Welcome to Fall: Chanterelle Risotto with Seared Scallops

I know I tend to wax poetic about eating local and farmer’s markets. But, you’ll have to bear with me yet again, because after a few weeks away from the market, I stopped in to Seattle’s University Village Saturday market last weekend and I was just giddy. I love the market in spring with all the berries and other early crops… it’s like life after a long winter without much local and fresh. I love the market in the summer with all the plump heirloom tomatoes, piles of chiles of various shapes and colors, mounds of sweet corn, stalls bursting with Dahlias and Sunflowers, peaches ripened on the tree.

But, I have to say, I wasn’t prepared for how much I’d love the market in the fall. Dummy me hadn’t really connected the whole idea of fall harvest with a market simply bursting with the most gorgeous squashes, apples, pears, mushrooms, herbs and so much more my little head was spinning. Sadly, I only had enough time to grab a few things before I had to be somewhere else… but I still managed a few happy finds… a luscious melon, some hardy kiwi (have you seen these little things? They look like a grape but taste like a kiwi fruit! You just pop them in your mouth and chew them whole!), and, sigh, a half pound(!) of golden chanterelle mushrooms. Welcome to fall at the market.

I love chanterelles, but I had never cooked with them before myself. I knew immediately what I was going to do with these… a creamy chanterelle risotto and some seared scallops. A meal that tastes complicated, but really is quite simple once you get the hang of it (and if you don’t mind cleaning lots of different pans).

This risotto recipe is adapted from the Porcini Risotto recipe in Tom Colicchio’s Craft of Cooking. That recipe uses dried porcinis, soaked in chicken stock to make a mushroom broth, and then proceeds as almost all other risotto recipes… popping the rice on high heat, and then slowly integrating more and more liquid until the rice reaches that perfectly luscious bite. Since I was working with fresh mushrooms, I used some for the broth, and seared the rest in with the scallops to top off the dish.

Since the risotto takes quite a bit of attention while it cooks, I decided to pair it with a simpler vegetable – a delicata squash that I simply cut in half, seeded, and baked for about an hour before serving with a quick plum and balsamic reduction. I’ll write more on that in a later post.

Chanterelle Risotto with Seared Scallops
(adapted from tom Colicchio’s Craft of Cooking Porcini risotto recipe)
Serves 2

4 to 6 large sea scallops
1/4 lb of chanterelles
3 cups chicken stock
olive oil
1 T butter
1 small onion, diced
1 cup arborio rice
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 t fresh thyme
salt and pepper to taste

Rinse the scallops and pat dry. Lightly sprinkle with salt and freshly cracked pepper on both sides. Cover and set aside.

Lightly brush any dirt and grit from the mushrooms. Don’t wash them with water. Just trim off any parts you can’t get clean like the tough parts of the stem. Chop about 1/3 cup of the mushrooms for the broth. Slice the remaining mushrooms lengthwise, and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken stock to a light boil. Pour about 1 cup of the broth into a bowl and add the chopped mushrooms. Cover both broths and set aside.

Add a splash of olive oil and the butter to a heavy bottomed, high sided skillet over medium heat. When the butter starts to foam, add the chopped onion and cook until it softens and becomes translucent. Add the rice to the pan, and stir well. When the rice begins to look a bit translucent around the edges, add the wine. Stir constantly until the wine is absorbed. Add a half cup of the remaining chicken broth, and continue to stir and simmer. When the rice is almost dry, add another half cup of broth. When it dries again, add the mushroom stock (with the mushrooms in it). Then, continue stirring and simmering, adding a little of the remaining chicken broth at a time until it is all absorbed. Add the thyme, and a bit of salt and pepper. The rice should be tender at this point. If not, add a bit more chicken stock, or wine or water until it reaches the desired consistency, tasting every once and a while to adjust the seasoning.

Heat a heavy bottomed skillet with a splash of olive oil on high heat until just before the smoking point. Add the scallops to the pan. Add the remaining chanterelles to the pan, making sure that they are on the bottom of the pan and not piled on top of the scallops. Sear for 2 minutes, avoiding the urge to touch either the scallops or the mushrooms. Then, flip and sear on the other side for 3 minutes. While they are searing, you can begin to plate the risotto. When the scallops are done searing, serve immediately by topping the risotto with the scallops and mushrooms.

If you like, you can add a bit more wine to the pan, and heat on medium for a minute or two to make a little more sauce to drizzle over the scallops. However, you’ll want to be quick about this, as the scallops will cool quickly.

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