inside. Let that point be your last addition of liquid. When it's back to the proper consistency, turn off the heat. Stir in 1/4 cup of chopped parsley, 1/4 cup of chopped basil, 2 tablespoons of butter, and way too much parmesan cheese than is good for you. Serve immediately, or risk gumminess.

Bacon-Wrapped Scallops with Spicy Mayonnaise and Avocado - Tyler Florence, with modifications due to the fact that I don't have so-called "good mayonnaise" or fresh limes lying around in general (2 people, 4 scallops)

- If you are not lucky enough to have bought your scallops already wrapped with bacon at Whole Foods, do that. Secure the bacon with toothpicks. Put them on a baking sheet or in a Pyrex dish, drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper. Broil the scallops for around 12 minutes, or until the bacon gets crispy and done. Turn the scallops over halfway through the broiling.

- At the same time (or, if you are making risotto, before you start making the risotto), mix 1/4 cup of regular inexpensive mayo with less than a tablespoon of Shiracha hot sauce (you can always put more in later, so start small - powerful stuff). Also, squeeze in about 1 1/2 tablespoons of lime juice (or the juice of one lime, if you have a lime in your fridge in January). Also, put in a tablespoon of chopped up parsley. Stir this all up.

- Put the cooked scallops on a plate. Put a little sauce on top, and some more on the sides of the plate. Put a few pieces of avocado on top of the scallops, and then sprinkle some more parsley all over everything.

This entire dinner took about 45 minutes to cook from the time I preheated the broiler and put some stock on to simmer. It was also cheap - the scallops were on sale, but besides that, the only things I didn't already have lying around were the avocados, and fresh parsley and basil. It was a great, great dinner, and I'm glad to be able to confidently broil scallops and make risotto at will now. A great technique to know, and I'm sure I'll use it again on those nights when I have no time to cook, but not enough money to order takeout.

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