Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Pan-Seared Scallops with Radicchio Risotto

"How much do scallops normally cost?" I screeched into my cell phone earpiece as I left the Farmer's Market at 3rd Street and Fairfax yesterday evening.

"Uhh..." My mom faltered, her voice growing weak under the pressure of my demanding tone. "Maybe $17 or so a pound?" She guessed.

I snorted in disgust. "I just paid $22 a pound -- $5.97 for three lousy scallops!"

"Well, they will probably be really good..." She said, trying her best to hide her horror at my exceedingly reckless spending.

"They better be!" I cut in. "They are Canadian wild." I added more quietly, slightly embarrassed by the whole situation. It wasn't very green of me, but at that point all I wanted to do was get home and forget about my poor purchasing decisions. I had thought that by going to the Farmer's Market rather than the Whole Foods across the street I would be saving money -- not emptying my wallet. My grand idea to use up my leftover radicchio from the chopped salad I made over the weekend in a radicchio risotto with pan-seared scallops suddenly seemed foolish. The whole point had been to not be wasteful.

With the $6 scallops, $3.99 package of Boar's Head smoked bacon I bought over the weekend, and $7.99 (on sale) bottle of Guenoc Sauvignon Blanc I would need to open to complete the recipe, the affair had turned into something much more grandiose than my initial intention to simply empty out my produce bin. It seemed as though I was headed straight for kitchen disaster, and as soon as I got home, I poured myself a hearty glass of wine to calm my upended nerves. (A second would follow later.)

Yet, as the recipe began to come together -- the radicchio wilting into what Serious Eats had described as a "sweet, sticky, porky mess" with my sauteed pieces of bacon, the Arborio rice plumping up as it absorbed the chicken broth/white wine, and the scallops caramelizing in my bacon fat coated pan, I no longer felt foolish. Instead, I seemed to be experiencing a moment of cooking serendipity. How else could I explain the appearance of the recipe on both Serious Eats and, by extension, the Kitchn, the same week I had radicchio to use up? And how else could I explain my compulsion to forge on with my kitchen mission despite the financial obstacles (and horrific parking lots) standing in my way?

As I tore my fork through my inappropriate St. Patrick's Day dinner, I could hardly believe how delicious my foolhardy dish tasted. The $6 scallops were really good -- mild and tender, my knife sliced through the pearly flesh without hesitation. They married unbelievably well with the radicchio-streaked risotto that was silky on my tongue and radiant with the underlying tones of bacon. When I finished my plate, I immediately reached for my phone -- this time, not to hound my mother about the price points of seafood, but to share the tale of my kitchen triumph.

It is no wonder Jamie always cooked scallops on "Top Chef." Done right, they really are worthy of a win at the judge's table. Last night, they were certainly worthy of their $6 price tag.

Pan-Seared Scallops with Radicchio Risotto
Adapted from Serious Eats

Makes 1 generous entree-sized portion

3 jumbo sea scallops (approximately 1/4 pound)
1 1/2 strips bacon
1 cup radicchio, coarsely chopped
1 large shallot, minced
1/4 cup Arborio rice
1/3 cup white wine (I used Sauvignon Blanc)
1 cup chicken broth (I combined 1 teaspoon Better Than Boullioun chicken base w/ 1 cup water)
1 heaping tablespoon Parmesan cheese
Olive oil
Salt, ground pepper
Balsamic vinegar for drizzling (optional)

Combine white wine and chicken broth in a small saucepan and slowly bring to a slow boil.

Meanwhile, heat a heavy pan over medium heat and saute shallot in a little olive oil until tender. Reduce the heat, add the rice, and stir until the edges of the rice turn translucent. Add some of the hot chicken broth/white wine mixture and season with pepper to taste.

While the rice cooks, warm a 12-inch skillet over medium-low heat and add 1 strip of chopped up bacon to the pan. Cook until the bacon starts to crisp and release its fat, and then add the radicchio. Season with salt and pepper, and let cook together approximately 5 minutes, or until the radicchio has wilted down. Add the mixture to the rice.

Continue adding the warm broth/wine little by little, stirring occasionally, as it is absorbed. The rice/radicchio should simmer at a slow boil until it reaches a somewhat soupy, slightly stiff consistency.

Approximately 5 minutes before risotto is done, heat the remaining half piece of bacon in the 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Season the scallops with ground pepper and salt. When the bacon begins to release the fat, add the scallops to the pan, and cook until golden brown on both sides (approximately 2 minutes per side depending on thickness of scallops).

When risotto is done, stir in the Parmesan and serve immediately. Top with scallops and drizzle with a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar.


Sara said...

This looks amazing! You know who actually has decent scallops? Trader Joe's. They sell new england wild scallops in the freezer section, I think maybe they're $10/lb? If you dry them off really well, you can get a nice sear. I always prefer fresh seafood when possible, but these do the trick when I don't want to shell out the cash.

Esi said...

You make me laugh so much! You know, sometimes you just have to treat yourself so I am glad in the end you didn't feel too bad about the spending. Maybe you should join the next season of Top Scallops?

Heather said...

sometimes a girl just needs a little indulgence :) i would have needed a glass or two to calm myself about the purchase - but in the end it sounds like it was worth it!

i was totally unconvinced about radicchio risotto being good when i pulled up your page. but your description of it has reformed me!

Diana said...

Sara - Thanks for the tip! I'll definitely check them out when I'm there this weekend. I'm already craving this dish again...

Esi - I am considering the scallops my St. Patty's Day "drink" for the evening! Definitely cheaper than the cocktail I would have had if I'd gone out!

Heather - I sort of enjoyed spoiling myself last night! It felt nice. :) I think you would love this risotto -- how can you go wrong with bacon?

Melissa Good Taste said...

Yum yum. Lovvvee scallops!

Reeni♥ said...

I'm glad it was all good in the end. Just think how much it would of cost in a restaurant and probably wouldn't be nearly as good. It was your awesome cooking skills that made it turn out so delicious!

Erica said...

I'm always looking for the perfect way to cook scallops so thank you for the recipe!

Lost is good so far! I missed it last week

CookingCourtney said...

that looks SO GOODD!!

Heather said...

i formally give you permission to make the dressing without the olives ;)

The Duo Dishes said...

You said scallops...we're in.

Diana said...

Reeni - So true! Scallops are normally over $20 in a restaurant! I really was being thrifty!

Erica - I loved Lost last night! So dramatic! :)

Heather - Phew! I was getting a little nervous there!

Kirby! said...

Yummy!! Looks delicious! And seafood is one of the only types of food that I will quantify spend large amounts of money on at the store... because it really does make a difference :)