Divine Dining 1/23/13
I am currently collapsed in my favorite old slightly-too-orange chair, listening to the rhythmic cadence of rain swirling outside my window. My white powder puff of a dog stares up at me with beady eyes from his favorite spot on the rug. The fire dances with light and warmth at my toes. It’s a perfect moment, y’all. I adore nights like these, when the chilly, drippy weather whispers to your soul that blessed, needed word: hibernate.
It is the weather of Irish tea and big hearty soups, of coq au vin and beans and cornbread. Yet, I find myself dreaming of the bright, cheeky flavors of summertime, of bold sunlight-hued lemons and seafood straight from warm, salty waters. Tonight, that summer craving met the craving of the hibernating bear in my soul longing for hearty comfort food. And the delicious outcome of said meeting, friends?
Oh, that would be creamy, decadent risotto as satisfying as chicken and dumplings, brightened by a whiff of warm summer air through the addition of tart lemon peel. Top that risotto with fresh sea scallops, caramelized to perfection, and you have the best dang supper I’ve had in ages, y’all. Feel free to swap out scallops with something else if they’re not your favorite or aren’t on sale. Fresh cod or shrimp would be equally wonderful.
Don’t be put off by the difficult reputation of risotto; it requires a bit of patience, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be whipping up a batch in no time. Don your favorite flip-flops with your coziest sweater … it’s time for a summer-meets-winter dinner you won’t forget.
Seared Scallops with Lemon Risotto
6 large scallops, or 2 large white fish fillets
1 cup arborio rice (only this sort of short-grained Italian rice will do)
4-5 cups seafood stock
½ tsp crushed red pepper flake
2 shallots, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
½ cup dry white wine
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 tsp fresh lemon peel, grated (grate only the yellow exterior, the white part of the rind can be bitter)
salt and pepper
3 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 T butter
Heat stock and crushed pepper flake in a saucepan until simmering. Keep simmering while you make the risotto: you always want to add stock piping hot instead of cold or room temperature. In a deep pan, heat 1 T of olive oil and butter on medium heat. Add shallot and cook, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook an additional couple of minutes. Add rice and cook until beginning to turn opaque, about 5 minutes. Add wine and simmer 5 more minutes. Begin adding stock, about ½ cup at a time, stirring the risotto as continuously as possible with a wooden spoon. Once most of the liquid is absorbed, add more hot stock. Continue for about 20 minutes, until risotto is creamy on the outside and still has a little bite on the inside. Remove from heat, add grated lemon rind and parsley, and adjust salt and pepper to taste. Heat a large non-stick skillet on medium-high heat with remaining 2 T of olive oil.
Completely dry off scallops or fish with a paper towel (this is really important in order to get a nice crust on them). Season with sea salt (follow the theme, y’all!) and black pepper. Cook, without moving for two minutes in skillet, then turn and cook an additional 2 minutes, until the exterior is well browned and the middle is opaque. Serve atop that velvety risotto with lemon wedges and parsley to garnish.
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The Rev. Whitney Wilkinson is pastor of Cameron Presbyterian Church.