How to Make Ris’s Scallop Margarita

As a young girl, chef Ris Lacoste visited Texas and was introduced to the “cup of stuff,” a layered dip of sour cream, avocado, beans, and rice served with tortilla chips. Lacoste has been serving her fancier version, a scallop margarita, since her days at Georgetown’s 1789. It’s now one of the most popular appetizers at her restaurant, Ris, in DC’s West End.

Lacoste’s take on the cup of stuff incorporates new layers: scallops mixed with lime and cilantro, oranges marinated in ancho-chili purée, jalapeño and roasted poblano peppers, and a scoop of tequila ice. It’s served in a martini glass with a salted rim, with tortilla chips on the side. Says Lacoste: “The best part is at the end, the final touch”—when the tequila ice has melted and the citrus juices have combined with the sour cream and olive oil at the bottom of the glass. “You drink that juice, and it’s really quite sensational.”

Scallop Margarita With Tequila Ice

Serves 6

Make the tequila ice:

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1½ cups freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon lime zest
½ ounce tequila

Combine the sugar and water in a small heavy-bottomed sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat and add the lime juice, zest, and tequila. Stir well and pour into a flat container that allows a ¾-inch layer of liquid. Freeze for at least 6 hours. Pass a fork throughout the ice about every hour to loosen the mixture and help create ice flakes.

Make the ancho-chili purée and marinate the oranges:

2 ancho chilies, stemmed and seeded
1 cup orange juice
2 seedless oranges, sectioned
¼ cup olive oil (use the same kind you use in the assembly instructions below)
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place the chilies in a small saucepan and cover with orange juice. Heat gently over low heat until the chilies are soft. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Purée the orange juice and chilies in a blender and pass through a sieve.

Mix the orange sections with 1 tablespoon of the ancho purée and the ¼ cup of olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep covered in the refrigerator until ready to use. The extra ancho purée can be frozen in small packets for later use.

Assemble the scallop margarita:

1 pound fresh, dry scallops, cut into ½-inch chunks
1 small red onion, julienned
½ bunch cilantro, leaves picked and kept covered with a damp cloth
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely julienned
1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1 poblano chili, roasted (blister it over a gas-stove flame), peeled, seeded, and julienned
2 scallions, thinly chopped
1 avocado, cubed
¾ cup of the best extra-virgin olive oil you have (Lacoste uses Laudemio)
3 limes, 2 cut into 6 rounds, 1 for squeezing
1 cup sour cream
Kosher salt to taste and for the salt rims
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Tortilla chips for garnish
6 martini or margarita glasses

Getting your ingredients prepared and set up is the key to this dish. An hour before serving, mix together the diced scallops, ½ of the red onion, a few sprigs of cilantro, and a few slivers of jalapeño, and cover with 1 cup of lime juice. Cover and keep in the refrigerator. Toss the scallops every 20 minutes to make sure they evenly marinate.

Prepare the margarita glasses by rubbing the edge of each glass with lime juice and then placing each glass upside down in a plate of kosher salt.

After the scallops have been marinating for 45 minutes, check them for doneness by tasting a piece. Keep them in the lime juice longer if they’re underdone. When the scallops are finished, drain the lime juice and discard the onion, cilantro, and jalapeño. Place the scallops in a large bowl and add the remaining jalapeño, red onion, and cilantro, and the poblano pepper, scallion, and avocado. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add a good drizzle of olive oil and the juice of the remaining lime. Mix gently and taste for balance; adjust with more oil or lime juice or salt and pepper if necessary.

To serve the dish, separate the scallop mixture into 6 even portions. Place ½ of each portion in the bottom of each glass. Spread a tablespoon of sour cream over the scallops, followed by a few marinated orange sections, then the remaining scallops. Top with a small scoop of tequila ice and place a lime round on the edge of each glass.

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Serve with tortilla chips on the side.

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.