Selengut’s sexy scallops are sensational

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They say good things come to those who wait – and if you waited for the 74th recipe (of 75) I prepared from Good Fish, you are in for a great treat!

Scallops with Tarragon Beurre Blanc (pg 93) is more suited for the spring, with its pea/asparagus/herb base, but of course I waited until the day before Labor Day (Sept. 4 this year!) to prepare it.  And like a few other recent recipes, I should be slapped for waiting this long on this gem of a dish.

Maybe I put it off because it’s a #5 difficulty, but besides a few basic steps, it’s a straight-forward preparation that looks even lovelier than it tastes.  The creamy seared scallop, atop a sauteed melange of bacon/asparagus tips/shallots, atop a shockingly bright green asparagus/pea puree, is dreamy delicious already – and then you drizzle some licorice-like tarragon beurre butter over the top, mon dieu!  I must say that I could make a bowl full of the bacon/asparagus/pea saute and set a speed record for gulping it down – it so easily could’ve been its own dish, although it needed an admission ticket from the friendly scallops to get into this book!

I snuck a second serving (even though I was the only one home…how does that work??) quickly after the first plate was devoured, and my taste buds were still recalling the flavors hours later.  And I received an amazing number of Facebook comments immediately after posting the photo only, after preparing the dish.  Yes, it’s a real looker as well as a perfectly conceived balance of flavors – don’t you wish your dinner was sexy like mine?? :)

In addition, I’m feeling pretty damn cocky about my ability to sear a perfect scallop now – after having NO idea before this project.  I only dared to prepare scallops at home once in the past, after consistent pleading by Katy’s dad on a visit last summer, and usually save them for a restaurant visit.  But after seeing Becky teach the technique in person twice, watching her how-to video, and then putting the knowledge into practice FIVE times this summer, I feel very comfortable serving them with pride. And really, since the secret is to just “step back and leave them alone”, you too can master this skill!

And thanks to Chef Kathy Casey, who blogged about this recipe on Al Dente in June, you get the recipe too!  Don’t forget to pour yourself a glass of Gruner Veltliner (one of my new fave white wines!) to keep the scallops company…

Scallops with Tarragon Beurre Blanc
Serves 4 as a small plate or 2 as a light entrée

For the pea and asparagus puree:
4 oz asparagus (5 to 7 spears), chopped, tips reserved
1/4 cup fresh or frozen peas
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves
3 Tbsp. plain Greek-style yogurt
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper

For the tarragon beurre blanc:
1 tsp. chopped fresh tarragon
1Tbsp. minced shallot
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 Tbsp. champagne vinegar
5 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter

For the prosciutto, pea and asparagus sauté:
1 oz. prosciutto, cut into small dice
Reserved asparagus tips
Reserved 1 Tbsp. peas
Salt and freshly ground pepper

For the scallops:
4 large (10 to 20 count) sea scallops, about 1 1/2 oz per scallop
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 Tbsp. high-heat vegetable oil

For serving:
1 tsp. fresh tarragon leaves, as garnish

To prepare the puree, chop the asparagus stems into 1-inch pieces. Fill a small saucepan with salted water and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, fill a medium bowl with ice water. When the water is boiling, add the asparagus pieces. Cook until the pieces are barely cooked through but still tender, about 4 minutes. Remove them immediately with a slotted spoon and plunge into the ice bath. When the pieces have cooled, remove them from the ice bath.

If using fresh peas, blanch them for 1 minute in boiling salted water, then shock them in ice water, as described above. If using frozen, thaw them under cool running water and drain. Reserve 1 tablespoon peas for later use in the prosciutto, pea and asparagus sauté.

In a blender, puree the blanched asparagus stems and peas, along with the parsley, yogurt, olive oil and lemon juice until smooth. Push the puree through a fine mesh strainer using a rubber spatula season to taste with salt and pepper. Warm in a small saucepan before assembling the dish.

To prepare the beurre blanc, in a small sauce pan over high heat, add the tarragon, shallot, white wine and champagne vinegar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the liquid is reduced to just 1 tablespoon, 6 or 7 minutes. Turn the heat down to its lowest setting and whisk in the cold butter 1 tablespoon at a time, adding each only after the previous one has been incorporated. Taste for seasoning and then set the beurre blanc aside in a warm place. It will hold for about half an hour; if it should “break”, mix it in a blender for 1 minute to re-emulsify.

To prepare the vegetable sauté, in a sauté pan over medium heat, add the prosciutto. Cook the prosciutto until its fat is rendered and it starts to crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the shallots and asparagus tips and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, or until the shallots are tender. Add the reserved peas. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside and keep warm.

To prepare the scallops, dry them with paper towels. Place them on a plate and season generously with salt and pepper. Heat a heavy skillet over high heat. Add the vegetable oil and, when it is really hot, add the scallops to the pan, being careful not to splatter oil on yourself or crowd the pan with too many scallops. Cook the scallops for 3 minutes on one side, or until they are caramelized, then flip, cooking the other side for 2 minutes more. Set aside and keep warm until ready to assemble dish.

To assemble the dish, place a little pea and asparagus puree on each of the 4 plates. Top with some of the prosciutto, pea and asparagus sauté and a seared scallop. Pour some tarragon beurre blanc over the scallop. Garnish with tarragon leaves.

WINE PAIRING: A gruner veltliner, such as F.X. Pichler Federspiel Loibner Frauenweingarten 2007, Wachau, Austria, or a white Bordeaux.

Recipe from GOOD FISH by Becky Selengut, Sasquatch Books, Seattle


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Copyright 2011 Karen Rosenzweig