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!

Tortellini Two Ways: Brown Butter Sage Sauce and Béchamel, Ham, and Peas

tortellinitwowaysHappy Saturday! Today’s post is about making your own pasta filling and quick sauces without breaking the bank or being boring. I have a few tricks up my sleeve to help foster creativity and prevent wallet rupture. 🙂

In my previous pasta posts, I talked about Alfredo, pesto, and ya-ya. Those are all delicious creamy sauces. When I want a creamy sauce, I am a sucker for all of the sauces listed above and vodka sauce. The problem with Alfredo, pesto, ya-ya, and vodka sauce is that they all require heavy cream. Heavy cream is not something I always have in my refrigerator, although I probably should! It can be pricey, and if I buy it, I often waste it; it expires quickly and isn’t something I use every day. What do I do if I want something creamy without running to the grocery store? I go for a béchamel. A béchamel is a white roux (equal parts of milk, flour, and butter); it is just and rich and decadent.

Let’s tweak the scenario that was listed before: I want something delicious, but I only want to use what I have on hand without making a special trip to the grocery store. What do I do then? I go for a brown butter sauce. As the name implies, all you need is butter and time: you let the butter brown over a consistent heat. It’s fabulous, and only more complex when heightened with sage. Sage is one of my favorite spices to use in cooking; it’s not implemented enough, and has such a unique, earthy profile. The marriage of sage and brown butter is simply perfect.

Making pasta is a lot of fun…for a rainy day. It’s very hands-on, which I love, but it’s definitely not something I can whip up quickly. The dough is simply pantry ingredients (flour, olive oil, salt, water, egg yolks), but getting the dough portioned and flattened is a pain. Pasta making can be finicky even for the most experienced. So here’s my secret weapon: Won Ton Wrappers.

For those who know me, I love Asian food and making my own: I am a sucker for any kind of dumpling (potsticker, shame, wonton), so I always have Won Top/Gyoza wrappers around. They are perfectly portioned and cost effective (about $2.00 for 52 pieces). But what many people may not realize is that a won ton and pasta are made of the same ingredients; therefore, when you are in the mood for something Italian, repurpose those wrappers and turn them into ravioli and tortellinis. You won’t regret buying a few. P.S: You can freeze these, so buy as many as you can so you’re always well-stocked. 🙂

The only bit of work that is required today is shaping the tortellini. I can say that you’ll get nicer edges with the square wonton wrapper, but if all you have is a Gyoza wrappers (the round ones), you will have a slightly less traditional looking tortellini. Don’t worry; it will be equally delicious! And if all else fails and all tutorials are useless, feel free to change dinner to Raviolis with Brown Butter Sage Sauce or Raviolis with Béchamel, Ham, and Peas. 😉

Whichever sauce or filled-pasta you choose, you will do no wrong. Go get ’em, tiger!

Basic Tortellini/Ravioli with Ricotta Filling 

  • 12 ounces Whole Milk Ricotta
  • 1-1/2 cup Freshly Grated Parmigiana (I always add more!)
  • 1/2-3/4 cup of Finely Shredded Mozzarella
  • 1 whole Egg
  • Salt and Pepper to your taste
  • Pinch of nutmeg (optional, but recommended)
  • 3-4 cups of arugula or spinach (your choice! you can do it without leafy greens)
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic** (only if you are sautéing spinach or arugula; I prefer spinach of the two for the filling)
  • 3 tablespoons of parsley and/or basil (mixed is fabulous: and fresh is best!)
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 24-30 whole Wonton Wrappers

Make the Filling

  1. In a pan, heat up 1-2 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
  2. Mince some garlic (3-4 cloves) and put in the pan that has olive oil.
  3. Throw in spinach (handfuls at a time) until it wilts. Repeat until all spinach is incorporated. Be sure to be stirring often so garlic doesn’t burn.
  4. Put spinach aside and give it about 5-10 minutes for cooling.
  5. Next, get a large mixing bowl. Take ricotta out of the container and add the cheeses. Stir.
  6. Next, throw in the sautéed spinach and mix. Next, beat one egg and throw into mixture.
  7. Mix well. Taste a small bit and add salt and pepper to taste. Throw in nutmeg, if desired.

Assemble the Pasta (Original Way)

  1. Place one wonton wrapper on a floured work surface.
  2. Use your fingers or a brush to moisten 2 adjoining sides of the wrapper.
  3. Place a little more than a teaspoon of filling in the corner opposite the moistened sides.
  4. Fold the moistened half of the wrapper to cover the other.
  5. Use your fingers to remove as much air as possible while pressing to seal the edges.
  6. Use a fork’s tines to press and further seal the 2 sides.

You now have a ravioli. Want to take it to the next level? Make a tortellini:

  1. Use you finger to make an indentation in the middle of the filling pushing up.
  2. Bring the two opposing corners together, moisten one, and press together to seal.
  3. Bend backwards the remaining corner.
  4. Please seal everything
  5. Reserve on a separate plate for later cooking or freezing.
  6. When ready to cook, get a pot of water salted and boiled. Pasta takes 3-5 minutes to cook; you’ll know they are ready when they begin to float on top.

Assemble the Pasta (New, Easy Way)

In the production of this post, I found an easy way to create a tortellini. <–silly video demonstration is here.

  1. With a Gyoza/Potsticker wrapper (round not square), put half a teaspoon of filling on the edge, not the middle. You do not want to overfill.
  2. Wet your finger lightly and circle the outer edge of the potsticker wrapper. This is how you will seal the filling on the inside–no egg wash is necessary!
  3. Slowly roll the potsticker until it looks like a skinny log.
  4. Once you have a log, bend both ends and try to seal them
  5. Pinch the one end onto the other to make a ring.

Pick Your Sauce…or do both.

Brown Butter Sage Sauce

  • 8-10 fresh sage leaves, chiffoned (sliced thinly) or 2 teaspoons dried sage
  • 6-8 tablespoons of butter (depends how much pasta you’re making)
  1. Melt the butter in a large skillet over high heat.
  2. Cook, stirring, until the butter develops brown flecks and smells nutty.
  3. Watch it closely to keep the butter solids from burning. Remove from the heat and add sage.
  4. Stir and place on top of freshly prepared pasta and eat immediately.

Béchamel, Ham, and Peas Sauce

  • 1 stick unsalted butter (4 ounces)
  • 2-3 cloves of minced garlic (optional, but interesting!)
  • 1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 quart whole milk, at room temperature
  • Pinch fresh nutmeg
  • Salt and white pepper* (Black pepper is fine, too)
  • 1 cup grated fontina or parmigiana
  • 1/2 of pound of ham, diced or for a more delicate palate, thinly sliced prosciutto julienned
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
  • 1 cup of frozen peas (or more to taste–I love peas!)
  1. In a 2 quart saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add minced garlic and stir, if desired. Add the flour and whisk until smooth, about 2 minutes.
  2. Always stirring, gradually add the milk and continue to whisk until the sauce is smooth and creamy.
  3. Simmer until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. This will take approximately 10 minutes. Towards the end, throw in frozen peas (they don’t need much heat to cook)
  4. If the sauce is not thickening, lower the heat/remove from heat.
  5. Remove from heat and stir in nutmeg, 1/2 cup fontina, ham (or prosciutto) and season with salt and white pepper.