Here's where we're going today.
Monday afternoon, after a grueling morning of paying bills, bitchin' about said bills, doing laundry, and cleaning, I headed to Food Lion. Grocery shopping is my relaxation. About 2 o'clock I get back home, laden with grocery bags. I am immediately greeted by Youngest Hawthorne. No "Hello." No "Here, let me help you with those bags." I get this: "Mama, I'm starving! I haven't eaten all day." It's not like he was up at 5 AM and had been working in the fields all day in torturous heat after a quick breakfast of homemade biscuits spread with lard for extra energy to sustain him in his labors. Considering he didn't roll out of bed until 1, this is not as grievous and dire a situation as he made it sound. "What would you like," I cheerily asked? Why, oh why, do I give him choices? I know better. Really, I do. Without missing a beat, he responded with, "Seared scallops on a bed of risotto with the spinach and sun-dried tomatoes, and the parmesan crisp, and caramelized onions and pesto. I know you have frozen pesto." Whatever happened to peanut butter and jelly? "Well, I don't keep scallops as a staple," I told him. "That's OK, I'll go to Billy's and pick up the scallops. You can start on the risotto. Doesn't that take about 30 minutes?" "But I don't have any spinach and I forgot the heavy cream when I went to Food Lion." There's no stopping this boy. He offered to go to Harris Teeter to pick up the cream and the spinach. Looks like Rosie is back in the kitchen.
About 2:30, I started on the onions and the risotto. In each skillet, I melted LOLUB and added some ELBOO. (That's Land O' Lakes Unsalted Butter and Extra Light Bertolli Olive Oil!) Over low heat I let the onions cook a bit, stirring, and let the Arborio rice absorb the butter, stirring.
After a minute or so, I added maybe 1/4 cup chicken broth, stirring to let the rice absorb the liquid. As soon as the liquid is absorbed, add in more broth - just a little bit at a time. In all, I probably used 3+ cups of the broth for 1 cup of Arborio rice. Meanwhile, I had already started on my Parmesan Crisps. I coarsely grated Parmesan cheese - I prefer Il Villagio from the Teeter - and scooped about 1/4 cup of the cheese and flattened it on parchment paper. These went into a 375 degree oven for about 9 minutes, or until nicely browned.
Upon taking the Parmesan rounds (They're not crisps yet.) out of the oven, I let them sit for about a minute. If you tried to spatula them off right now, you'd end up with smushed together melted cheese. Let them rest until you can scrape them up whole. If you wanted to make Parmesan Frico Cups, you'd want to scrape off a little sooner while they're still very pliable and place over an upside down muffin tin, using a paper towel to press it down and form the cup and to absorb the grease. Keep checking and when you can easily remove the Parmesan rounds, set them on a rack to cool. Now, back to my regularly scheduled cooking.
The onions have been cooking over low heat for about 10 minutes, slowly browning. I added a splash of white wine and let it evaporate.
Cover and remove from heat. I'm still adding broth to and stirring the risotto when I remembered I needed to soften my sun-dried tomatoes.
Pour boiling water over top of the sun-dried tomatoes to cover, and cover with a plate. Set aside for at least 10 minutes.
Youngest Hawthorne returned in about 30 minutes with the spinach, cream, and scallops. I pulled out about 1/2 of the spinach from the bag and chopped it along with the softened sun-dried tomatoes.
Add a little cream to the risotto, scraping the starchy pieces up from the bottom. If you wanted, you could add some grated Parmesan cheese now, but since I've got the Parmesan crisps, I'm leaving it out. Cover and remove from heat. Total cook time for the risotto was 35-40 minutes. On to the scallops.Rinse your scallops off and pat dry. Very important. If the scallops are wet, they won't sear well. From earlier posts about scallops, in case you don't know: 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. And from another post:
Once more, I'll reiterate the difference
between wet and dry scallops. Never, ever, ever, ever buy "wet" scallops. If you live inland, always ask your fishmonger for "dry" scallops. If he doesn't know what you're talking about, turn around and walk away. Immediately. "Wet" scallops have been treated with a chemical to plump them up weight-wise, help them maintain their moisture, and keep a longer shelf life. You can spot them immediately by just looking. Wet scallops will be in a milky type liquid. And you'll be paying for extra water weight. The solution with which they have been treated is STPP, or sodium tripolyphosphate, a preservative. You will never be able to properly sear or brown these scallops, no matter how hot your pan is. Plus, they'll taste like crap. The STPP can also give the scallops a rubbery flavor and mask the delicate, sweet flavor of the mollusk. "Dry" scallops are natural scallops, harvested directly from the ocean. Dry scallops will caramelize naturally during cooking and present an attractive golden brown color.The only seasoning I use is freshly ground pepper. No salt is necessary. The pan I'm using is a heavy duty Revere Ware. It's stainless steel and the bottom features an encapsulated aluminum disc between two layers of stainless steel allowing for a more even heat distribution.
I used a combination of LOLUB and ELBOO. The reason for the LOLUB is that I love the flavor of buttah. The reason for the ELBOO is to raise the smoke point of the butter. If I cooked in just the butter at this temperature, it would burn. The higher smoke point of the oil keeps the butter from burning. Medium heat. When the butter is just starting to almost brown, add in the scallops one at a time. And leave them alone. Do not push them around. You want the first side to sear. The seared exterior will release itself and not stick to the pan. I cooked these about 2 minutes each side. Only touch the scallops when you're ready to turn. No unnecessary poking is required. Use restraint. Resist the urge to move the food around. If you move the scallop before it's seared, parts will stick to the bottom of the pan and you won't get that pretty seared brown color. Everything's ready. According to the date stamps on my pictures, I started at 2:30 and am starting to plate at 3:11.
Little green pesto plops keep the scallops all warm and fuzzy. If you need a recipe for pesto, here's mine. Thank you so much, Youngest Hawthorne, for allowing me to prepare this repast for you. It was my pleasure. Oh. Remind me never to introduce you to Beef Wellington.