Pan Seared Sea Scallops on Saffron-Asparagus Risotto

posted by Sue Freeman 09-16-98 7:29 AM

Pan Seared Sea Scallops on Saffron-Asparagus Risotto with Fried Spinach, Parmesan Cheese and a Tomato Saffron Broth

For the Broth:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup sliced onions
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
3/4 cup chopped fresh tomatoes, cored and seeded but not peeled
1/2 cup canned Italian plum tomatoes
2-1/2 cups fish stock or chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
A 3" by 1" piece of dried orange peel
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan. Add the onions and saffron, and sauté, stirring frequently, until the onions are tender, but not browned. Add the garlic, tomatoes and seasonings. Simmer 3-4 minutes, then add the stock. Adjust salt to taste, bring to a boil, then simmer loosely covered for 30 minutes.

Strain through a fine strainer, and be sure to press all the solids to squeeze out all the juices. Return the broth to the pan, and adjust seasoning as necessary. Makes about 2 cups.

For the Risotto:
3 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons walnut, hazelnut or olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cups Arborio rice, imported from Italy
1/2 cup dry white wine
1-1/2 pounds fresh asparagus
4 cups chicken stock, hot
2 cups cooking liquid from asparagus
Salt to taste
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmagiano Reggiano cheese

Trim off the bottoms of the asparagus spears and peel the lower portion of the stems. Simmer in water until crisp tender. Cut into 1/2" pieces and reserver 2 cups of the cooking liquid.

Heat the stock and asparagus liquid in a saucepan and keep it warm over low heat. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat, and then add the olive oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, for 4 minutes, until the onion is translucent and tender. Add the rice and sauté until thoroughly coated with the butter and oil, stirring so that the onion is mixed in as well.

Add the wine and cook, stirring constantly, until the wine is absorbed. Add a little stock, stirring constantly, until it has been absorbed almost completely. Continue adding the stock a bit at a time, stirring until absorbed and adding more, for about 12 minutes.

Add the asparagus, and continue adding stock until the rice is al dente, 16-20 minutes total cooking time. Add salt to taste.

Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and 1/3 cup of the Parmagiano. The risotto should be very moist and creamy. Makes 4 generous servings.

For the Spinach:
Take 1 cup stemmed, washed and thoroughly dried spinach leaves, and drop them in a deep-fryer for 30 seconds until the leaves are crisp. Alternately, deep-fry them in a skillet with 1/2" of oil heated to 350F. Drain thoroughly, and crumble slightly.

For the Scallops:
1/2 pound sea scallops, 30 count
Salt and Creole seasoning
2 tablespoons butter

Season the scallops on both sides with salt and Creole seasoning.

As soon as the risotto is finished, heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat until hot, about 1 minute. Add the butter and shake the pan to coat it entirely. Heat the butter until it is slightly browned. Add the scallops, one at a time. Lower the heat to prevent the butter from burning, and cook the scallops for 90 seconds to 2 minutes. Turn the scallops and cook until medium-rare, another 30 - 90 seconds.

Assembly of the Dish:
Spoon a small portion, about 1/2 cup, of risotto into the center of a large, shallow bowl (like a pasta bowl); serve more if it's a main course. Add about 1/2 cup of broth around the risotto. Sprinkle about 1/4 cup of crumbled fried spinach around the broth. Top the risotto with 2 scallops for a first course serving, 4-6 for a main. Sprinkle about a tablespoon Parmagiano around the risotto.

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