There are few things more luxurious than a delicious meal of scallops, wild mushrooms, and pasta in a cream sauce…and having the time to enjoy it, because it’s so easy to make. Adding Cognac to the sauce provides depth of flavor, plus it makes for a nice sipping spirit during your meal.
Cream and Cognac Scallops with Orzo (serves 4)
½ pound fresh bay scallops (can be substituted with larger sea scallops, though the flavor is not as sweet)
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups orzo
1 cup fresh oyster mushrooms, chopped (white button mushrooms can be substituted)
½ cup Cognac (V.S. or V.S.O.P.)
¼ cup shallots, finely chopped
¼ cup Asiago cheese, grated
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon cracked pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 large sprig fresh rosemary
Salt and pepper to season
Chives for garnish
Heat a medium pot of water until boiling and add salt (about ¼cup); it should taste like sea water. Add the orzo and cook for 8-10 minutes until it’s al dente. Drain the water, add a little olive oil, toss lightly so that it doesn’t stick, and set orzo aside.
Place scallops between dry paper towels and pat dry. Season both sides of the dry scallops with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Heat a large high-walled skillet on medium heat and melt the butter. Place the seasoned scallops in the pan in an even layer and let them cook for about a minute per side (if using larger sea scallops, cooking time is close to double) until lightly browned. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Using the remaining butter in the pan, add the shallots and cook until translucent, about 5-6 minutes. Add the chopped mushrooms and cook for a few minutes until they’ve reduced in size and excess liquid has cooked off. Remove the pan from the heat and carefully add in the Cognac. Replace onto the stovetop. The mixture will bubble and steam for a minute or two as the alcohol evaporates. Add the salt, pepper, and whole sprig of rosemary, allowing the liquid to reduce by about a quarter.
Lower the heat to medium low and pour in the heavy cream. When the cream warms to a low simmer, remove the rosemary and add the grated Asiago cheese in small handfuls, stirring constantly so that the mixture thickens evenly. When the sauce easily coats the back of a spoon, add the cooked orzo and mix until the pasta is fully coated and has the consistency of risotto. Add the seared scallops and fresh lemon juice, and stir mixture for another minute or two to ensure the scallops are cooked all the way through. Remove from the heat and sprinkle with chives before serving.