Lemon Risotto with Seared Scallops

Have you met my mom?

If you’re an actor in the Twin Cities, she’s probably dressed you, beautifully and carefully in costumes that helped you fully realize the physicality of your character. If you’re a St. Kate’s graduate, she might have mentored you and helped you find your way into adulthood. If you’re a ballroom dancer, you might have once shared a waltz with her at the Dancer’s Studio weekly dance party. In the unlikely event that you’ve been incarcerated, she might have taught you to quilt on one of the many Sunday afternoons she’s volunteered at the women’s correctional facility in Shakopee. And if you’ve been to her place for dinner, you’ve had an incredible meal shared with good friends, along with music, wine, fascinating conversation, echoing laughter, and a lapful of love from her cat, Pablo.

When she came to my house for her birthday dinner last month, I wanted to prepare an extra special meal, to return the kindness of many such dinners and thank her for setting such a powerful, compassionate, creative example for me to follow. Also, cooking for people is how I love them.

So I topped a creamy lemon risotto with Mom’s favorite—seared scallops. The luxurious risotto is somehow light, with a pop of freshness from lemon and Italian parsley. I served it alongside a fig, burrata, and prosciutto salad with balsamic vinaigrette (recipe to come!), and followed it with mini flourless chocolate cakes topped with a blackberry and red wine reduction.

Lemon Risotto with Seared Scallops

Happy Birthday, Mama!

Lemon Risotto with Seared Scallops
Recipe Type: Entree
Author: Adapted from Bon Appétit, May 2002
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 50 mins
Total time: 1 hour
Serves: 4
This lemony risotto is both luxurious and light, with a pop of freshness from Italian parsley, and topped with delicate seared scallops. Includes directions to par-cook the risotto ahead of time.
  • Lemon Risotto
  • 5 cups low-sodium chicken broth, divided (have extra stock on hand)
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 medium shallots, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
  • Seared Scallops
  • 1 pound sea scallops
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  1. Rinse the scallops thoroughly, making sure they are free of sand. Remove any abductor muscles that are still attached to the scallops. Pat the scallops dry with a paper towel and refrigerate.
  2. Bring 3 1/4 cups broth to simmer in large saucepan over medium heat. Reduce heat to low; cover to keep warm. (Reserve remaining broth until ready to finish cooking risotto to serve.)
  3. Melt 1 tablespoon butter with oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté until tender, about 6 minutes. Add rice; stir 1 minute. Add wine and stir until evaporated, about 30 seconds. Reduce heat to medium-low.
  4. Add about 1 1/2 cups of the warm broth and simmer until absorbed, stirring frequently. Add remaining warm broth 1/2 cup at a time, allowing broth to be absorbed before adding more and stirring frequently, about 16 minutes. Remove the rice from the heat.
  5. Spread par-cooked risotto in a shallow baking pan and cover. Refrigerate until ready to serve. The rice can be prepared to this point up to 3 days in advance.
  6. When Ready To Serve:
  7. Remove chilled rice from refrigerator and bring to room temperature. Heat the remaining 1 3/4 cups broth in a large pan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and add the partially cooked risotto. Stir with a wooden spoon until the broth is absorbed and the rice is done cooking, about 5–10 minutes or until rice is tender but still firm to the bite.
  8. Turn off the heat and immediately add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and Parmesan cheese, stirring vigorously. Stir in parsley, lemon juice, and lemon peel. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large sauté pan over high heat. When the fat just begins to smoke carefully add the scallops making sure they don’t touch each other. Sear the scallops until they form a golden crust, then turn over and do the same on the other side (about 1 1/2 minutes on each side). Do not overcook. Serve the scallops on top of the risotto.


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