Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Lou's Most Excellent Arugula & Scallop Risotto

I had a vegetarian version of this at New Heights recently and it was fantastic. We had a great time there - Sietsema from the Post recently gave it a very good review - but the service was pretty downright lousy. The food, however, was phenomenal.

Never in my life have I ordered a vegetarian entree unless it was eggplant parm or I was forced to go to a vegetarian Indian restaurant. I'm not a "meat & potatoes" guy but I do like my protein to come from things that once moved about. Thus, starting with a tomato salad and then the arugula risotto even raised eyebrows from Judy, my wife.

I've been thinking about that risotto for the last few days and now I'm doing it. Risotto is an überbitch to make as it takes constant babysitting. It's technically easy but you just have to tend to it constantly; be prepared not to leave your stove for about 30 minutes straight once you get going on this. But an added bonus to this dish is that it's moderately healthy: sure there's some fat from the butter and olive oil but with all the veggies going on you should get *some* credit here.

Risotto - and anything you wind up putting in it or on it - turns your kitchen into a mess. I had the processor out, several pans, lots of bowls, cutting boards, etc. Get ready for clean-up. This all said, don't be scared and here we go:

5 oz baby arugula, cleaned
5 basil leaves
6 sprigs of parsley
3 garlic cloves, peeled & smashed
Extra virgin olive oil
Kernels from a half hear of corn
4 cups of chicken stock (or broth), simmering
6 large diver scallops
4 fresh, ripe figs, halved (I prefer the Calimyrna but any will do)
4 baby yellow squash, quartered and cut into dime sized pieces
1½ cups of risotto (arborio)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 tablespoons clarified butter (regular butter or olive oil will work)
¼ cup + 1 TBS freshly grated Parmesan
Dry white wine, at least 1 cup (Pinot Grigio or Orvieto work)
1 70 pound black lab

In a food processor add the arugula, basil, parsley and garlic. Pulse for about 10 seconds in 1 second bursts. Add about 3 TBS of olive oil and run the processor until the mixture becomes a paste, almost pesto-ish. Remove from the processor and stir in the ¼ cup of Parmesean cheese. Set aside.

Heat a large, high walled pan (a Dutch oven if you've got it) up to medium high. Add the clarified butter; if using olive oil or butter only heat up to medium. Wait till the fat begin to shimmer and then add the baby squash with a big pinch of kosher salt. Toss in the oil and let sauté, undisturbed, for about 3 minutes. Toss the veggies again - they should be browned by now - and cook a little longer to even out the brownness. Add the corn kernels, toss to mix, and then remove all from the pan into a separate bowl.

[Why clarified butter? Well, a) I had some and b) you can heat it hotter than regular butter and olive oil. And it tastes good too.]

Add the figs to the pan with the fruit side down and let cook undisturbed for about 3 - 4 minutes; you want them to sizzle. Remove from the pan once they begin to show signs of caramelizing...which you just want to reach but not achieve...if that makes sense. Set the figs aside. Tell the dog - again - to get out of the kitchen.

Turn the pan heat down to medium-low and let stabilize here for about 5 minutes. Add an additional TBS of butter and the onion and a big pinch of kosher salt. Sauté - constantly turning - until the onion is translucent, which is about 8 minutes.

Increase the heat to medium and get the onions sizzling - once this happens add the risotto and stir for about 90 seconds, coating the rice with the oil and onions. Add enough broth - about 1.5 cups - to this so the risotto is completely covered by broth but not drowning in it. Call the dog into the kitchen (you'll want his company now) and gently stir.


More and more.

When you're able to take your spoon and move it from one side of the pan to the other through the risotto and it stays parted from where you started, add more broth as you did before.

And slowly, gently stir.

But in between that....

Heat a skillet up to medium high. Add a smidge of clarified butter - just enough to lightly coat the pan. Sprinkle some sea salt on each side of the scallops. [Don't forget to stir and check your risotto....] When the pan is hot add the scallops - they should sizzle. Leave them be for about a minute then flip. Cook an additional minute or more pending your doneness preference. I like mine on the medium-rare side b/c they taste like scallops. Overcook a scallop and you might as well eat an eraser.

The risotto should be near done. Take a small sample; it should be nutty in flavor with a little bit of crunch. If you're there, you're done. If it's too hard, add more broth and keep stirring.

When you're there turn off the heat and add herb mix to the risotto, stir to mix, and then add the corn and squash. Gently stir to mix.

Get the drooling dog with the ferociously wagging tail out of the kitchen. Plate about one cup of risotto in a small mound and sprinkle with additional Parmesan if desired. Top with the scallops and figs. Grab a fork and go to town.