I love scallops. I am a seafood fan in general but a good scallop dish simply can’t be beat. They are some of the easiest seafood to purchase, clean and cook making them an attainable victory for even the most timid of home-cooks. When you sear them in a super hot pan you transform them into something truly amazing. They remain plump, succulent, juicy and sweet while they develop that mouthwatering crisp crust on the outside.
These seared scallops were screaming to be treated like the culinary royalty that they are so a fancy sauce, side dish and garnish felt necessary to do them justice. A nice base of lemon risotto served as the throne atop which these beautiful scallops came to rest. They were then enrobed in a royally deep blackberry red wine reduction and were crowned by crisp fried shallots.
I think this meal would serve as the perfect date night dinner to be enjoyed by candlelight. It’s true: food can be sexy and this is one hell of a sexy dish! So use this recipe to your advantage the next time you want to swoon your sweety and don’t forget the wine! Either a red or white would find a comfortable place alongside this meal!
Black Pepper Seared Scallops with Blackberry Red Wine Reduction, Lemon Risotto and Fried Shallots
For the Scallops:
▪ 1 pound fresh sea scallops, side muscles removed
▪ freshly cracked black pepper and salt
▪ olive oil
If you have any questions about prepping or cleaning scallops, The Kitchn has a great guide available here: http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-buy-clean-and-cook-scal-91521
For the Blackberry Red Wine Reduction:
▪ 1 1/2 cups good red wine, something full and fruit forward such as Pinot Noir or Merlot
▪ 1 handful fresh thyme sprigs
▪ 10 black peppercorns
▪ peel of one lemon
▪ 1 tablespoon honey
▪ 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
▪ salt and black pepper
▪ 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
▪ 10-15 blackberries
▪ 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, lightly chopped
For the Lemon Risotto:
▪ 1 1/4 cups arborio rice
▪ 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
▪ 1 1/2 cups water
▪ 1 clove garlic, minced
▪ 1 shallot, minced
▪ 1 tablespoon butter
▪ splash of white wine (this is optional, you could use a splash of chicken stock)
▪ 1/4 cup creme fraiche
▪ zest of one lemon
▪ juice of half of a lemon
▪ salt and pepper
▪ 1/2 cup grated fresh parmesan cheese
For the Fried Shallots:
▪ 2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
▪ 1 cup canola oil
Begin by making the fried shallots first. Place your cup of canola oil into a deep skillet over high heat. When the oil is hot add in the sliced shallots and fry until they have all turned golden brown and crisped up. Remove the shallots from the oil with a slotted spoon onto a paper towel lined plate and sprinkle generously with salt. Set aside.
Next, start your reduction. In a saucepot over high heat, add your wine, whole thyme sprigs, lemon peel and peppercorns. Bring to a boil and reduce down to 1/2 cup of liquid. Strain out the aromatics and return the reduced wine to the pot. Add the red wine vinegar, honey, cayenne, blackberries and chopped fresh thyme leaves and place back over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and allow to continue reducing for about 8-10 minutes until the sauce is nice and thick and the blackberries have started to fall apart. Gently mush them the rest of the way until they become well incorporated into the liquid. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Turn off the heat, put a lid on the pot and keep warm on the stove until the rest of the meal is ready and do be careful, this sauce has some serious stain power!
To prepare the risotto, place the chicken stock, water and a pinch of salt into a pot over medium low heat to warm up. This will be the cooking liquid for the rice.
In a wide non stick skillet, melt the tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic to the melted butter and saute for 3-4 minutes until they have softened. Add the arborio rice to the pan and stir around to coat with the oil. Continue stirring the rice and aromatics for about 5 minutes to allow the rice grains to toast slightly. Once the rice has toasted and the pan is good and hot, add the splash of white wine (or chicken stock) to deglaze the pan. When the wine has been absorbed, begin adding the warm stock one ladle at a time.
The technique here is to allow the starch to slowly release from the rice grains to form a nice thick, creamy consistency to the finished dish. So as you add a ladle of stock, stir the rice constantly and gently until the all of the liquid has been fully absorbed. Only when all of the stock has been drunk up by the rice, should you add another ladle. Repeat this process until all of the stock has been used. This is a slow and gentle process, it’s very zen so take your time and enjoy it!
When you are all out of stock give your rice a taste. It should be soft with a nice toothsome texture to the inside of the grains. To finish off the risotto, stir in the creme fraiche, lemon juice and zest and parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
And now for the scallops! Pat them dry with a paper towel and season with salt and a lot of black pepper on both sides. Place a few tablespoons of olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium high heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the scallops to the pan. You should hear that characteristic sizzle of searing. Leave the scallops alone for three minutes before flipping them and cooking them for two more minutes. They should have a nice golden brown crust on either side.
To plate this meal, I put a nice mound of the lemon risotto down on the bottom of the plate. Depending on how many scallops came in your pound, three to four is an appropriate portion. Place your scallops on top of the risotto and drizzle the blackberry sauce over everything and top with a lovely tangled pile of the fried shallots. Sprinkle some more fresh chopped thyme leaves over the top, pour yourself a glass of Wagner Vineyards Reserve Pinot Noir and dig in! Enjoy!