12 March 2014

Pea, Prosciutto & Parmesan Risotto with Seared Scallops

It's March, meaning enough time has passed since New Year's for a truly rich and decadent dish.  I always try to hold out on these for a while, my attempt to assist all you resolutioners out there to turn those shining ideas into habitual healthy choices.  But I seriously cannot wait any longer to share this one.  The starter crops of fresh asparagus and peas are just too tempting for this veggie-lover to resist.  And in case those don't float your boat, how about tons of parmesan cheese and savory prosciutto?  Or oodles of creamy risotto?  Yeah, now I have your attention.

Let's talk about risotto.  Originating in Italy, this dish is made with short grain rice that is cooked low and slow with broth until it becomes tender and creamy.  Arborio is the typical grain of choice, but any short grained rice will do.  It can even be made with quinoa or barley.  Rich, hearty and warm, it's an amazing comfort food or cold weather dish.  Best of all, it can be dressed up or down with whatever your palate desires.  And while it can seem intimidating, it's actually quite easy to make.

Confession:  This dish was born out of my adoration of alliteration.  A culinary concoction built out of linguistic love....and a desire for good eats.  So that's how pea, prosciutto and parmesan risotto was born.

This dish truly has a bit of everything.  The peas and basil add lovely touches of fresh sweetness while the parmesan and prosciutto provide salt and creaminess.  I also like to use browned butter both at the beginning for cooking the shallots and as a finish at the end.  Its rich nuttiness adds a great extra element to the overall light flavor profile.  (As if you actually needed a reason to use browned butter.)

Without a doubt, my absolute favorite part of this dish is the peas.  I cannot express how incredibly lovely they are in a risotto.  They make the dish pop, in more ways than one.  Of course they add great color along with the prosciutto, but their miniature explosion as they burst from their skins is downright fun.

While I love risotto, I'm not the type of gal who can scoop herself a plateful and call it dinner.  I need some veggies and protein to make it a meal.  And after making this several times, I can state without a doubt that the best parter for this risotto is scallops.  Their soft texture and sweet flavor perfectly echoes the flavor profile, and they are simply scrumptious with a garnish of fresh basil.  I never knew it until this dish, but scallops and basil were meant to be.  BF-FF (best food-friends forever).

This is a great dish to make for a date night when you're dressed to impress, but equally awesome reheated two days later and enjoyed in your favorite sweats.  Gotta love a meal that is great both classy and comfy.

Pea, Prosciutto & Parmesan Risotto (4-5 servings)
  • 3 tbs browned butter, divided
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 c arborio rice
  • 1/2 c dry white wine (I used Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 2 c vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • pinch salt
  • 3/4 c peas
  • 2 oz diced prosciutto (about 1/2 cup)
  • 3/4 c freshly grated parmesan
  • 1/4 c fresh julienned basil, divided
  • Brown Butter Seared Scallops (recipe below)
Brown the butter and pour into a ramekin to use throughout the recipe.

Place a large pot over medium heat.  When warm, add one tablespoon of the browned butter and the shallots.  Cook for 2-3 minutes, until the shallot is tender and lightly browned, then add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.  Add the rice to the pot and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.  Pour in the white wine and stir to combine.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the wine is absorbed by the rice.  Add the broth a half cup at a time, cooking after each addition until absorbed.

Taste the rice to ensure it's prepared to your liking.  (If not, add another 1/2 cup of broth and cook until absorbed).  Season with salt and pepper.  Stir in the peas, diced prosciutto, parmesan and 2 tablespoons of the basil until evenly distributed.  Cover to keep warm while you cook the scallops.  Garnish with the remaining basil and drizzle with a tablespoon of the browned butter.

Brown Butter Seared Scallops (2-3 servings)

  • 8-10 scallops
  • 1 tbs browned butter
  • 1 tbs olive oil
Line a plate or pie pan with paper towels.  Thoroughly rinse the scallops in cold water, then pat dry with paper towels and set on the prepped plate to dry.  Season with salt and a little pepper.

Place a large nonstick pan over high heat.  Add the browned butter and olive oil, swirling to combine.  When the oil and butter begin to smoke, transfer the scallops to the heated pan leaving about 2 inches between each.  Be sure not to move the scallops as this will prevent a nice crust from forming.  Cook until the scallops are browned and a crust has developed on the bottom, about 2 minutes.  Flip and cook for another minute or until the scallops are opaque.  

Scallops are to be served immediately.  Plate the risotto while they cook so the scallops can be transferred directly on top of the rice.  Garnish and serve.  

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