Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Dinner With Glowria And Xmaskatie.

Friday afternoon, Xmaskatie showed up since she was going to be house- and Dixie-sitting while Mr. Hawthorne and I went off on Saturday to visit our respective Mommies. And I fixed a special dinner Friday night for her and Glowria - sauteed scallops on a bed of risotto with parmesan crisps, pesto, and caramelized onions. I've posted about this recipe before, but it bears repeating since it's so good.
First I grated the parmesan cheese (Il Villagio is currently my preferred brand.) and made small, pressed rounds on my baking sheet.
I baked them in a preheated 425 degree oven until browned, 7-12 minutes. How's that for an envelope? 7-12? Whatever it takes. It depends on the oven heat, the type of pan you use, the alignment of the planets, the tides (since I live at the beach), your religious affiliation, your particular state of mind. Whatever. You have to watch these very carefully because you can ruin them in a heartbeat. Also, if you leave them on the sheet too long, they're hard to scrape up. (See small container of parmesan pieces at left and crumbled crisps in the mix. They won't be going to waste.) Next, I started on my risotto preparation.
I always rinse off my spinach and other bagged greens no matter what it says on the bag. I don't care if it says it's been triple-turbo hydro-jet -washed and ready-to-eat. And it does. Don't believe 'em. See here in case you doubt me, not that you would ever doubt me.
I poured boiling water over top of some sun-dried tomatoes to soften them. Let steep for at least 20 minutes.
Then I chopped the spinach and tomatoes and grated more parmesan cheese.
I still had frozen cubes of pesto I'd made last fall, so I took those out and let thaw.
Then I started on the risotto.
I melted butter in the hot pan and cooked a chopped onion for several minutes.
I had taken out a quart of my frozen chicken consomme to thaw out.
After the onions were translucent, I poured in about a cup or so of arborio rice.
And cooked, stirring for a few minutes.
Then I started adding in the chicken consomme, maybe a quarter cup at a time, stirring, until the liquid was absorbed by the rice. I kept adding and stirring until the rice had absorbed the whole quart.
At the end, I added in some Chardonnay, which imparted a nice flavor kick to the rice. Making the risotto probably took 30-40 minutes, but it's well worth the effort.
Spinach went in next.
Along with the sun-dried tomatoes.
And parmesan.
Creamy, flavorful, colorful, risotto. I cut off the heat, covered the rice, and started on the caramelized onions.
I added one sliced onion to melted butter and cooked until slightly browned.
Then I deglazed the pan with white wine.
Covered and set aside. Now, on to the scallops.
I rinsed them well.
And patted dry. For proper sauteing, your scallops must be dry. And by dry, I mean dry both literally and figuratively. Literally, I patted the rinsed scallops until they were dry. Figuratively, the scallops are what we call "dry" scallops, as opposed to "wet" scallops. Wet scallops have been injected with a solution of sodium tripolyphosphate (STP) which helps the scallops maintain their moisture, plumps them up, and gives them a longer shelf life. It adds extra weight to the scallops for which you will be paying. The worst part is the chemical gives the scallops a milky appearance and no matter how hot your pan and oil, you will never be able to brown or sear these scallops because of all the excess moisture. The STP also changes the texture of the scallops (Rubber comes to mind.) and masks the sweetness and delicacy of their flavor. I would never buy wet scallops knowingly. Now, those of you who live in the heartland of the country, please, let me know if you can even get dry scallops. You can usually tell the difference by looking at the scallops. Wet scallops will be soaking in a milky-like liquid. Dry scallop liquid is clear. If you don't know and can't tell, always ask the fishmonger. Here's info on dry vs. wet. Oh, and for heaven's sake - if you're ever going to make a ceviche, don't even think about not using dry.
The only seasoning for my scallops was salt and pepper. I heated my pan to medium-high, added about 3 TB of butter and a squirt of Bertolli Extra Light Olive Oil, then placed the scallops, one at a time in the pan, not touching. The addition of the olive oil raises the smoking point of the butter. I can get my butter/oil mixture to a higher temperature than just butter. I don't use solely olive oil because I want the butter flavor. I don't use Extra Virgin Olive Oil because it has a strong flavor that I don't want to interfere with the delicacy of the scallops. And the higher temperature afforded by adding the olive oil to the butter means my scallops sear quicker and brown nicely.
Turned after about a minute, or when nicely browned and caramelized from the natural sugars. And now for the "assembly."
I took one scoop of the risotto
and formed a neat, clean shape on the plate.
A parmesan crisp went on top of the risotta pile.
Seared scallops topped the crisp.
Pesto adorned the scallops.
And caramelized onions crowned the entire construction.
Seconds anyone? I just can't describe how wonderful this is. And I hate using words like "wonderful" and "delicious" because they mean everything and they mean nothing. The risotto is a lovely creamy texture with the spinachy greenness and tomatoey fruitiness flavors working with the sweet onion and sharp parmesan flavors. And the Chardonnay is a very nice presence that just embraces the entirety. The sharp, crisp crunch of the parmesan was a nice complement to the creamy risotto. Top that with verdant pesto (Yeah, shoot me. I know verdant is one of Ray Ray's favorite words.) and sweet, caramelized onions and you have a heavenly combination of aromas, textures, tastes, and flavors. This is so simple and easy to make. And I think it makes a really impressive dish. Everyone always comes back for seconds. Because it is both WONDERFUL and DELICIOUS.


Anonymous said...

I've read about this dish, wishing I could try it, and I am very happy to say it lived up to my expectations. Those were some of the best scallops I've ever eaten. Thanks Rosie!

Kathy said...

I also have partaken of this plate of deliciousness, and canIjusttellya? Yummmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Buckykatt said...

I want to come to your house for dinner Rosie.

Sara said...

This looks like an amazing meal, such a great assortment of flavors and textures.

Hairball T. Hairball said...

Yum! Thanks for the lesson about wet vs. dry scallops. Most interesting!

Kelly said...

Oh wow! That look so amazing! Wonderful plating too! Nom Nom!

Marilyn said...

Andrew Knowlton knows nothing.

And I'm pretty sure that dry scallops have never made it to Southern Indiana. But wet scallops are better than no scallops...