This dish holds a very special place in my heart. This was the first dinner I made for Mike (EVER, the stakes were high), the first dinner I cooked for my future in-laws, a dinner I showcased to my parents when I really started to love cooking, and one I’ve shared with some of my closest friends on very special occasions. The title “brown butter” should be mouth-watering enough, but pair it with creamy risotto and fresh scallops with a lil bit of parmesan…cue the drool.
Risotto is a slow burn, so a word to the wise for those who have little patience in the kitchen: this is not a 20 minute quickie. My favorite thing about this dinner is I can take my time. This is the perfect meal to make if you’re still getting ready for your guests (or lover) to arrive, because the garlic/wine aroma will fill up the whole damn house in the best, most romantic way possible. The risotto cooks for about a half hour, but once it’s done everything else will move at a rapid speed. You can double the recipe for a group, or keep it intimate, but it’s a show-stopper and one I will always have all the feels for.
P R E P
As I mentioned previously, this is a dinner you can take your time with. Get your garlic chopped up and your wine poured, and you’re ready to sit back and enjoy the ride.
What you’ll need
- 1 medium-sized, deep pan.
- 1 small saucepan.
- 1 medium-sized sauté pan.
- 1 tablespoon of butter. This is for the risotto.
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped.
- 1 cup of Arborio rice.
- 1/2 cup of white wine. Might as well open a bottle for this dinner, right??
- 1 qt low sodium chicken broth.
- 1 cup shaved Parmesan.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil. You can alternatively do avocado or grapeseed oil.
- 1 lb scallops. I usually ask for however many scallops I want; typically I have 4 and Mike has 5. This is a little less than a lb.
- 2 cups spinach.
- 3 tablespoons of butter. This is for the brown butter.
Serving Size: 2 heavy portions
Prep Time (including Risotto): 30 minutes
Total Cooking Time: 45 min
- Set out all your pans (3 is annoying, I know. But it’ll be worth it). The largest and deepest one will be for the risotto, the medium-sized one will be for the scallops, and the smallest will be for the brown butter.
- Heat large skillet over medium heat and add butter. Once the butter is melted, add garlic and cook until fragrant (30 seconds).
- Add Arborio rice and coat completely in the garlic/butter mixture. Add the wine and just enjoy that sizzle. Optional: pour yourself your own glass. You deserve it.
- Once the rice has absorbed most of the wine, reduce heat to medium-low or low, and slowly add in 1/4-1/2 cup of chicken broth. Stir to combine, and allow the rice to just sit and soak. Once the rice has absorbed the liquid once again, add another 1/4-1/2 cup of broth. You’ll continue this for the next 20-30 minutes or so. Slow and steady wins the race.
- While the risotto is cooking, set out your scallops. Rinse, and pay dry. You want these boys to be VERY dry when you cook them. Sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides, and set aside until you’re ready to cook them. They’ll cook for no more than 3 minutes, so you won’t make these until everything else is ready.
- Once you get close to the end of the chicken broth container and the rice has doubled in size, take a little taste test. The rice should be al dente, soft, with good flavor. If it hasn’t gotten soft enough yet, you can always use water as an alternative to the broth towards the end. I find that I need a little salt around this point, but this is where you can taste for yourself and see if/what it needs anything. Once it’s to your liking, remove from heat and add in the parmesan. Combine until the cheese is all melty.
- I can’t stand when dinner gets cold (who does?). My advice is to scoop the risotto into the bowls you’ll be using, and place them in either the oven or the microwave to stay warm while you’re cooking everything else.
- Wipe the risotto-used pan with a paper towel, and do a quick spritz of Pam, or a drizzle of olive oil. Bring the heat to medium and add in the spinach. Season with salt and pepper, and cook until it’s wilted. Set aside.
- Now it’s time for the scallops! Pre-heat your medium-sized skillet to high heat and add the olive oil. Once it’s hot, add in the scallops, ensuring that they don’t crowd each other. Continue to cook on high heat for 1 minute per side, until it gets that golden crust. Remove from heat.
- While the scallops are cooking, melt the 3 tablespoons of butter in the smallest skillet. Once it’s melted, continue to stir until the butter gets foamy and takes on a carmel color. This should only take a couple minutes, so make sure you don’t burn the butter.
- Remove your risotto bowls from the oven/microwave and top with the scallops. Add in the spinach around the scallops. Carefully pour the brown butter evenly over the scallops.
- Top with any additional parmesan and a sprinkle of flake salt (my personal fave). Serve warm and enjoy!
POST COOKING NOTES
- My biggest takeaway every time I make this is how fast the last 10 minutes of cooking go. I go from sipping on my wine, enjoying the company of my guests, to shooing them out while I quickly wrap up the rest of the steps. Make sure you pace yourself, and remember that you 1) want everything to stay warm, and 2) scallops don’t take long. The final thing you should be doing is the brown butter.
- You can omit the spinach, or even add in mushrooms or another veggie. It’s a pain to have a FOURTH pan, which is why I use the same risotto pan for the spinach, but it is an extra step that can be annoying. I have the patience because by that point I’m halfway through a bottle of wine, so I’m feeling fairly chipper.
- Risotto is something you can re-heat, but scallops are a one-night only debut. If you do choose to reheat the risotto, add a little water before you pre-heat so that it adds more moisture.