Scallops are one of my favorite things to order at a restaurant. Mostly because haven’t been able to figure out how to cook them properly. I remember some particularly delicious dinners: scallops ordered from the Scottish Arms in St. Louis on Valentine’s Day with John; scallops served in their shells with truffles and asparagus at a restaurant in Paris with my Mom, sister, and aunt; and parmesan crusted scallops from Petterino’s this past winter with my Mom and John.
But things might be changing because we finally figured out how to properly cook scallops this weekend! After attending a day-long childbirth class at the hospital, we swung by Whole Foods to pick up something for dinner. We didn’t have any plans for the night, so making an epic dinner became our plan. John was taken in by the scallops’ siren song and we resolved to master the art of cooking scallops that night.
We found Tyler Florence’s recipe for risotto with scallops and wild mushrooms and never turned back. The recipe had all of my favorites: scallops, mushrooms, and a cheesy risotto.
Back home, we read up on cooking scallops, vowing to follow the instructions to a T. Turns out, we had it all wrong in the past. You need a hot pan to sear and carmelize the scallops. Plus, we were impatient while cooking them. Scallops need to be left alone in the pan until they’re ready to flip. And once flipped, they can overcook pretty fast. Finally, scallops need room to cook. Crowding the scallops in the pan will cause them to steam instead of sear. Oops.
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound assorted mushrooms (Portobello, crimini, and shiitake), cleaned, stemmed, and rough chopped
Leaves from handful fresh thyme sprigs (or ~1 teaspoon dried thyme)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 bay leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
8 cups chicken stock, heated
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds sea scallops (with the foot (crescent-shaped muscle) removed and discarded)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
Now pour in 1 cup of the warm stock and stir with a wooden spoon until the rice has absorbed all of the liquid. Add another cup of stock. Continue in this way, stirring constantly and adding the stock 1 cup at a time, allowing the rice to absorb the liquid before adding more. (You may not need all of the stock; the risotto is done when it is slightly firm but creamy.) Take it slow and steady, this could be 30 to 45 minutes.
When the risotto is almost done, it’s time to prep and cook the scallops. Place a large pan over high heat and drizzle with a 2-count of oil. While the oil is heating, rinse the scallops and pat dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides.
When the oil is hot (there may be a tiny bit of smoke), place the scallops in the pan. Give them room (we cooked 5 at a time). Cook for 2 minutes and don’t touch them until the 2 minutes are up! After the 2 minutes, you can check to see if the scallops are carmelizing (getting brown). If so, flip them over. If not, give them another 30 seconds to 1 minute to cook. (Note: Cooking times will differ depending on the size/thickness of your scallops, pan temperatures, etc.)
Cook for 1 minute on the other side. Since the scallops will continue to cook after being removed from the pan, take them off when the centers are still slightly translucent (you can see by looking from the side). Another way to check for doneness is to press the top of the scallops with your thumb. If they’re still springy, they’re properly cooked. If they’re firm or stiff, they’re already overcooked.
At this point, the risotto should have absorbed the last of the chicken broth and be ready. Fold in the butter and cheese, and drizzle with a little more olive oil.
Dish some risotto on a plate and place 3 or 4 hot scallops on top. Garnish with parsley.