Posted by: acooksca | 04/03/2009

Scallops with Butternut Squash Risotto

scallop-with-butternut-risotto-1aAutumn is the season to highlight the gentle flavor of pumpkin or squash and take advantage of the crisp-tender texture they can have if they are… well….squashed.

Butternut squash echos the sweetness of sea scallops in this preparation. Meyer lemon risotto brightens the flavors in the risotto. By cooking the squash briefly and leaving it a little firm we have a texture to contrast the meltingly soft scallops. Check out the Cook’s note at the bottom of the recipe for a tip in keeping scallops moist and tender.

If you are in the mood for an unusual pumpkin instead of butternut squash look for a cheese pumpkin.  This is an heirloom variety, one of the oldest cultivated in the U.S. Cheese pumpkins have a flesh that is sweet and dense, like a sugar pumpkin. They are found in farmers markets. Although the skin can be a variety of colors it is frequently tan.

Common store bought jack-o-lantern pumpkins are cultivated as a decor piece. They are watery and don’t substitute well for butternut squash or an eating pumpkin.

Serves four as main course

Risotto

1 red onion, peeled and finely sliced
1 tablespoon each olive oil and butter
4 cups chicken stock
½ c.  white wine
1 ¼ c. Arborio rice
1 ½ cups peeled seeded and ½ inch diced butternut squash (or sugar or cheese pumpkin)
1 teaspoon each olive oil and butter
Salt , pepper and nutmeg
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
Zest (chopped) and juice of two Meyer lemons (or one regular lemon)
Salt and pepper to taste
4 ounces finely grated Parmesan cheese

Scallops

1 tablespoon each butter and vegetable oil
16 large sea scallops, sliced in half cross wise if more than ½ inch thick
½ cup flour seasoned well with salt and pepper

Preparation

In a medium sauce pan cook the onion in 1 tablespoon oil and butter until soft and just beginning to brown. Meanwhile heat the chicken stock to a simmer on the stove or in a microwave. Add the white wine to the onion and cook one minute. Stir in the Arborio rice. Stir in 1/3 of the hot chicken stock, reduce the heat to medium low and let cook uncovered for several minutes. When the rice has absorbed the stock add another 1/3 stock and continue to cook.

Meanwhile, heat a sauté pan over medium high heat. When hot add the teaspoon oil and butter and the squash cubes. Season well with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Sautee briefly, about 3 minutes turning once or twice, just until crisp-tender. Remove to a plate and cover to keep warm.

To cook the scallops add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and butter to the saute pan over medium heat. Dry the scallops and dust with the seasoned flour. Set them in the hot saute pan and let cook, undisturbed for 3 minutes or until they are nicely browned (see Cooks note). Flip the scallops over and remove the pan from the heat to let the scallops gently finish cooking.

Check the risotto. Add the thyme, lemon zest and juice and correct the salt and pepper levels. The risotto will be ever-so-slightly al dente when cooked. If it needs more liquid stir in the remaining chicken stock, cook until mostly absorbed. It should remain creamy looking.

Gently stir the Parmesan and the squash into the risotto, divide among four dinner plates and top with the scallops.

Serves four as main course.

Cooks note: The idea is to keep scallops moist and tender while cooking. Dusting scallops with flour seals their surface. Once in the oiled pan scallops must not be turned or moved until they have sufficiently browned or they weep moisture, turning the flour coating to mush and toughening the meat of the scallop.

Originally published in Farmstead Cheese News by Karen Bolla, edited for A Cook’s California (A Cook’s CA)  by Karen Bolla.

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