Do-ahead dinner” brings to mind Sandra Lee’s “skills” with a microwave and a can opener, but a true do-ahhead diner can require at least a day of advance planning to execute. The idea is to get everything ready for a short, intense period of a la minute cooking to produce a plate of tasty food that isn’t just an assemblage of reheated components.
I had to work out just such a meal for last Saturday evening. Our friend Maggie, she of the marvelous macarons, was flying in on Saturday morning to catch the Tim Minchin concert with us that evening. From her arrival until our return from the show I would have no time to do any kitchen prep, so everything had to be ready before she landed. In addition, we would be returning very late in the evening, so the meal couldn’t take too long to prepare.
I knew that the Ideas in Food six minute risotto would be one of the components. While reviewing the recipe, I saw their recipe for twice-cooked scallops, and realized that the two would make the perfect dish for the occasion.
I bought a dozen U10 scallops the day before.
I soaked them in a 5% brine for ten minutes, patted them dry, and rolled then in plastic wrap, four to a bundle.
I put each log in a vacuum seal bag and cooked them for half an hour at 50 °C.
After chilling them in an ice bath, I let them rest in the fridge until needed. I also shelled, blanched, and peeled about a cup of fava beans and stored them in the fridge in lightly salted ice water.
Lastly, I weighed out 300 grams of arborio rice and soaked it overnight in 900 grams of lobster stock with two cloves of garlic, a sprig of thyme, and a bay leaf for some extra aromatic emphasis. Everything was ready for the next night.
When we returned from the concert I took care of the most important order of business first, pouring a glass of riesling for everyone. I strained the stock off the rice, adding it to a pan to heat up and tossing the aromatics. While a skillet and saucepan heated up, I minced a large shallot and a bunch of chives. I sweated the shallots in some olive oil, added the rice and stirred to coat, then dumped in the now-boiling stock.
While I gave the rice an occasional stir, I seared the scallops in olive oil on one side, flipped them over, and poached them in two tablespoons of butter.
While the scallops rested, I finished the risotto by stirring in the favas until they were heated through, added a splash of saffron water, then stirred in a big glug of lemon-infused Sicilian olive oil. I plated the risotto in the center, sprinkled some chives over the top, and added the scallops.
The scallops were sweet and perfectly cooked, the lemony risotto was the ideal accompaniment. And the whole meal came together in less than twenty minutes. I’ve never served in the military, but this was a classic example of “prior proper preparation prevents piss poor performance.”
And Tim Minchin? Were you there? He killed.