By Julie Tudor
Tradition may demand certain things of us, such as wearing clothes or giving children first and last names, but when it comes to holidays and celebrations, why not mix it up a bit? This year, infuse your holiday gathering with one or two fresh ideas—start a new tradition or borrow one that sounds exciting, and you’ll find you and yours will be pleased, even thrilled, with the results.
The best part about this issue’s dish is that you can make the most labor-intensive portion, the Black Olive Risotto, the night or even several days before, leaving you time to relax with your guests. More time savers: Wash the arugula and finely dice the peppers ahead of time so it's all ready to go when it comes time to serve. You can also have your fish purveyor clean the scallops for you so all you have to do is season them and toss 'em into the pan. Keep your counter clean and clear so you have room to plate each dish. Great minds need space! Allow about 40 minutes the night of the dinner to pull it all together and get a friend to help you with the final touches. The French have a term for this advanced preparation: mis en place (pronounced "MEEZ-ahn-plahs", haughty curling of upper lip optional). It means "everything in its place" and gives the chef the freedom to fly when the order is brought in—she can get right to the serious business of making the food, not frittering time away peeling potatoes or softening butter. Have it all ready to go and it gives you license to play. Whee!
SEARED SCALLOPS ON BLACK OLIVE RISOTTO CAKES WITH ARUGULA SALAD AND BELL PEPPER CONFETTI
Serves 4 (Prepare risotto at least 7 hours in advance as it needs time to chill—don’t we all?)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 medium shallots, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced & crushed
1 cup Arborio rice (available at most upscale groceries or any Italian market)
1 cup dry white wine (Pinot Grigio or whatever you’re drinking)
2 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock (homemade is best, if canned, MSG-free & low salt)
Sea salt and cayenne pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano (or other hard aged cheese)
1/2 cup pitted and roughly chopped oil cured black olives
1/4 cup unbleached flour
5 Tablespoons grapeseed oil
16 medium sea scallops (about 1 pound), cleaned, tendons
Basil-infused olive oil
Fresh arugula, stemmed, washed & dried
Balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil to taste
1/4 cup each red and yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
Heat oil in large, heavy saucepan. Add shallots and garlic, sauté till translucent, but do not brown. Add rice and stir until grains are coated with oil, sauté till rice begins to pearl. Stir in wine, stock, salt and cayenne to taste. Bring up to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook rice until it’s very creamy, approximately 18 minutes. Remove from heat, uncover and stir in cheese and olives until evenly incorporated. If you like, you may also stir in a tablespoon of butter for flavor.
Scrape rice into a 9-inch square pan lined with parchment. Level the rice mixture with a rubber spatula or the back of a spoon. Cool to room temperature, about an hour. Cover pan and refrigerate until firm and chilled, at least 7 hours.
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Use 3 1/2 inch biscuit cutter to punch 4 discs out of cooled rice (scraps can be smooshed together to form an extra disc). Lightly dust rice cakes with flour.
Heat oil in 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium heat. Slide cakes into hot pan. Do not over-heat the oil as it will spit and you’ll risk burning yourself. Cook until crisp and browned on the bottom, flip cakes over and transfer pan to center rack of oven. Bake until second side is crisp and browned, about 7 minutes.
While rice cakes are in the oven, season scallops with salt and cayenne. Heat oil in large skillet over high heat, add scallops and reduce heat to medium-high. Cook until bottoms are golden brown, turn with tongs and brown the other side. Transfer scallops to platter lined with a paper towel.
When rice cakes are sufficiently browned, transfer them
to a platter lined with a paper towel. Place one rice cake and four scallops
on each plate, drizzle with basil oil and serve with a nice arugula salad
tossed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Garnish with minced bell pepper.
I recommend serving with a lighter but provocative Spanish red wine, like
a rioja crianza.
THE LADY OF SHALLOT: Shallots are the bulb of an herb that tastes like a mild blend of garlic and onion. Sexy!
YO, ARBORIO! Arborio rice is a short, fat, Italian white rice, not unlike that lovable actor, Danny DeVito. What makes this type of rice special, and different from Mr. DeVito, is its high level of soluble starch, which releases during cooking and makes risotto creamy. To make risotto the traditional way, you would add each liquid separately, starting with wine, and stir constantly until it is absorbed before adding the next liquid. You would keep adding liquid and cooking it until it is al dente. For this recipe you want it a little overcooked, so the maximum amount of starch is released, making for easier handling later on. Since we’re just going to fry it after it’s chilled, we can dump in the liquids all at once and walk away for 18 minutes as it simmers. Sometimes breaking the rules is best for all involved.
Julie Tudor is currently writing a compilation of recipes inspired by essays and essays inspired by recipes. She lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
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