Day 9 of 31 days of pumpkin and I am psyched. I chowed down on this dish after photographing it and it was delicious. It’s been a long time since I’ve made risotto. It’s a labor of love kind of recipe that demands one’s full attention, so I made this while the kids were at school today. And then, in a quiet house with the hazy, long shadows of an early afternoon in fall, I savored every last bite. Then a pair of Blue Angels screamed overhead breaking one reverie and ushering in a new one.
For this recipe, I use the smaller Bay Scallops, rather than the larger Sea Scallops. Either could be appropriate here, but the Bay Scallops were $9.99/lb as opposed to the $19.99/lb Sea Scallops, so I decided to go for the lower stakes. I wasn’t disappointed. Yesterday, I read a blog post by Debi Shawcross on How to Perfectly Pan Sear Scallops and I took her advice to heart. Definitely check out her post. The key takeaway for me was to try to get as much of the water out of the scallops as possible because water is the enemy of browning.
You can watch this video by Ming Tsai who demonstrates how to sear the perfect Sea Scallop. Or read my blog post about Searing the Perfect Scallop in an All-Clad d5 Sautée Pan.
Many recipes for pumpkin risotto call for using fresh pumpkin rather than canned. I decided to try it using canned for the obvious time-saving factor. The pumpkin flavor in this recipe was pretty subtle. I would have to try it again with fresh pumpkin for a true comparison, but this shortcut did not seem to compromise flavor as far as I can tell.
Pumpkin Risotto with Scallops and Thyme
5 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 medium onion, chopped finely
1 1/2 cups uncooked Arborio risotto
1 Tbsp fresh Thyme leaves separated from stems
1 cup canned pumpkin purée
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1 tsp salt
3-4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 lb Bay Scallops
1. You will need three pots on the stove at the same time: one for the risotto, one for the pumpkin and one for the chicken stock. Heat the chicken stock on low in a medium saucepan. You will be adding the warm chicken stock to the risotto, one ladle full at a time. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 1 Tbsp of butter and add 1 Tbsp of the chopped onion. In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, melt 3 Tbsp of butter and add the rest of the onion. Sautée the onion gently until translucent. Do not brown the onions. In the medium saucepan, add the fresh thyme and toss until fragrant, about one minute. To this medium saucepan, add the pumpkin, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Stir well and then add two ladles full of chicken stock. Stir and allow to heat gently. Reduce heat to low.
2. In the large stockpot, where the onions have softened, add the Arborio rice and toss to coat completely with butter. If necessary, add a bit of olive oil. Allow the rice to start to brown, about 2 minutes. Add a ladle full of chicken stock and stir almost continuously while the stock is absorbed by the rice. If you step away from this dish while it is cooking the risotto will become gooey and gloppy, so stick close by the stove and stir every 20 seconds. After each ladle full of stock is absorbed, add another one. After 10 minutes, stir in the pumpkin mixture which has been heating on the stove. Incorporate it completely and add a little bit more stock. Continue stirring and adding stock until a total of about 18 minutes have passed. It is better to stop when the rice is al dente, then to wait until it is completely soft.
3. About 5 minutes before the risotto is finished, you will need to prepare the scallops. They should be patted and squeezed dry and seasoned with salt. Then heat a medium sautée pan over medium-high heat. Melt 1 Tbsp of butter and allow butter to brown just slightly. Add garlic and a sautée until fragrant, about one minute. Be careful not to burn the garlic. Add scallops to the pan sautée on one side for about 2-3 minutes or until browned. Flip them and sautée for another minute or so. You really don’t want to overcook scallops. They’ll get rubbery if you do.
3. When risotto is al dente, remove pot from heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese. Cover and let rest for 2 minutes. Spoon into bowls. Top with scallops. Garnish with fresh thyme leaves and shave a bit of additional Parmesan cheese on top.