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Seared Scallops over Rice Timbales

This is an exquisite appetizer, perfect for a sit-down meal when you want to offer a light fish course before a hearty meat-based entrée perhaps. We are using sea scallops to make this, along with homemade rice timbales, or rice cakes. Although a timbale is usually made by squeezing rice into a container and tipping it out so it holds its shape, we are instead pressing the mixture down, chilling it, then using a cookie cutter to cut the rounds.

It is best to make the rice timbales the day before you make this recipe because that way they hold together better. If you do not have time for that, then make them very small instead so you can cook them without the risk of them breaking up. We usually warm them in the pan so they brown on one side, but if yours seem to be holding firmly together in there, feel free to flip them over using a wide spatula to get them golden brown on both sides. You just want to heat them up really, so they will only take a few minutes in there. Cook them while you are finishing off the scallops and sauce.

To serve these, it is best to use warm plates, then add the rice timbales, scallops and sauce, and finally a few sprigs of fresh herbs or else some microgreens (very tiny salad leaves) to add a splash of color to the plate. Serve this appetizer immediately. Everyone is sure to be impressed with this dish. If you want to make it quicker or easier, consider serving the scallops over a little bit of plain rice rather than making the rice timbales, or else you can simply serve them with some salad leaves if you want to serve an appetizer which is still delicious but perhaps slightly lighter. It depends how much time you have to make it, along with how full you want your dinner guests to be.

Garlicky Scallops with Crispy Rice Cakes
Summary: This recipe combines homemade rice timbales, or rice cakes, with seared scallops. The buttery, garlicky sauce is really good and complements both the rice and the scallops.
Cuisine: American
Recipe type: Appetizer
Serves: 4
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
For the Rice Timbales
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons diced shallot
  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons parmesan
For the Scallops and Sauce
  • 16 large sea scallops
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1½ tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • Fresh herbs or microgreens, for garnish
  1. First we are making the rice timbales.
  2. Line a baking pan with parchment paper.
  3. Heat the butter in a pot and sauté the shallots until translucent.
  4. Add the rice and stir until coated with the butter.
  5. Add the bay leaf and broth, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until absorbed.
  6. Transfer the rice to a bowl and let it cool.
  7. Now stir in the parsley, cheese and egg.
  8. Spread it over the baking pan about ½ inch thick, then cover with another sheet of parchment paper.
  9. Refrigerate it overnight.
  10. Cut 8 rounds using a cookie cutter and let them sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.
  11. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the scallops, then warm the oil in a nonstick skillet.
  12. Sauté 8 of the scallops for 2½ minutes per side, then set aside and keep warm.
  13. Repeat with the other 8 scallops.
  14. Set those scallops with the others and keep them warm.
  15. Now add the butter to the pan, turn the heat down and cook until the butter melts.
  16. Stir in the garlic and cook for 15 seconds.
  17. Put the scallops back in the pan and toss to coat.
  18. Meanwhile in another skillet, melt some butter or heat some oil.
  19. Carefully add the rice timbales and cook until they are golden brown on one side.
  20. Pile the scallops on top of the rice and let the sauce pool around the edges.
  21. Garnish with herbs or microgreens if liked.

Photo Description:

This might look complicated but it is actually quite an easy recipe. The rice timbales are prepared a day in advance so they hold together in the pan, and then you can gently warm them up while you are preparing the scallops and sauce. We like to add some fresh herbs or small salad leaves on top just to finish the dish off, and you can see we also added some minced cucumber but that is optional. You can add anything else you wish to the plate, or else swap the rice timbales for baby salad leaves if you would prefer a lighter appetizer.

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