Thursday, April 5, 2012

cooking your nemesis

don't worry, faithful readers; this is not the post where i lose my mind and post a cannibalistic recipe. no, tonight i conquered one of my great cooking rivals - scallops. these (and potato gnocchi, which is for some reason absolutely impossible for me to properly make from scratch and cook without turning it into a slimy mush) have been my great culinary failing every time i've tried to make them at home, and it's hard to express the frustration this causes me - i'm trying to think of it's other-job equivalent, and while an athlete blowing the game winning shot, or a doctor missing a diagnosis seem too serious, i imagine it's a similar feeling on a smaller scale. every time i've tried to make scallops they've ended up more steamed than seared, and inedibly raw in the middle. utterly depressing.

sam's been out of town all week, so i've been working long hours and trying to catch up on sleep. tonight, after a particularly long day, i decided to treat myself to a decadent meal - and figure out scallops once and for all. they're one of my favorite foods when cooked properly, and they sell fantastic dry scallops across the street from my bakery - so i bought a few and headed home, determined to get it right.

success! i can't tell you how great it feels to win battle scallop after so many failed attempts. it turns out my mistake was the same one i have when it comes to trying to grow rosemary - paying too much attention, and fussing too much with it.

+ + + + + + + + + +

pan-seared scallops with cannellini bean puree, shredded asparagus, duck prosciutto and fried egg

3-4 bay scallops (mine were "dry" scallops, meaning they hadn't been stored in liquid at the store, so they didn't need rinsing - if yours aren't, make sure to rinse and drain them thoroughly before cooking.)

1/3 cup canned cannellini beans

2 T chicken (or vegetable) stock

2 T butter, divided

1 T olive oil

a couple tablespoons of diced duck (or regular) prosciutto

3 stalks asparagus, shredded with a peeler

kosher salt

1 egg

you'll need two pans; one smaller one, for cooking the sides, and one cast iron pan for the scallops.

first, prepare the bean puree. take 1 tablespoon of the butter, and place it in the smaller pan; on medium high heat, melt the butter, then add the cannellini beans and sautee until they start to brown. remove from heat and blend thoroughly with the chicken stock until you have a nice, thick puree. set aside.

season scallops with a healthy sprinkling of kosher salt, then turn the heat back on under the smaller pan, and add the remaining butter and olive oil to the cast iron pan on medium high heat. add prosciutto to the small pan, then add scallops to the - now very hot - cast iron pan, and DON'T TOUCH. leave the scallops alone for 2-3 minutes, until they develop a nice brown crust all over the bottom. meanwhile, add the shaved asparagus to the now-crispy prosciutto. start plating with a big dollop of the bean puree in the middle of your plate, surrounded by the asparagus and prosciutto (asparagus only needs about 30 seconds in the pan with the prosciutto.)

flip the scallops and cook, again without moving, until you have a nice caramel brown on both sides. meanwhile, using the same small pan as you did for the beans and proscuitto and asparagus, fry an egg. plate the scallops on top of the puree, and then top it all of with the fried egg (i used a circle cutter to make my egg look a little more perfect, but obviously that isn't really important.)

di-vine. the scallops fell apart under my fork, and were perfectly buttery and sweet; they paired well with the creamy cannellini bean puree, slight bitterness of the asparagus and salty fattiness of the prosciutto. the egg on top (an addition i would make to nearly every meal if given the opportunity) just adds a bit more richness to a dish that is certainly rich enough as is. . . but is all the more delicious when bathed in soft-cooked egg yolk.

it was a satisfying end to a long but productive day, and i'll be adding scallops to my regular meal rotation from now on.

xo audrey