I may have mentioned before that I have a habit of reverse engineering meals I enjoy in restaurants so I can make them at home. After my reconnaissance missions to wonderful eateries around the area, I head into the kitchen where I play with ingredients until I achieve reasonable facsimile. No restaurant is immune. I’m just as likely to attempt to reverse engineer an Applebee’s quesadilla burger (Tanner’s favorite, and I just made it the other night!) as a fancy schmancy meal from Snidely McSnooty’s.
One of my favorite restaurant meals comes from the Lobster Shop in Tacoma. Our whole family enjoys visiting the restaurant along the water on Ruston Way. When they have it, we almost always select the center cut king crab legs (thank you Sig Hansen!), but when those are not on the menu, I’m all over their weathervane scallops with mushroom risotto. The risotto is creamy and earthy while the perfectly seared scallops are sweet and tender. I’ve made the dish several times at home, adapting it as I go along. While it’s never quite the same twice, I can give you a basic recipe. Try it at home. You’ll be glad you did!
Seared Scallops with Mushroom Risotto
- 2 packages of dried porcini mushrooms (you can find them in the produce aisle at the grocery, usually right by the regular mushrooms)
- 7 cups of chicken stock
- 1/2 stick unsalted butter (or 4T duck fat for dairy-free)
- 1/4 lb pancetta, chopped
- One onion, minced
- 1-1/2 cup Aborio rice
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 2 to 3 cups assorted fresh mushrooms, sliced ( I like crimini and chanterelles)
- 3 to 4 Tbsp. dried or chopped fresh thyme
- Fresh cracked black pepper to taste
- 1 cup hard Italian cheese (I like parmigiano reggiano or asiago – or omit for dairy-free)
- 3 Tbsp. heavy cream (omit for dairy-free)
- Salt to taste
- One pound of large sea scallops
- Salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
- 2 Tbsp. clarified unsalted butter
- 1/2 scallop, minced
- Dash of white wine
- 1 cube unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ pieces and chilled.
- Dash heavy cream
- Heat chicken stock to boiling. Add dried mushrooms and set aside to soak for about two hours.
- Remove mushrooms from the stock and chop. Set aside. Strain dregs out of stock and reheat the stock on stovetop to simmering.
- Heat a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Melt butter (or duck fat) in pot until it begins to bubble.
- Add pancetta and cook until crisp, stirring occasionally.
- Add the onion, and saute until it softens, about two to three minutes.
- Add rice and saute, stirring constantly to toast rice and coat it with oil, about two minutes.
- Add wine, stirring constantly.
- Add mushrooms and thyme after the rice absorbs the liquid from the wine, and immediately begin adding stock.
- Add stock about one ladleful at a time, stirring constantly. Constant stirring will help develop a creamy texture, which is especially important if you are omitting cheese and butter. As the rice absorbs the liquid, add another ladleful. After about 15 to 20 minutes, the rice should be el dente. You should have about one cup of stock left.
- Stir in cheese until melted, and then add 3 Tbsp. heavy cream (omit this step for dairy free). Stir to combine. Taste for seasoning, and add salt and pepper as needed.
- Set scallops to drain in a colander.
- Heat a 12″ saute pan over medium-high heat on the stovetop. Add cold clarified butter or duck fat to the hot pan, and allow it to heat to bubbling.
- Meanwhile, pat scallops m completely dry with a paper towel and season lightly with salt and pepper.
- Place scallops in the pan and do not move or touch them. Do not overcrowd the pan, or scallops will not sear. If you must, cook them in two batches.
- After scallops have been in contact with the pan without moving for about two minutes, use tongs to peek at the bottom side of one. If it is browned and caramelized, then flip the scallops. Sear the other side.
- Remove scallops from the pan and place them on a plate, tented with foil.
- Return the pan to medium heat and pour the remaining stock into the pan, carefully scraping the browned bits off of the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Add a dash of white wine.
- Add shallots, and allow to simmer until liquid reduces by about half or a little more.
- Whisk in one of the 1/2 inch pieces of butter. When it is fully incorporated, whisk in a few more. Continue to whisk butter in a few pieces at a time until it is all added (omit this step for dairy-free and instead reduce stock further until desired thickness).
- Whisk in a dash of heavy cream (omit this step for dairy free).
- Spoon risotto onto the plate. Top with sea scallops, and spoon the pan sauce over the top. Serve immediately.
This is good garnished with steamed asparagus, or serve it with a simply dressed salad of mache or spring greens. For a wine, have an earthy Pinot Noir, which pairs perfectly with the mushrooms and sets off the sweetness of the scallops nicely. I enjoy Oregon Pinot Noirs. Try one of Argyle Winery’s Spirit House Pinot Noir or their very affordable Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.