Cider-seared scallops with sugar beet risotto

By Emily Lycopolus
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Scallop season starts in October, when the root vegetables are just coming out of the garden. This risotto is a brilliant marriage of the two. Vibrant in colour and flavour, the earthy, deep-red beets perfectly enhance the juicy sweetness of the scallops seared in a crisp, dry cider. If you’re feeling adven- turous, try cooking this with the Cranberry Rose Cider from No Boats On Sunday. The subtle flavours of the berries and rose infuse into the scallops and pair perfectly with the beet and fennel. Just make sure you save a glass to enjoy while you’re stirring!

SERVES
4

Ingredients

  • 4 small red beets
  • 8-1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 large shallots
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 small fennel bulb
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 2 cups dry cider, divided
  • 12–16 fresh Digby scallops, shelled
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Trim the ends of the beets and slice them in half. Wrap the beets tightly in a sheet of aluminum foil and roast until extremely soft and tender, 30 to 45 minutes. Remove the beets from the foil and allow to cool to room temperature. Peel off the skin and, using a box grater, finely grate the beets. It’s best to do this with gloves on as the beets will stain your fingers for days!
  3. In a large pot over medium-low heat, warm the stock.
  4. Finely mince the shallots and garlic (see page 60). Dice the fennel, reserving the tops for garnish.
  5. In a large skillet over medium heat, place the oil and two tablespoons of the butter. Add the shallots and fennel and sauté for about two minutes until just translucent. Stir in the salt and pepper, allowing the shallots and fennel to sweat. Add the rice and, stirring constantly, allow the rice to absorb the butter and oil until it turns translucent and quite glossy. This will take about two minutes. Add the beets and garlic, stirring to combine. Slowly add one cup of the cider, stirring continuously. It will bubble up. Once the rice has fully absorbed the cider, add one ladleful of stock, stirring constantly until the rice has fully absorbed the liquid and the pan is dry. Repeat until there are two to three ladlefuls of stock left, the rice is tender and soft yet still textured, the beets have almost dissolved, and the mixture is magenta. If the risotto is too goopy, let the liquid boil off and keep stirring; if it’s too crunchy, add some more stock and keep cooking until the rice is tender. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  6. In a separate pot over medium heat, pour in the remaining one cup of cider, bring to a boil and reduce for two minutes, then turn down the heat to medium-low, and whisk in the remaining two tablespoons of butter, creating a rich glaze.
  7. Pat the scallops dry. Being careful not to overcrowd the pan, add three or four scallops at a time, and sear for one to two minutes per side, spooning the glaze over top while they cook. They should be well browned and crisp on the outside and no longer translucent on the inside when cut. Transfer to a side plate. Repeat with the remaining scallops.
  8. Place the risotto back on the stovetop over medium heat, pour in one ladleful of warm stock, and stir the risotto until combined. The risotto will have congealed a bit while you were preparing the scallops.
  9. After the risotto has loosened, add half a ladle of stock and the cheese. Stir well to combine, and cook until the cheese melts. Remove from the heat and immediately transfer to a serving platter. Top with the scallops and reserved fennel tops, drizzle with any remaining cider glaze, and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and extra Parmesan if desired.

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