Seafood Risotto with Seared Scallops

This recipe combines two things I used to be intimidated by: risotto and scallops. They are both staples of fine dining, so they have to be tricky right? Wrong! A basic understanding of a few key techniques makes these “fancy” foods repeatable by any home chef. Neither of these dishes take a long time to make, but they are very active! Have all your prep work done before you start cooking and you will thank me later. 

Below, I have written out the general technique for cooking both risotto and scallops. Use this guide to get creative with your own flavor combinations. Scroll down for the full recipe. 

The rules of risotto: 
  1. Pick a broth, and heat it to just below a simmer. (Mushroom stock is great for mushroom risotto! For corn risotto, simmer your corn cobs in some chicken stock for extra corn flavor! Your risotto is really only as good as the quality of your stock). 
  2. Saute something onion-y in some butter (shallots, onions, even leeks, all work). 
  3. Add your ARBORIO rice and saute for a minute. 
  4. Add some alcohol (white wine or dry vermouth are standard).
  5. Cook out the alcohol, then add 1 ladle full of warm stock and stir until that stock is almost all absorbed. 
  6. Add more stock, and continue the process until you have perfectly al dente grains suspended in a delicious, thick, broth. 
  7. Add some more butter, parm, and remove from heat and you are ready to eat :). 
The rules of seared scallops
  1. Buy DRY large scallops (meaning they haven’t been soaked in a liquid solution). 
  2. Pat them dry and season only right before searing. 
  3. Heat a stainless steel, carbon steel, or cast iron pan, until very hot.
  4. Add some high smoke point oil (i.e. canola) and sear them on one side until very golden brown, about 2 minutes. 
  5. Flip, add some butter, and baste in butter, for another minute until the second side is deeply browned as well. 
  6. Eat immediately. 

Seafood Risotto with Seared Scallops

Makes 2 large portions

  • 4-5 cups of lobster, shellfish, or fish stock. Homemade highly recommended*
  • 5 tablespoons of butter, divided
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 1 tsp chopped thyme
  • 1 cup arborio rice 
  • ⅓ cup brandy, dry vermouth, or white wine
  • 1 pinch of saffron
  • 1 cup cooked crab or shrimp meat. If using shrimp, chop into bite size pieces. 
  • 1 cup parm 
  • 8 diver scallops
  • 1-2 tbs of canola oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Torn parsley, for garnish

For the risotto

*Season and taste throughout this entire process. Only you will know when your risotto is done and how much broth you actually need. 

  1. Make sure all your ingredients are prepped and ready before starting to cook!
  2. In a pot, heat your stock until just below a simmer. Keep it at that temperature for the remainder of the cooking time. 
  3. In a pan, heat 1.5 tbsp of butter and add the shallots. Saute for 1-2 minutes. Season with salt. 
  4. Add the rice and saute over medium low for 1 minute. 
  5. Add the brandy and saute over medium low until it is almost entirely absorbed. 
  6. Add 1 ladleful of stock to your rice. Cook over medium low, stirring regularly with a wooden spoon until the broth is absorbed. Adjust heat if needed if the process is going too fast or two slow. 
  7. Continue to add one ladleful of stock at a time after the last batch is absorbed. You might not need the full 5 cups, stop when the rice is al dente. 
  8. With your last ladleful of stock, add a pinch of saffron. 
  9. When the risotto is almost ready, add your crab and stir to combine. 
  10. When the rice is perfectly al dente, add an additional 1.5 tbsp of butter along with the parmesan. Stir to combine, then remove from heat. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

For the scallops

*Start this process around the time of adding the last ladleful of stock to your risotto. Have your pan heated and ready when the risotto finishes. Don’t start searing your scallops until your risotto is done. 

  1. Remove your scallops from the fridge and pat dry.
  2. Heat a stainless steel, carbon steel, or cast iron skillet on medium – high until very hot.
  3. Right before searing, season with salt. 
  4. Add the canola oil to your now hot pan (enough to coat the bottom). Once the oil shimmers, add your scallops. Do not crowd your pan, do this in batches if needed. 
  5. Cook the scallops for 2 minutes, until their bottoms are deeply browned. 
  6. Flip the scallops, add 2 tbs of butter, and use the butter to baste the scallops until the other side is browned, about 2 minutes. 
  7. Remove from heat and serve immediately.  Top the risotto with the scallops. Garnish with torn parsley,