Although the calendar declares that spring officially got under way this week, you wouldn’t know it by the weather in New England. Predictions of snow have been the constant refrain of our weather forecasters, and even though our town has received only light snowfalls, it still feels like winter here.
I’ve countered the cold by cooking spring dishes. Although not local yet, bunches of asparagus and fresh peas have been on display in our markets—an inspiration for cooks to transition from one season to the next. One main course that I’ve prepared several times is a risotto studded with slices of asparagus and peas, and topped with sautéed sea scallops. At last count I had made it three times this month for my husband and me!
Risotto requires your undivided attention. Prepared by stirring simmering stock into a mixture of rice and shallots that have been coated in butter, it is not a quick dish.The stock must be added slowly, about a half cup at a time, and stirred until it has been completely absorbed by the grains, but the resulting rice is rich and creamy, with grains that remain separate and firm.
The following recipe is for two generous servings and requires 10 to 15 minutes to cook the rice, less than the time required for a larger amount. You can double the recipe and increase the time if you’d like to make the dish for four.
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Spring Risotto with Asparagus, Peas, and Scallops
1/2 pd medium asparagus
1 cup fresh or frozen peas (defrosted)
2 1/ 2 cups chicken stock
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1/ 4 cup chopped shallots
1 cup arborio rice
1/ 3 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup grated Parmesan, preferably Parmigiano Reggiano
1/ 2 pd large scallops (8 to 10 ), side muscles removed and discarded
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp chopped tarragon or chives
1. Cut off and discard tough ends from asparagus spears. Cut spears, on the diagonal, into 1-inch pieces. Bring a medium saucepan of water to boil and add a teaspoon of salt and asparagus. Cook 3 minutes, and then add the peas. Cook about 2 minutes more until vegetables are just tender. Remove, drain in a colander, then place under cold running water to stop cooking. Pat dry and set aside. (Vegetables can be cooked 3 hours ahead; cover loosely with plastic wrap and leave at cool room temperature.)
2. In a medium saucepan over low heat, bring stock to a simmer and keep at a simmer.
3. In another medium saucepan over medium heat, heat butter until hot. Add shallots and cook, stirring, until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add rice and stir to coat well for a minute.
4. Add 1/2 cup simmering stock and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until all liquid has been absorbed. Continue adding stock in 1/2 cup amounts, cooking and stirring, and making certain each addition of stock is absorbed before next is added. When done, rice should be creamy but not runny, tender but still somewhat firm.
5. When rice is cooked, add wine and stir a minute more. Stir in half of the Parmesan cheese, then the asparagus and peas. Remove from heat; taste and season with salt. Cover loosely with foil while you prepare the scallops.
6. Place a medium skillet over medium high heat and cover the bottom lightly with a film of canola oil. Pat the scallops dry with paper towels. When oil is hot, but not smoking, add the scallops and sauté until browned on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Turn and sauté until browned on the other side, about 2 minutes more. Don’t overcook or scallops will be tough. Season scallops with salt and freshly ground black pepper and squeeze the juice of the lemon over them.
7. Mound the rice in two shallow bowls. Top with the scallops and sprinkle with remaining Parmesan. Sprinkle with tarragon or chives. Serve 2 as a main course
Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2018