The flavors of a great gin and tonic are a perfect match for this scallop risotto! The spices and botanicals in the gin pair great with both seafood and this classic creamy rice dish. I really went all out and put anything and everything you might put into a gin and tonic into this rice dish. Cucumbers, chili peppers, lime, and lots of mint!
The inspiration for this recipe
Gin and tonic has been my drink of choice recently, so much so that I have been curious about highlighting the flavors in a meal. I realized it would be a great pairing with scallops because the sweet and slightly briny flavor in the scallops lends itself to the fresh lime and cucumber flavors I like in a good G+T. I cooked some risotto in gin and tonic, and finished it with mint, cucumber and lime, then topped it with the perfectly seared scallops.
Starting the gin and tonic risotto
To start the risotto, cook some onion and chili peppers in olive oil for about 10 minutes, then add the rice and cook another 5. This stage of cooking the rice in the oil is key to a great risotto.
Next stir in the gin. This would be when you add wine in a traditional risotto. Gin first, then some lime and tonic. You may notice I was also making a gin and tonic alongside the scallop risotto. The risotto takes just the right amount of time to enjoy the drink as it cooks.
The slow risotto process
Now it’s time to simmer and slowly add chicken stock. Add it in about 1 cup amounts every time it is looking kind of dry. Keep stirring. I know some recipes say you have to stir for 30 minutes straight. I think as long as you are stirring about 50% of the time the risotto will end up creamy and delicious.
Finish the gin and tonic risotto
When the rice is just about tender, add in some parmesan cheese, mint, and yogurt.
Cooking the scallops
When working with frozen scallops, it is important to let them dry fully. Thaw them on paper towels, changing the towels occasionally to make sure they are dry! Cook them in a really hot pan in order to get the sear.
Serving the gin and tonic scallop risotto
Put the risotto on the plate, then top with the scallops. Garnish with some crispy shallots, chopped mint, cucumber, and lime. I did not include a recipe for crispy shallots. You can use store bought or try this recipe.
The herbs and spices in the gin really came through in the final dish, but in just a subtle enough way that they were there, but not overpowering. The cucumber, mint, and lime made this risotto feel lighter and almost refreshing instead of heavy.
Twists on this recipe
If you want this to be less spicy, you can use fresno chilis for the color, or just leave the chilis out. If you want it more spicy, you can keep the seeds in the peppers.
Scallops are pretty expensive these days, so I only cook with them when I get some on sale. You could do this recipe with shrimp instead or any other seafood or fish!
Gin and Tonic Scallop Risotto
- olive oil
- 1 small onion diced
- 3 thai chilis seeds removed and minced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1.25 cups risotto
- 2 limes
- 1/4 cup gin
- 1 cup tonic
- 1 quart chicken or veggie stock
- 1/2 cup greek yogurt
- 1/4 cup grated parm
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint plus more for garnish
- 1 small cucumber sliced
- 1 pound scallops
- crispy onions or shallots
- Cook the onion and chilis in some oil for about 10 minutes. Add the rice and cook another 5 minutes to coat with the oil. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add the lime and then the gin and stir to combine, scraping the pan if necessary to get any browned bits off the bottom. Cook 2 minutes. Add the tonic and continue to stir.
- Add about 1 cup of the stock and stir well, continuing to gradually add stock, stir, and cook as needed for about a half hour, until the rice is tender. If you run out of stock during this process, but the rice is still undercooked, continue with water.
- Remove from heat and add the yogurt, parm, and mint. Stir, taste, and season with salt and pepper as needed.
- Meanwhile, sear the scallops in a hot pan to brown on both sides, about a minute or two on each side.
- Serve the risotto and top with the scallops. Add lime wedges, sliced cucumber, crispy shallots, and mint.