Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Beet Risotto with Seared Scallops

Is there anything better then tender scallops atop creamy risotto? To cap off the most fantastic thirtieth birthday, I made dinner for Dave and I after a day spent at the new Thermea spa here in Winnipeg. I figured after being in a robe, bare faced with naturally dried hair (fro) - getting dolled up for a dinner would seem more like a chore then a celebration. Scallops and risotto seemed like an appropriate choice for such an occasion.

If you've been over to our place for dinner, you've likely had my mushroom risotto, which is largely based on this recipe from allrecipes.com. I first decided to make this beet version this summer for my potluck girls when my horticulturally inclined friend Naomi gave me some beets from her garden. I like the contrast of combining a sophisticated dish like risotto with a subterranean vegetable like the beet - very prairie. I figured a few weeks before Valentine's Day this would be a great recipe to share with you - given the neon pink colour. Red meat is generally my go to for a Valentine's Dinner, but scallops are the way to go - they are a decadent splurge that won't leave you feeling too full for whatever the rest of the night entails for you.

With the goal being to make the brightest risotto possible, I used the broth needed for the risotto to boil the beets in so that not a drop of the pigment went to waste. I usually roast my beets for the intensity of flavour, but for this one, boiling is quick, easy and leads to ruby red rice. I recommend cooking the scallops after you've finished preparing the risotto. They only take a few minutes to cook and they will need your undivided attention. I used the frozen scallops from Costco. Be sure to take them out to thaw in the fridge 24 hours before you need them. I let them thaw covered in paper towel with a weighted plate on top to ensure that all the liquid is squished out and absorbed - otherwise when you go to cook them the may "weep" and then not brown. Take them out of the fridge to come to room temperature before cooking. 

Beet Risotto with Seared Scallops
Serves 2 large portions with leftovers

6 cups chicken broth
3 small or 2 regular beets
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 shallots, finely diced
1 1/2 cups arborio rice (aka superfine, italian or short grain)
1/2 white wine
1/2 cup grated paremsan
1/4 cup butter
salt and pepper to taste

8-12 scallops (depending on size)
olive oil
salt and pepper
2 Tablespoons butter

Bring chicken broth to a boil in a medium saucepan. Trim ends off beets, peel and cut into quarters. Cook beets in boiling broth for about 10 mins until cooked but still firm. Remove beets from broth and dice into smaller pieces. Turn broth down to low to keep warm but not boil.

On another element, warm olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Sautee shallots in oil until beginning to brown, about 3 mins. Add rice, stirring to coat with oil until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add white wine and cook until absorbed, stirring continuously. Once wine is absorbed, add in the broth a half cup at a time, stirring regularly, adding another half cup at a time after the one before is absorbed. You do need to keep an eye on it and stir as often as you can manage, turn the heat down a bit if rice is really sticking to the bottom of the pan. Continue until all 6 cups of the broth have been absorbed and rice is soft, I prefer it a little creamier then the al dente that most recipes recommend. Remove from heat, stir in reserved cooked beets, parmesan cheese and butter until melted. Taste, add salt and pepper to your taste. Cover and set aside.

Coat a skillet (I prefer stainless steel or cast iron for this, not non-stick) with a thing layer of olive oil. Heat on medium high. Dry scallops with paper towel and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Once oil begins to smoke, place scallops in pan, being careful not to crowd the pan or allow them to touch. Cook for 2-3 minutes depending on size, until they easily realease from pan. Flip each scallop over with tongs. Add butter, tilt pan so that melted butter pools and use a spoon to baptize each scallops in the golden butter. Cook new side about 2 mins until sides of scallops are opaque.

Plate risotto and top with scallops. Enjoy with a chilled white wine. I'm usually a red drinker but I appreciate a good refreshing white with this dish, and you need to open one for the risotto anyways - the Quails Gate Gewurztraminer is one of my go to Canadian favourites - usually reserved for summer days on the dock, it's a good balance to this subtle, savoury dish.

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