With holiday season quickly approaching (crazy, right?), I thought it would be fun to share a few recipes that were a bit more elegant and fit for a holiday party. Even though I often make scallops and risotto for weeknight dinners, I think it’s also sophisticated enough for special occasions. Instead of turning to Mushroom Risotto, my go-to risotto dish, I wanted to try something very different.
Often used for food coloring or flavoring, squid ink gives food a beautiful black color without adding a pungent fishy flavor. It smells of the sea and is a little salty, but the flavor is mild enough that you can easily pair it with non-seafood items. Since I can’t find squid ink in my local grocery stores, I always order it online.
Since squid ink doesn’t have a strong seafood flavor, I substituted seafood stock for the chicken stock that I normally use in my risottos. It brings a few more flavors of the sea to the risotto, making it the perfect accompaniment to the seared diver scallops.
In order for this risotto to be truly striking, it’s vital that the risotto is jet-black. I’ve seen several squid ink risotto dishes that are gray, which looks super-unappetizing.
In order to get this gorgeous black color, I added squid ink at two different points during the cooking process. Most of the ink was added in the beginning, right after adding the dry white wine. The risotto was black, but still not the jet-black color I was looking for. I added a smaller spoonful of ink at the very end, just as the rice was absorbing the last ladle of seafood stock.
You don’t need much squid ink though. For 3 cups of cooked risotto, I only needed about 1 ½ teaspoons.
To prepare the scallops, carefully wash each scallop with cold water to remove any sand and grit. Using your fingers, remove the small smooth muscle on the side of the scallop. This small muscle is a little tougher and will have fibers that run against the grain from the rest of the scallop. If you forget to remove this muscle, don’t worry. It’s a little tougher, but safe to eat.
After removing the side muscle, I usually rinse the scallop again with cold water and run my fingers over the entire scallop to make sure that I don’t feel any sand or grit.
Once the scallop has been thoroughly cleaned, pat it dry using a clean kitchen towel or paper towels. A wet scallop will steam, rather than sear in the pan. At this point, it’s a good idea to season them with a little salt and pepper. Since scallops are naturally salty, I usually go a bit light on the salt.
When you’re ready to sear the scallops, heat the oil and butter in a pan over high heat. Once the fat begins to smoke, place the scallops into the pan, making sure there is ample space between the scallops. Crowding the pan will prevent the scallops from getting a beautiful golden sear. The first scallops should sizzle when placed in the pan. If it doesn’t, allow the pan to heat up more before adding the rest.
Once the scallops are in the pan, don’t move them. I know you want to peek to see if they instantly turn a golden brown, but resist that urge. Sear the scallop for about 1 ½ minutes per side. When done, the scallops should have a nice golden crust, but remain translucent in the center.
If this squid ink risotto isn’t your thing, just head over to my Wingless Buffalo Risotto instead!
Black Squid Ink Risotto with Seared Scallops
For the Risotto:
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 shallot diced, medium
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 1 cup arborio rice
- ⅓ cup dry white wine
- 1 tsp squid ink or more for a richer color
- 3 cups seafood stock or vegetable stock
- salt and pepper, to taste
For the Scallops:
- 1½ lbs sea scallops thoroughly rinsed and dried
- 2 tsp unsalted butter
- 2 tsp olive oil
- salt and pepper, to taste
- fried sage leaves for garnish optional
- In a medium saucepan, bring the seafood stock to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to low to keep warm.
- Heat the butter and olive oil over medium-high heat in a dutch oven or large sauté pan. Add the chopped shallot and garlic and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the arborio rice to the pan and stir to coat with butter (add more butter if every grain is not coated). Cook the rice until it becomes translucent with an opaque center, about 2 minutes.
- Deglaze the pan with the white wine. Allow the wine to simmer until it has completely reduced. Stir in 1 teaspoon of squid ink. Ladle about ½ cup to 1 cup of the hot seafood stock into the saucepan at a time, allowing the rice to completely absorb the liquid before adding another ladle. Stir almost constantly.
- After about 15 minutes, start tasting the rice for doneness. The rice should be served al dente - with just a little bit of bite. When the rice is almost done, add additional squid ink for a richer color, if desired. Salt and pepper to taste and serve with the seared scallops.
To Sear the Scallops:
- Start preparing the scallops about 5 minutes before the risotto is done cooking.
- Add the butter and oil to a sauté pan over high heat. Season the scallops with salt and pepper, to taste.
- Once the butter mixture begins to smoke, gently add the scallops, making sure there is ample room between the scallops (cook the scallops in batches if nessessary). Sear each scallop for 1½ minutes per side, or until the scallops have developed a golden-brown crust but remain translucent in the center. Serve immediately with about 1 cup of squid ink risotto.