Seared Scallops with Spring Vegetable Risotto
It’s graduation season, friends! I’ve been acutely aware of this fact for the past couple weeks because Logan’s Columbia graduation robe has been hanging on the back of the closet door since before we left for South America. As far as commencement attire goes, I’m actually quite pleased with it. The baby blue really brings out his eyes.
I would like to take a moment to briefly gush about Logan, who is the smartest, funniest, and most ambitious person I know. I don’t want to get uncomfortably emotional, but I’m incredibly proud of what he has accomplished in the past two years, and what I know he will accomplish in the future. I am consistently awed by his focus, dedication, and ability to function with a hangover. When he gets his MBA this weekend, I will be right there crying with pride on the inside (crying in public is passé), and fighting the urge to yell, “That’s my roommate!!!” when he gets his diploma. Nobody deserves it more.
Naturally, Logan’s upcoming graduation reminded me of my own graduation, which feels like yesterday, but actually wasn’t. My graduation was the worst. First of all, I suffered my first panic attack during graduation week. If you’ve never experienced a panic attack, it mostly feels like you’re dying. Since I didn’t know any better, I simply assumed that I was in fact dying and hauled my ass to the nearest emergency room. Once there, the very nice doctor informed me that I was going to live (thank God), and I was just having an acute anxiety attack. He then asked me if I was “particularly nervous” about anything. I told him yes, actually, I was “particularly nervous” about leaving college. DUH.
My panic attacks persisted all week and then transitioned into a lovely case of swine flu on graduation day. I barely made it through the ceremony. My brother conveniently found some pictures from that fateful day on my dad’s phone the other night, which gave everyone except me great pleasure. Instead of proudly grinning in the photos, I look slightly green, very sweaty, and on the verge of collapse/projectile vomiting. Not my best look. Overall, it was traumatic, as was the recent realization that I graduated four years ago. (Not to worry, nothing a brief cry, a glass of wine, and an extra application of eye cream couldn’t fix.)
Anyhoo, here’s to hoping that everyone’s graduation is more successful than mine. Graduating is an enormous accomplishment and it should be appropriately feted with family, friends, cocktails, and a delicious meal. I was feeling festive yesterday, and I came up with just the thing: Seared Scallops with Spring Vegetable Risotto.
Seared scallops with spring vegetable risotto is a celebratory meal. It’s decadent, it’s flavorfully complex, and it’s impressive, dammit. Everyone deserves something like this during graduation season. You may not be receiving an actual diploma this week, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the time to appreciate your accomplishments. Whether you’re “graduating” from your parents’ basement to your own apartment, you got a (better) job, or you finally figured out the best haircut for your face shape, I’m sure you can find a reason to pat yourself on the back. If nothing else, making this meal is a domestic milestone in itself. Congratulations!
I have received several requests for scallop recipes recently, which is unsurprising because scallops are awesome. Luckily, they are also incredibly simple to cook. Scallops have such a sweet, delicate flavor that all they need is a little salt and pepper and a good 90-second sear on each side. These seared scallops get a beautiful golden brown crust on the outside while the center remains tender and translucent. (Don’t panic, if you’re vehemently opposed to any “rawness,” you can cook yours for an extra 30 seconds on each side.) The hardest part is fighting the impulse to move your scallops in the pan before the 90 seconds are up. Resist the urge.
Seared scallops and spring vegetable risotto are a serious power couple. In case you’re thinking, Memorial Day is practically upon us and it’s a little late for “spring” anything, give me a break. The weather has been very confusing this year, and I’m not 100% positive that winter is even over yet. Regardless, this risotto works year round. I promise. It’s the little black dress of the food world.
I have to say that this is one of my personal favorite risotto recipes. First of all, it’s packed with leeks, asparagus, and fresh fava beans. Full disclosure, fava beans are a little bit of a pain in the ass to deal with since they have to be shelled and then removed from their waxy coating. I’m going to need you to suck it up because it’s totally worth it for their bright, fresh flavor. The al dente favas and asparagus provide a nice textural contrast to the creamy risotto, and the combination of lemon zest and parmesan cheese is always a winner. It’s cheesy and satisfying, yet still surprisingly light.
After making this bomb feast, I realized that Logan actually wouldn’t be thrilled about the scallop element of this meal. As you know, the Dude doesn’t really think of himself as “a seafood guy.” I conveniently forgot this fact, as one does when her roommate goes on vacation for long periods of time without her. Luckily, spring vegetable risotto pairs perfectly with almost any sort of meat or poultry, and it’s a kickass meal on it’s own. (Heyyyy, vegetarians.) When Logan returns from his South American epic adventure, I shall probably make this with chicken paillardor filet mignon. I’m awesome like that.
Spring Vegetable Risotto: (Serves 4)
Preparing your spring vegetable risotto:
-Start by preparing your fava beans. To remove the fava beans from the pods all you have to do is snap the end and pull the string that runs the length of the pod. The beans will come right out.
-Blanche your fava beans in boiling water for 1 minute, drain. Transfer them to a bowl of ice water and let cool. Once they are cool you will need to peel them. Yes, fava beans have two layers. Remove the outer waxy coating to get to the bright green beans inside. Set aside.
-Move on to the asparagus. Remove the woody stems (they will break off naturally when you bend the bottom of each spear), and slice into ½ inch pieces. Cook for three minutes in boiling water, drain and transfer to ice water (this will keep stop the cooking and keep them nice and green). Set aside.
-Pour the chicken stock into a pot and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat and keep it at a simmer while cooking your risotto.
-Place the minced onion, garlic, and leeks in a large saucepan with 2 tbsp olive oil. Saute for 3 minutes until the onions become translucent.
-Add the Arborio rice and stir until the rice is coated with fat. Chillax, by fat I mean the olive oil.
-Add the white wine to the rice and allow it evaporate completely. This should take about 2 minutes.
-Pour 1 cup of warm chicken stock over the rice and cook at a low simmer, stirring periodically.
-When the rice has absorbed the liquid (about 10 minutes), add the second cup of chicken stock. Allow the liquid to absorb and then add the final cup of chicken stock. When the final cup has absorbed, your risotto should be just tender and delicious. (If it’s not, don’t panic, just add a little more chicken stock).
-When your risotto is tender, stir in the fava beans and asparagus. Cook for 1 minutes until the beans and asparagus are heated through. Remove the risotto from the heat and stir in the parmesan and lemon zest. Add salt to taste. Serve warm and congratulate yourself. You just graduated to the domestic big leagues.
Seared Scallops:(Serves 4)
Preparing your seared scallops:
-Pat your scallops dry with paper towels. You want them to be very dry, people. This is crucial to get a good sear. Season the scallops on both sides with salt and white pepper.
-Heat the butter and olive oil in a large skillet or pan until very hot (it should literally be smoking). Add the scallops to the pan, making sure that they are not touching. You may have to do this in batches depending on the size of your pan.
-Sear them for 90 seconds on each side (set your phone timer or something). RESIST THE URGE TO MOVE YOUR SCALLOPS FOR THE FULL 90 SECONDS. This will be very difficult, as you will want to see how they are doing. They are doing fine, thank you. Moving them will disrupt the formation of that nice golden brown crust. Don’t do it.
-Carefully remove your seared scallops from the pan. They should have a golden crust on the outside but still be translucent in the center. Top your scallops with a little grated lemon zest if you’re feeling fancy. Serve immediately and celebrate.
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