When Togue Brawn, the owner of Downeast Dayboat discovered that in addition to loving things hot and spicy, I was a seafood aficionado, she decided to send me two pounds of her Maine scallops, but made me promise not to wash them or give them any contact with water. This is because scallops will absorb great amounts of water, which spoils their texture. I so promised and they arrived in the packaging shown above. Note her attention to detail–not only the date caught, but the fishermen responsible, the name of the dayboat, and even the location of the catch! Togue is a serious fishmonger. But how would I taste them? I wanted something beyond the traditional searing in a pan and serving them with a seafood sauce. So I bought a copy of Totally Scallops by Judy Eberspaecher, examined all the recipes, and decided to make Risotto de Scallops, an Italian specialty.
We invited our friends Leslie Hall and Ellen Tatge down to a Sunday brunch. They too are seafood lovers and were responsible for matchmaking myself with Mary Jane about 36 years ago. Well, the combination of her scallops, my cooking, and the recipe choice proved to be a winner! The scallops were the best I’ve ever tasted, and they melded perfectly with the risotto. Why are Togue’s scallops so good? I’ll let her explain: “So why should you believe me when I tell you my seafood is different?The basic answer is this: I don’t operate like any other seafood business. I don’t have a warehouse full of seafood – my scallops stay on the ocean floor until you order them. On Sunday night or Monday morning I review the upcoming week’s orders and coordinate with fishermen so I can have their scallops in bags, then Fed Ex boxes within hours of harvest. Now that I’m shipping other seafood I pick that seafood up on the same day as the scallops or at the earliest the day before. In addition to my unusual operational method, it’s also important to note that Maine’s cold, pure waters produce the very best tasting seafood in the world (particularly shellfish). So to sum it up, my seafood starts out tasting better and I make sure it reaches your hands just as delicious as it was when it left mine.”
Here’s the recipe I used, and thanks, Togue, for a great brunch!
Risotto de Scallops
1/4 cup minced onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup Arborio rice
3 cups chicken or fish stock
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup Prosecco or other sparkling wine
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup tomato sauce
1/4 cup cream
1 pound bay scallops, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
Grated Parmesan cheese
In a saucepan, saute the onion in the olive oil until translucent. Add the rice and stir for 1 minute. Gradually add the stock in 1/2 cup increments, stirring constantly until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente. Reserve and keep warm.
In a frying pan, saute the garlic in the butter for 1 minute, then add the Prosecco, tomato sauce, and cream and heat to a simmer. Add the scallops, cover, and lightly simmer for 5 minutes. Transfer the scallops to the rice, mix well, and garnish with the basil and grated Parmesan.
Yield: 4 servings