Pan Seared Brown Butter Sea Scallops with Parmesan and Pea Risotto

Pan Seared Brown Butter Sea Scallops with Parmesan and Pea Risotto

Happy Tuesday!

I am exhausted. I admit it (I rarely do). I’ve been driving and flying all over the place lately. This weekend, I drove to Raleigh to fly back home to Pennsylvania to host and attend my best friend’s bridal shower. I am a tired soul. On my late flight home last night, I was thinking about what I wanted to make for dinner the next day (and the rest of the week–I’m a foodie, after all). All I could think about was my succulent sea scallops I had in my freezer. But would I have the energy to prepare this vision? You better believe it!

This meal that I (selfishly) made only for myself today sounds romantic and date night appropriate. Seafood screams “expensive” and “restaurant” as well as “risotto.” And while I wouldn’t be objected to making this for my significant other, I want to stress that to make this delicious meal doesn’t warrant a special occasion. I made this dinner in about 25 minutes from prep to plate. I know that this doesn’t sound weeknight friendly, but believe me, it is. This is quite the impressive feat.

Sea scallops, similar to crab, has a unique sweetness unlike other fish. Sea scallops are supreme to bay. Sea scallops are the larger of the two; to help you remember, think of the vastness of the sea. If a sea is huge, so is the sea scallop. Bays are just the “connection to the body of water”, so bay scallops aren’t as large as the latter. I believe that size matters when it comes to scallops. Bay scallops are okay for dishes where they are not quite the star of a dish, but for this dinner, you need to invest in the sea scallops. Are they pricier? Yes, but you’re worth it. Besides, you can get a great deal on frozen scallops (and when they thaw, they are virtually the same as if they were fresh off the dock) every now and again. I paid about $13.00 for 1 1/2 pounds! Not a bad deal, if you ask me. Once you see them on sale, snag them and put them in your freezer for whenever you’re feeling inspired!

Now for the next layer of luxury: Risotto. Risotto is not just rice; if you haven’t had risotto, you’re in for a treat. Risotto is an Italian preparation of arborio rice. Risotto, if done properly, is rich and creamy without a lick of cream (could you imagine that?) The starches as they are slowly released create a thickness to the rice. Risotto isn’t necessarily difficult to make, although it takes patience and careful attention. Please follow my directions carefully as I have seen risotto be destroyed by impatience by adding too little liquid, too much liquid, or not stirring enough. It’s about balance! I add grated parmesan at the end to add to the creaminess and nuttiness that is to complement the brown butter.

The scallops and risotto are paired beautifully naturally, but they are enhanced with the brown butter. If you’ve never had browned butter, you are in for a treat. The nuttiness and depth comes out in butter when the butter itself is cooked. All you need to do is melt butter in a frying pan and wait for it to change to a medium brown. Some people like deeper brown butters, but be careful not to burn it! You can stir occasionally to see what’s happening.

Enough talking–let’s cook!

All The Fish In The Sea

Risotto

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 minced clove garlic
  • 1/2 diced yellow onion (very finely)
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • ½ cup white wine (I used Pinot Grigio)
  • 3-4 cups of chicken broth  (I would grab a 32 ounce carton–it’s better to have more than less!)
  • ½ cup of frozen peas
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese, or more to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste (preferably, freshly cracked)
Seared Scallops
  • 1 pound jumbo scallops (use leftover brown butter to sear scallops)**
  • salt and pepper to taste (preferably, freshly cracked)

**-If you are using frozen scallops, thaw them by placing them in a plastic bag and submerging them in cold water for a half an hour. You can do this as you’re making the risotto. The scallops only take 3 minutes to cook!

***-Whether your scallops are frozen or fresh, pat them dry with a paper towel (extra dry!) so there is no liquid. This is to ensure an excellent sear!

Brown Butter
  • 3-4 tablespoons butter

Directions for Risotto:

First, make your risotto. This takes the longest! Cut up your garlic and onion.   In a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and olive oil. Add the garlic and diced onion and saute for a minute or two until soft and fragrant. Add the arborio rice so it toasts a bit, but then stir to coat with butter and olive oil. Add the white wine. Add the chicken broth, ½ cup at a time, and simmer and stir after each addition until the rice is soft and creamy. You must stir very frequently, but let it simmer every 30 seconds or so in order to adequately cook the rice! Each time you add the 1/2 cup of broth, stir constantly so that the rice is absorbing the liquid. Once it seems like the liquid is almost all absorbed, add more (approximately 3 cups). Do not burn the rice! This process of ladling liquid into the risotto should take about 20 minutes. Taste the rice and make sure it’s soft and creamy. The starches should be released so that the mixture is thick without adding anything. Towards the end of cooking, add the frozen peas. Lastly, add the parmesan and stir until incorporated. Crack salt and pepper to taste.

Directions for Brown Butter:

Put a few tablespoons of butter in a clean skillet over medium heat and stir it while watching it closely – when it starts to look golden and foamy, remove from heat, and place a bowl aside.

Directions for Scallops: 

With the leftover butter that is in the pan for the brown butter you should be able to cook the scallops. You do not want too much oil because that will get in the way of the sear on the scallop. If you have too little oil, the scallop will stick to the pan. There should be butter on the pan with brown/black solids from before. Before cooking the scallops, pat the scallops dry with a paper towel. Next, sprinkle with the scallop with freshly cracked sea salt and pepper, and add to pan. They should sizzle. If you don’t hear a sizzle, pull it out and wait until it’s heated long enough. Shake gently to prevent sticking. After 2-3 minutes, flip each scallop over. They should have a pretty golden brown exterior and an opaque inside. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate to absorb excess oil.

All Together:

Scoop risotto into a bowl. Place approximately 4-6 scallops per person on top of the risotto. Drizzle the brown butter on top of the scallops as well as a little bit on the risotto. Enjoy!

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