Scallop Risotto

by Joe Lambert on October 14, 2009

Scallop Appetizer
Chef Jason sat with me recently and we talked about a favorite on Gabrielle’s menu: the Scallop Risotto. A risotto is often thought to be and expression of love. If you slowly and carefully coax this little darling, you’ll be rewarded with an amazing creaminess that will get you counting the days before you repeat it. The scallop risotto appetizer, as well as the entrée portion at Gabs, is just that type of cozy comfortable experience. It’s also a very gratifying dish to prepare. To add what he calls “cultural balance” to the risotto, Chef Jay adds a touch of miso paste to the finished risotto. Miso is a japanese seasoning typically made of fermented soybeans and salt, but can also be made of rice or barley. You can find miso at asian markets or specialty food stores. With layers of color, texture and flavor this appetizer is the signature expression of quality and presentation Gabrielle’s is well known for serving.

The scallops are the easy part, but they will make you a star. When you serve them they will command attention with a royal appeal and magnificent posture. But here’s an important tip when shopping for scallops: you must make sure the scallops are “dry” as opposed to “wet” scallops. What is a dry scallop? Dry scallops are wild caught scallops shucked at sea and immediately frozen (unless of course you’re lucky enough to receive your seafood fresh daily). They contain no chemicals or added water. Wet scallops, by contrast, are soaked in sodium triphosphate (STP) prior to the freezing process. STP causes the scallops to absorb moisture, so they weigh more, cost you more and will release their water during cooking, inhibiting caramelization. They are white in color. Dry scallops are slightly vanilla in color and, as you might have guessed, have no extra weight. If you take away nothing else from here, remember this: get dry scallops only.

For the finishing sauce, you can buy sweet chili sauce and fish sauce at any fine gourmet market (Fromage, in Old Saybrook, and Olive Oyl’s in Essex are good options). Chef Jason prefers the Three Crabs brand of fish sauce.

Scallop Appetizer 2

Scallop Risotto

Serves 4


  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp miso paste
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 green onion sliced


  • 10-12 dry sea scallops
  • vegetable oil
  • salt and pepper

Napa Slaw

  • 1/4 head of Napa cabbage
  • 1/4 head of green cabbage
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 2 tbsp cilantro

Ginger Soy Dressing (makes about 3 cups)

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp mirin
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 cups of vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil

Sweet Chili Sauce

  • sweet chili sauce
  • orange Juice
  • lemon juice
  • lime juice
  • fish Sauce

Plan ahead: you will want to have the scallops ready when the risotto is finished as the risotto is best served just as it is completed. Make the ginger soy dressing, the Napa slaw and the sweet chili sauce first (these can be done a few days ahead if you choose) and then preheat your oven to 500˚F for the scallops. You will also want to have the chicken stock lightly simmering, covered in a saucepan on the stove.

Gently sauté the onion in the butter until translucent. Add the rice and stir for a minute or two to coat it and toast it a bit. Add the white wine and deglaze until the wine is almost evaporated. Next, add the chicken stock (about a cup and a half at a time) and stir often. This will allow the Arborio to slowly develop its rich creamy texture. Continue adding the rest of the chicken stock, about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring each time until the stock is incorporated into the rice (you may not need all of the stock). The risotto is done when the individual grains of rice are not at all crunchy, but still slightly firm (they should not be mushy). At this point, fold in the miso paste, the remaining butter, the Parmesan cheese, and a sprinkle of green onion.

Season your scallops with salt and pepper. Heat your pan over medium high, add a tablespoon of vegetable oil, add the scallops and sear for about 2 minutes, caramelizing until golden. Flip them over and place the pan in the 500˚F oven to for another 2 minutes. Squeeze the juice of a quarter of a lemon on them to brighten the flavor of the scallops.

For the slaw, shred or julienne one quarter head of Napa cabbage, one quarter head of green cabbage, and one carrot. Add a small handful of coarsely chopped cilantro and whisk about 3 tbsp of the ginger soy dressing (below) together with the julienne vegetables.

To make the ginger soy dressing, combine ingredients and mix well. This will keep refrigerated for a long time and can be used for many other salads and dishes. If you want to make less you can scale back the amounts a little. It won’t hurt to estimate the amounts if you keep to the basic proportions.

Sweeten the chili sauce with a few tablespoons of it with orange juice, lemon and lime juice and just a hint of fish sauce.

To plate the dish, place a nice helping of the risotto in the middle of your plate and sprinkle the sliced green onion on top, and maybe a few slivers on the plate. Then place 3 of the caramelized scallops on the risotto and wedge the slaw between the scallops or simply dress it up with a style of your own. Add a few full leaves of cilantro, then drizzle the plate with the sweet chili sauce and waste no time enjoying your efforts.

Just one last thing to do. Share your comments here at and get ready to make our next item. Pizza dough. Buttermilk rises to the top.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

nina October 29, 2009 at 11:39 am

That is one beautiful plate of food and a lovely photograph!!!


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