Since we are not able to celebrate Mardi Gras properly this year, we wanted to focus our attention on the other holiday February is known for: Valentine’s Day. We decided to go all out and develop a restaurant-caliber menu you can easily make for your special someone. This menu may sound a little intimidating, but by following our simple instructions you can create a fine-dining experience right in your own home.
We love scallops and order them whenever they’re offered fresh on a menu. Contrary to what most people think, scallops are not difficult to make at home. Make sure to look for scallops that are “dry” and not packed in a phosphate solution, which is designed to help preserve their freshness. The solution causes scallops to retain too much liquid that releases when cooking, thus preventing them from searing on the outside. Besides, scallops packed in this solution tend to have an off taste and texture. The scallops we find around here are frozen, but the label will indicate if they have been treated with a solution. When preparing the scallops, allow them to thaw in the refrigerator. Pat them dry before searing to ensure they will form a nice crust on the outside and stay moist and tender inside. Searing scallops only takes a few minutes, so have everything else from your meal ready to go so you can spend the last few minutes giving the scallops the attention they deserve.
1 pound dry sea scallops (3 to 4 scallops per person)
2 tablespoons grapeseed or avocado oil (or any oil with a high smoke point)
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
3 tablespoons butter
1⁄3 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh chopped flat leaf parsley
If using frozen scallops, allow them to thaw in the refrigerator for several hours.
Remove the scallops from the fridge and pat them dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle the top of the scallops with half the salt and pepper.
Heat a heavy nonstick skillet over high heat for 1 minute. Once the skillet is hot, add in the oil and swirl the pan to coat the bottom evenly. Place the scallops into the pan, allowing enough room between each scallop so they will sear and not steam.
Cook the scallops for 2 minutes without moving them.
Use a pair of tongs to flip the scallops over. Add the butter, and season this side of the scallops with the remaining salt and pepper.
Cook for 1 minute more and then quickly remove them onto a serving plate.
Turn off the heat under the skillet. Add the wine and return the heat to medium. Stir in the shallots and fresh lemon juice. Stir the sauce and then spoon it over the scallops.
Sprinkle with fresh parsley. Serve immediately along with the risotto and roasted asparagus.
Sweet Corn and Andouille Risotto
A creamy risotto may take a little extra time to prepare, but it’s always a treat that’s well worth the effort. This risotto is hearty enough to be a meal by itself, but it is also a wonderful side dish and complements the seared scallops perfectly. It has wonderful texture from the corn and a slight hint of heat and smoke from the andouille that balances well with the mild, sweet flavor of the scallops. The homemade vegetable broth used in this recipe helps to deepen the rich flavor in the risotto. Store-bought broth works well, but we think the homemade broth, which may be made ahead of time, is worth the extra effort.
FOR THE RISOTTO:
4 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup minced shallots
1/2 cup diced andouille
1¼ cups medium or short grain rice
2 cups fresh corn kernels, cut off the cob
½ cup dry white wine
5 to 7 cups warm broth (vegetable or chicken broth)
½ cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
In a heavy large saucepan, sauté the shallots and andouille in the butter for 3 to 4 minutes.
Add in the rice and corn. Continue sautéing for another 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
Pour in the white wine. Stir until the wine is completely absorbed.
Reduce the heat to medium, and pour in 1 cup of warm broth. Allow the mixture to come up to a simmer and keep stirring occasionally to prevent the rice from sticking.
Once the liquid is almost absorbed, add in another cup of the broth. Let this mixture simmer and keep stirring until the liquid is absorbed.
Continue stirring and adding the remaining broth, 1 cup at a time, allowing the broth to be absorbed in between each addition. The risotto is ready once it becomes creamy and the rice is tender but still a little al dente. Note: The amount of broth used will depend on the type of rice used in the recipe.
Stir in the cheese, season with a little salt and pepper and serve.
FOR THE VEGETABLE BROTH:
12 cups cold water
4 to 5 corn cobs
1 large onion, quartered
4 stalks celery
2 large carrots
Fresh thyme and parsley, bundled together
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
Fill a large stock pot with 12 cups of water.
Cut the corn off the cobs, and reserve the corn for the risotto.
Place the corn cobs into the pot along with the remaining ingredients. Bring the mixture up to a boil.
Reduce the heat and simmer the broth for an hour.
Turn off the heat and allow the broth to cool. Strain the broth into quart containers and keep refrigerated until you are ready to use. This broth will keep for up to 1 week in the fridge. The broth also freezes well for up to 3 months.
Roasted Asparagus with Lemon Zest
Roasted asparagus are a go-to vegetable side. They take no time to prepare and are quite versatile. The addition of the fresh lemon zest brightens this dish up and makes it a good vegetable to serve to help balance out some of the richness of the risotto.
1 bunch fresh asparagus
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Trim the bottoms of the asparagus. Place them in a single layer on the lined baking sheet.
Season the asparagus with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast them in the heated oven for 12 to 14 minutes depending on their thickness.
Remove the asparagus from the oven and toss them with the fresh lemon zest. Serve immediately.
Ice Cream Bon Bons
Nothing screams Valentine’s Day more than one of those heart-shaped boxes of chocolates wrapped in red cellophane. A total cliché, yes, but chocolate candies are synonymous with love. We decided to scrap the packaging and make our chocolate bon bons with ice cream. These little treats are fun to make with any flavor ice cream you like. We went very traditional by using vanilla, chocolate and coffee ice cream. We rolled some in chopped toasted nuts, while others were rolled in chocolate cookie crumbs or covered in a dark chocolate shell. We like the different textures and flavors this combination provides. Make these bon bons a couple of days in advance to give them plenty of time to set in the freezer. Personalize these fun little frozen treats with your favorite flavors. Store the bon bons in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 weeks.
1-3 pints of ice cream of your choice
12 ounces dark chocolate chips
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1 cup chocolate cookie crumbs
1 cup chopped toasted nuts
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Use a small cookie scoop or a tablespoon to make and shape small, round ice cream scoops. Place them on the lined baking sheet and put them in the freezer for several hours or overnight.
In a microwave-safe bowl, place the chocolate chips and vegetable shortening together and heat for 30 to 40 seconds. Stir and place the bowl back into the microwave for another 25 to 35 seconds.
Remove the bowl and stir until the chocolate is smooth. Allow the chocolate to cool slightly, and then transfer it into a squeeze bottle for easier application.
Place the cookie crumbs and chopped nuts into separate shallow bowls. Line another baking sheet with parchment.
Working quickly, remove the mini-ice cream scoops from the freezer and separate into three groups. Roll one group in the cookie crumbs and another in the chopped nuts. Place these on the lined baking sheet and put them back in the freezer to keep them frozen.
Squeeze the chocolate sauce over the remaining ice cream scoops, allowing the chocolate to completely cover the scoops of ice cream. Place them back into the freezer to keep them frozen. Keep the ice cream bon bons in the freezer for several more hours before serving.
This article was originally published in the February 2021 issue of 225 magazine.