Now, don't get me wrong; I love slaving away all day on terribly over-complicated and tedious recipes, but special little weeknight meals are my favorites. The speed with which they get on the table is due to simple but sophisticated flavor combinations and quick cooking techniques not employed because they are simple and quick, but because they cannot be improved upon with complication.
The recipe is adapted (based on what I had around) from Suzanne Goin's beautiful and much-blogged-about cookbook Sunday Suppers at Lucques. Although this is only the second time I've cooked from it (I made the yellow tomato gazpacho at the height of summer tomatoes and it was so good), I can't recommend it enough. The recipes are organized not only into lovely four course meals but also into seasons, based on what's typically available from a farmer's market that time of year. So cool. As much as I adore a scallop, the chanterelle mushrooms are the true stars of this dish. I found these gorgeous blue-foot chanterelles at Central Market for the bargain price of $40 a pound. [To minimize the choking risk, I suggest you resist sharing this fact with your husband after he mentions how delicious they are. Fortunately, it dislodged quickly and dinner resumed.] Fear not, you only need 6 or 7 bucks worth for this dish.
Not a very long time ago, I would only eat scallops in restaurants. I had fears about cooking them at home, for some reason I can't remember (so, not a very good one). Eventually, I bit the bullet and never looked back. They can be pricey, which is what makes them a little special occasiony, but remember that Living Social deal that came around a couple of weeks ago, $10 for $20 to spend at Whole Foods? Bought me a pound of gorgeous fresh U10 sea scallops for just over the coupon. And really... two-thirds of a pound would have been the right amount. I am so easily seduced by never-frozen seafood.
I paired the scallops with this fantastic champagne risotto (from an old Bon Appetit) and broiled Brussels sprouts. The risotto is pretty much perfect; you can really taste the champagne, and it imparts such elegance to a really simple recipe. Ideal for a dinner party. Regarding the Brussels sprouts... look. They're just delicious. Please, please just buy a little sack and try them this way. If you insist you still don't like them, I will not bother you any further (but secretly think you're really strange and still serve them to you anyway while pretending I forgot).
The quickest way to do this is to prepare the chanterelle Sherry sauce first, then broil the Brussels sprouts while the risotto cooks, searing the scallops last.
1 tbsp unsalted butter
~ 6 nice chanterelle mushrooms, lightly brushed free of any dirt (don't wash them, it ruins the texture), sliced
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, stripped from the stems
1/2 cup scallions, white part only, finely chopped
1/4 cup dry Sherry
2 tbsp low sodium chicken stock
2 tbsp heavy cream
~ 12 medium misunderstood Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small shallot, minced
heaping 1/2 cup arborio rice
1 cup (yes, a whole cup) dry Champagne (in the interest of full disclosure, I used a Spanish cava, which I prefer and consume in great volumes)
~ 2 cups low sodium chicken stock
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp unsalted butter
2/3-1 lb large sea scallops
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the foam subsides, add the mushrooms, thyme, and scallions. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Saute, tossing often, until the mushrooms are browned and tender. Add the Sherry and boil for a minute or two, then add the chicken stock and reduce by half. Stir in the cream and allow to simmer for a minute or until thickened, then turn off the heat.
Toss the Brussels sprouts with a drizzle of olive oil and good pinch of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Arrange them cut side down on a baking sheet. Preheat the broiler on low. When ready, broil the Brussels sprouts until deep golden brown and delicious, then flip them all and broil until the other side is also golden brown and delicious (about 10 minutes on each side in my oven).
Pour the chicken stock for the risotto into a small pot and bring to a simmer. Melt the butter in a small heavy saucepan. When the foam subsides, saute the garlic and shallots until aromatic, then add the rice and saute for another two minutes. Add the Champagne and allow to be absorbed completely, stirring often. Add the chicken stock a half cup at a time, allowing each addition to be fully absorbed before adding more. Test the rice for doneness, it should take about 20 minutes. When it's ready, stir in the Parmesan, taste, and adjust the seasoning.
Scallop time! Rewarm the chanterelle Sherry sauce. Melt yet another tablespoon of butter in another heavy skillet. Rinse and thoroughly pat the scallops dry. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, then sear them for a minute or two on each side, depending on the thickness. Plunk them into the sauce and toss well to coat.
Serve the scallops and mushrooms over a heap of Champagne risotto with glorious delicious roasted Brussels sprouts alongside. Celebrate all of the little things.
Serves 2, takes about 45 minutes.