Pumpkin and Porcini Risotto with Scallops

Pumpkin and Porcini Risotto with Scallops

The thing about making risotto – and what keeps most people from attempting it themselves at home – is the TLC that’s required to turn the raw rice into it’s characteristic creamy, unctuous texture.  Yes, my recipe does require a good amount of stirring as well, but the addition of the pumpkin puree not only ensures the proper risotto consistency, but also boosts the nutrition of the dish and reduces the need for extra butter and heavy cream.  The porcini mushrooms and sage highlight the earthy flavour of the pumpkin, and the seared scallops are the perfect decadent garnish.  Often I find that the risottos served at restaurants are a tad on the bland side – this one, most definitely, is not.

Ingredients

3 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock (you may not need all of it)
½ cup dried porcini mushrooms, chopped into smaller pieces (use kitchen scissors)
3 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
2 shallots, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp chili flakes
½ tsp cumin, ground
1 cup Arborio rice
1 splash dry white wine, optional (but I do suggest having some wine handy to sip while you make this recipe, the stirring does take a minute)
½ cup pumpkin puree, plain
2 tsp sage leaves, fresh, finely chopped
1 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
1 tbsp oil (canola or grapeseed)
8-12 scallops, size U 20, rinsed in cold water and dried well with paper towels

Directions

  1. In a small saucepan, add the stock and porcini.  Bring to a boil over high heat, and then
  2. reduce heat to low (just so it stays hot).
  3. Season both sides of scallops with sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper.  Reserve in refrigerator until cooking time.
  4. Heat a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat.  Once heated, add 2 tablespoons of the butter and allow it to melt and foam.  Add the shallots, garlic, chili flakes and cumin.  Stirring regularly, cook until shallots are softened and translucent.
  5. Add rice and stir well to coat and toast for 1 minute.  Add the splash of wine and stir to incorporate until evaporated.  Reduce heat to medium-low and add the first ladle-full of stock (mushroom pieces and all).  Stir consistently to gently coax the starch from the grains of rice, adding stock 1 ladle-full at a time after each is mostly absorbed.  Repeat this process for approximately 25 minutes – this is why I suggested earlier that you have some wine handy for sipping with this recipe.
  6. Once the rice is almost fully cooked and tender (approximately 20 minutes later), stir in the pumpkin puree and sage.  The texture should now be creamy and velvety.  This is also the time to preheat another non-stick pan over high heat for cooking the scallops.
  7. Season the scallops with salt and pepper on both sides.  Add remaining butter and oil to the pan and once smoking hot add the scallops, making sure they’re not touching each other.  Sear the scallops for 1 minute (or less) per side until well golden brown on both and translucent in the centre.  Note: you must also keep an eye on the risotto while you cook the scallops.
  8. Turn off the heat on the risotto, add the grated Parmesan and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately garnished with the seared scallops.