Risotto is an incredibly easy and versatile dish to make for one, two or tons of people. While some cooks are put off by the amount of time it takes to make, I on the other hand look at it as an opportunity for greatness. I mean isn't that what cooking's all about - taking simple raw ingredients, adding a smidgen of imagination, a little time and love and coming up with a delicious result.
I'd made this lemon risotto before when the Big Guy was out of town so he hadn't had the pleasure of enjoying its subtle creamy lemon flavors before. Made the usual way, this one includes shallots, the juice and rind of a lemon, a little wine - vermouth in this case because we didn't have any white wine in the cupboard, good quality chicken stock and time. Finished with a couple of pats of butter and slivers of fresh basil and parsley, it is a sight to behold.
Of course I could eat it just as it is, but the resident carnivore would be complaining somewhat so I sauteed some scallops to garnish the bowl of creamy splendor. Simply sprinkled with salt and pepper, the key to getting a good sear other than a hot pan, is to make sure the scallops are dried off before you even begin. Left to their own devices a mere 2 minutes on each side is all it takes - and for heaven's sake don't touch em' before the two minutes are up. Just let 'em be. When I flipped these big beauties over, I dropped a tiny bit of butter on top of each scallop so it could melt through and add flavor and moisture.
They needed nothing - not even a squeeze of lemon because we'd taken care of all of that in the risotto. It's a superb combination and totally worth doing again.
Lemon Risotto (inspired by Nigella Lawson)
4 cups low sodium chicken stock
Water (if needed)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large shallots, finely chopped
1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth
3 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
Juice and rind of 1 large lemon, or 2 small
2 tablespoons fresh basil chopped
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
Salt and coarse ground pepper to taste
Heat stock in a medium pot and keep at a low simmer.
In a large flat bottomed pan, heat olive oil. Add shallots and cook until softened – about 3 or 4 minutes. Add Arborio rice and stir well to coat with oil/shallot mixture. Sauté for about 1 minute. Set heat at medium low and add white wine and stir until evaporated. Set timer for 18 minutes - add stock a ladle full at a time, stirring constantly. Continue to add stock by the ladle, stirring constantly as rice absorbs the liquid. After 18 minutes, the rice should be cooked to al dente and will stop absorbing liquid. (If stock runs low, add hot water as needed). Stir in lemon rind and juice and butter. Add grated cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste, add chopped basil and garnish with additional grated cheese. Makes 2 main course servings.
Spray a cast iron pan with cooking spray and place over medium high heat until almost smoking. Wash and dry scallops (I used 5 for the two of us) and remove and discard abductor muscle if not already done. Season lightly with salt and coarse ground black pepper. Place scallops onto hot pan and cook without touching for 2 minutes. Leave the scallops alone - do not touch! After 2 minutes they should be a deep golden brown - flip them over. Place a small "pearl" sized piece of butter on top and let them cook for another 2 minutes - or until firm to the touch. Top serving of risotto with the scallops and dust lightly with freshly ground black pepper and garnish with basil and/or fresh parsley.