Scallops Risotto + Love

Today I am making a St. Valentine’s Day feast that is sure to win the affection of who ever you make it for. Mine is for my whole family. Who could pick just one Valentine, I have five! I wish large bay scallops were less of a delicacy so we could enjoy them every week. I guess that’s partly what makes this meal so special. Pan seared scallops in a lemon butter sauce, creamy mushroom risotto with parmesan cheese and sautéed swiss chard.  For dessert a salted caramel chocolate budino.
 I do most of the cooking in our house but I think it’s fair to say that amongst my friends it’s pretty evenly split.  Some of my friends husbands do all the cooking and some wives do all the cooking. Some share the task but I find that there is usually one person who claims possession of the kitchen.  Even if you are NOT the one who does the cooking in your house I think you will be able to make this spectacular meal with ease.  Your Valentine will be beyond impressed.
The simple key things to remember are:
  • Scallops cook quickly.  Sear on one side, sear on the other and done.
  • Follow the simple do’s and don’ts of making risotto and its a breeze.
  • Add cold butter to the lemon butter sauce slowly melting one 1/4 inch slice at a time stirring it until melted to emulsify the sauce and make it creamy and delicious.
  • Slowly add the warm milk to the egg mixture when making the budino so you mix them together slowly without cooking the egg.

If you follow the directions and keep these simple reminders in mind you’ll have a delicious feast that will be sure to impress.


Pan Seared Scallops with Lemon Butter Sauce

This  recipe is adapted from a recipe by Jeni Britton Bauer where she uses lemon sorbet to create this creamy butter sauce; the slight sweetness is especially lovely with seared scallops. I was skeptical of the addition of lemon sorbet but it worked beautifully. Now it is my go to trick for lemon butter sauce. To balance out the sweet scallops and buttery, rich sauce I’ve sautéed red and green swiss chard in a bit of fresh garlic and olive oil.  It pares beautifully with this dish.
  • 1/4 cup lemon sorbet, melted
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallots
  • 1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or butter.  I prefer butter when searing scallops.
  • 18 large sea scallops

Step 1

  • In a small skillet, combine the sorbet with the vinegar and shallots and bring to a boil. Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until reduced to 2 1/2 tablespoons, about 7 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and swirl in the butter 1 piece at a time, briefly returning the skillet to the heat once or twice as necessary. Season the sauce with salt and keep warm over very low heat. To do this I place a cast iron pan on a low flame and put the sauce pan in the cast iron pan to create an indirect low heat source.
Step 2
  • In a large skillet, heat the oil until shimmering. Working in batches if necessary, season the scallops with salt and pepper and cook over moderately high heat allowing the pan to get scorching hot before adding the scallops, turning once, until nearly white throughout, about 5 minutes. Be patient. Allow the scallops to get a nice brown sear on one side before turning. then repeat on the other side. Transfer the scallops to plates, drizzle with the beurre blanc and garnish with snipped chives.

Risotto with Crimini Mushrooms and Parmesan Cheese


For preparing the mushrooms

  • 1 8-ounce package crimini or baby bella mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • salt

For preparing the Arborio rice

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ large onion, finely diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 2 ½ cups chicken stock
  • ¾ cup grated parmesan
  • Salt and pepper to Taste


  1. To prepare the mushrooms, clean the mushrooms by brushing them off (do not wash if possible) and slice.
  2. In a medium sauté pan, melt the 1 tablespoon each of butter and olive oil. Add the cleaned and sliced mushrooms and sauté over medium-high heat until lightly browned, stirring frequently. (Note – it’s important to sauté the mushrooms over somewhat high heat in order to get the mushrooms to release their moisture without steaming the mushrooms.) Once the mushrooms are lightly browned sprinkle lightly with just a touch of salt and allow to sauté for another minute more – this step will release just a bit more of the moisture in the mushrooms. Remove the mushrooms from the heat and set aside.
  3. To prepare the rice, in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter and olive oil together over medium-high heat. Add the diced onion and sauté for 5 minutes, until the onions are translucent.
  4. Add the Arborio rice, stirring frequently for 2-3 minutes until the rice is just starting to turn lightly golden.
  5. Slowly pour in the white wine and allow the liquid to boil and be absorbed into the rice. Then pour in ¼ cup of chicken stock to the rice, move the rice around.  You want to keep the rice moving around every minute or two but avoid the temptation to listen to those who say to stir it constantly.  If you do you’ll end up with sticky paste.  YUK!
  6. Keep adding more stock ¼ cup at a time – adding more just as most but not all of the liquid is absorbed before adding in more stock.
  7. Cook the rice and stock together in this manner for approximately 25 minutes or so – until the rice is slightly aldante/tender, risotto, like pasta, should not be overcooked. Turn the heat off when there is still some liquid remaining in the rice and stir in the parmesan cheese and mushrooms and salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine completely.
  8. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.
  9. Note: Risotto may be reheated by adding in some additional chicken stock and stirring to incorporate into the risotto.

Here in this image the risotto is about 2/3 of the way finished. I’ve added just a 1/4 cup of stock and I will move the rice around (back on the burner of course) to allow it to absorb the liquid before adding more.risotto

Myths about cooking risotto.

These are common misconceptions about making a classic risotto.  Do NOT be intimidated by it.  It’s easier than you might think.

  1. Use Cold Stock
    Adding chilly stock to a hot pan will cool everything down and mess up the cooking process. Keep stock at a simmer in a small pan so everything stays hot and cooks evenly.
  2. Stir It Constantly (or Not at All)
    Stirring the rice constantly will add air into the risotto, cooling it down and making it gluey. But if you don’t stir enough, the rice will stick to the bottom and burn. Agitating the rice is important, because risotto’s creaminess comes from the starch generated when grains of rice rub against each other. So stir it often, but feel free take a break.
  3. Add Too Much Stock
    If you dump in the stock all at once, you’re just boiling rice. By slowly adding stock, you allow the rice to bump up against each other, creating that creamy starch. Wait until the rice absorbs all the stock to add some more. And keep in mind the ratio–about 4 cups of stock for every cup of arborio rice.
  4. Cook the Rice Till It’s Mushy
    Like pasta, the rice should be al dente–just cooked, with a little bite to it. If you can mold a risotto into a shape (like some restaurants do) you’ve cooked it too much. Risotto should have body, but not be overly mushy and starchy. You’re not making rice pudding!
  5. Use a wide pot                                                                                                                                                                                                If your pot is too wide, the rice will cook in a thin layer and won’t be able to bump and grind enough to generate starch. Another problem: there will be hot and cold spots in your pot, so choose one that fits perfectly over your burner.
  6. Cook at Too Low a Heat
    Yes, risotto is supposed to be a slower cooking process; but if you cook it at too low a heat, it will never cook. The rice should be at a medium simmer throughout cooking.
  7. Cook Vegetables with the Rice
    Except for your mirepoix, you should add already cooked vegetables into your risotto after the rice is finished cooking. This is especially important for tender greens like spinach, delicate herbs like chives, lemon zest, and veggies like asparagus, mushrooms, legumes. Again, you don’t want anything mushy in your risotto! Make sure you cook your vegetables seperately before adding them in.
  8.  Add Cheese Too Early  Save things like mascarpone and Parmesan for the end of the cooking process. Fat will break under heat and it will be, not so good. When the rice is finished, I like to stir in some fresh whipped cream (unsweetened, of course) to give the risotto a light, silky texture.



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