This blog is dedicated to simple home cooking, mostly because that’s the kind of cooking—and eating—I like best. But every once and while, the urge to make something ‘fancy’ strikes. So when a friend from Rome visited last night, I decided to put on the ritz and serve this elegant ‘restaurant’ dish of seared sea scallops on a bed on potatoes cut into small cubes and simmered with broth to resemble risotto and surrounded by a heavenly cream sauce.
Step 1: Begin by making the sauce: Sweat half a fennel, a leek and 2 shallots, all fined chopped, in some butter until tender. Add a splash of white wine and let that reduce by half. Then add a pint of cream and a few fronds pulled from the fennel stalk. Bring to a boil and simmer until the cream has thickened a bit. Transfer the mixture to a blender and blend at the highest setting (usually ‘liquify’) until the sauce is completely smooth. Return the sauce to the pan. (If you really want to get fancy, strain the purée through a sieve—but I skipped this step.) If too thick, add a bit more cream or milk until you have the consistency you want. Just before you need it, warm it up again and add another bit butter and minced chives.
Step 2: Then make the mock risotto: Sweat a shallot and a pint of mushrooms in butter until tender. Then add one or two diced potato and a fresh bay leaf. Begin to add chicken stock (or broth) a ladleful at a time and allow to thicken before adding more, just as if you were making an actual risotto. Continue to cook until the potatoes are tender but not mushy—depending on how finely you’ve cubed your potatoes, this should only take 5 minutes or so. Adjust the seasoning if needed.
Step 3: Finally, just before you are ready to eat, sear your scallops (about 2 per person) in a lightly greased non-stick pan over high heat. About 2 minutes per side should do.
Step 4: Assemble the dish by spooning a portion of the mock risotto in the center of each plate, then surround with the cream sauce and top the risotto with the scallops. Serve immediately.
NOTES: The whole dish, while it involved three separate elements and a final assembly, is actually fairly quick and easy to make. You can make things even easier by making the sauce and risotto ahead and heating them up gently just before you need them.
The original recipe (see below) calls for diver scallops, but last night I used regular sea scallops, which were perfectly delicious. (The centers of the scallops will still be quite ‘rare’ after this short cooking period. If you are squeamish about semi-raw seafood, then you can let it cook a bit more in a hot oven for, say, 5 minutes—but the scallops will be less sweet when cooked entirely through. Or you can slice each scallop in half across its mid-drift so they cook more quickly.)
The potatoes should be waxy, not mealy, the kind that you would use for potato salad or a gratin, like Yukon Golds. Since the potato is meant to mimic a risotto, it is best to cube it just as finely as you can manage, no more than a millimeter/1/8 inch wide. And, for that special touch, warm the plates before serving.
This recipe comes from Restaurant Eve in Old Town Alexandria, via fellow blogger and Foodbuzzer, “Kiss My Spatula“. I have made some adjustments, however, to give this dish a personal touch. The tips and tricks noted above are my own.