Who, being loved, is poor?
~~ A Woman of No Importance, Oscar Wilde
I’ve been working on our Valentine’s Day menu for a couple of weeks. Seared Scallop With Mushroom Risotto makes a lovely starter course, but you may consider it a main course as well; simply adjust the portions. Valentine’s Day is for lovers… and retail of course. 😉 One thing is certain – restaurants do more than “brisk” business on Valentine’s Day, and this crowd-hating girl would rather cook for her love than wait to be served at a busy restaurant! I don’t remember not preparing a special meal for the two of us on Valentine’s Day, and we’ve been married 35 years…
Risotto is not a comfortable dish for many home cooks. If you love to cook, and are reasonably good at it, you can in all likelihood make a delicious pot of risotto. 😉 Don’t let this dish intimidate you! It is actually more successfully cooked in your kitchen than in the kitchen of a fine restaurant. Risotto needs to be prepared in small batches, and eaten right away. Restaurants simply can’t give it the attention you can at home. It does require frequent stirring, and special care must be taken to cook just long enough to achieve al denté (still firm-to-the-bite tender grains).
Risotto, with its origins in northern Italy, is typically served as primo (first course). I really do enjoy “pulling out all the stops” for our Valentine’s Day dinner, so that is exactly how I plan to serve this tasty dish. Risotto is cooked slowly in broth and wine, allowing the grains to release their starch, creating a lovely creamy consistency. While I have used barley as a flavorful stand-in for my Pumpkin Barley Risotto, authentic Italian risotto is made with short or medium grain rice that is high starch (amylopectin) and low amylose. Arborio is the only rice I have found in the United States that is suitable for risotto. This short-grained rice yields risotto that is creamy, chewy, and firm to the bite. The finished dish should be creamy, never gloppy!
The dish is topped with 1 perfectly seared large sea scallop. The key to a good sear on the scallop lies in removing as much moisture as possible. If you’re fortunate enough to get “dry” scallops rather than “wet,” you can skip this step. I discuss this process further in my Irish Scallop Bisque post. I like to sear the scallop in white truffle oil to complement the earthy flavors in the risotto. I collect fine salts, and sprinkle these beauties with a bit of Hawaiian red salt, and of course, freshly ground pepper.
I hope that you will set your sights high, and give Seared Scallop Atop Mushroom Risotto a try. 😀 Mark and I will enjoy it as a first course, followed by something creative featuring lamb chops, and of course, a light and lovely dessert. More to come on that later… Soft jazz, candlelight, a bottle of wine, and a quiet evening with my man wins “hands down” over our crowded local restaurants.
A perfectly seared scallop atop earthy, creamy mushroom-laden risotto... A perfect starter course for a special occasion, or a main dish with additional scallops!
10 minPrep Time
40 minCook Time
50 minTotal Time
- .5 ounce dried porcini mushrooms*
- 1 cup boiling water to cover dried mushrooms
- drizzle of white truffle oil*
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
- 1 cup crimini mushrooms, sliced
- 1 cup arborio rice*
- 3/4 cup dry white wine or 1/3 cup dry sherry
- several sprigs fresh thyme (leaves stripped) or
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- a few grinds pepper
- 3 cups mushroom broth +/-
- 1/2 cup parmagiano reggiano*
- parsley to garnish
- large sea scallops*
- 1 tablespoon white truffle oil*
- sea salt/ground pepper
- * See Notes
Cover the porcini (if using) with boiling water. Chop the shallots, mince the garlic, and slice the crimini or button mushrooms.
Put your broth* in a medium saucepan on medium-high heat and maintain a low simmer. Using a good quality, fairly heavy pan (I like my enameled cast iron small dutch oven), heat the truffle oil, add the shallot and minced garlic. Sauté until translucent. Add the mushrooms and rice, and saute until the mushrooms begin to brown.
De-glaze the pot with wine or sherry. Add the thyme leaves, and salt and pepper.
When most of the wine is absorbed, add the porcini liquid (if not using, see notes). Chop the drained porcini and add them to the pot. Continue adding hot broth as the liquid is absorbed, stirring often. This process will take about 30 minutes +/-.
Pat the scallops dry on all sides.* Coat a non-stick saute pan with truffle or olive oil. Bring the pan almost to the smoke point. Place the scallops in the very hot pan. Cook until nicely caramelized, then turn. Season with sea salt and pepper. Time this step to coincide with the completion of the risotto.
At about 25 minutes, taste a grain. It should be firm but tender, and the mixture should be creamy.
When the rice is al dente (firm but tender to the bite), stir in the grated cheese.
On a small dinner plate, spoon one-fourth of the risotto. Top with a scallop (or scallops). Sprinkle with chopped parsley, and enjoy!
Dried porcini have a wonderful, intense mushroom flavor. When re-hydrated, the liquid is highly concentrated and flavorful. Add to the rice after the addition of the wine or sherry if using. If not, you'll most likely need more than 3 cups of liquid. Typically, I use a 1:4 ratio of arborio rice to liquid.
White truffle oil deepens the earthy flavors of this dish. You can substitute your favorite extra virgin olive oil.
Of course parmagiano reggiano is amazing, but quite expensive. The dish will not suffer if you substitute freshly grated parmesan, romano, or even asiago. Just don't use pre-grated cheese!
If making this as a starter course, one large scallop per person is a nice-sized serving. As a main course, I like to serve 3 per person which works out to about 4 ounces each. Large scallops will add about 40 calories each to the dish if using more than 1 per serving.