Friday, August 3, 2012

Seared Sea Scallops with Carrot-Orange Gastrique and Cauliflower Puree

For my 40th birthday, a friend gave me a very special gift.  Knowing that I enjoy fine wine, he gave me a bottle of Veuve Cliquot Ponsardin's La Grande Dame (1998).  He said that, in his opinion, La Grand Dame was the best French Champagne, with perfect strands of bubbles.  My friend gave me the wine with one "condition," that I enjoy the wine rather than simply storing it in my basement or a cellar.   After thanking him profusely, I said that I should have no problem with that "condition."  I had immediately planned on sharing it with my beautiful Angel, Clare.

Soon thereafter, I began thinking about whether I could pair the La Grande Dame with  food.  In particular, I wanted to make a special dish that could be presented with the wine.  I began to research possible pairings with cuisines and ingredients.   I found a web post called Brigadoon with Bubbles: A Veuve Cliquot Brunch.  The author/blogger described a multiple course brunch that was paired with Veuve Cliquot wines.  The one dish that caught my attention was the Scallop, Orange and Carrot Gastrique with a Parmesan Pancetta Crisp.  That dish was specifically paired with the La Grande Dame (1998).  According to the writer, "the pairing worked beautifully."  So, I had my recipe.  The only problem was that I did not have a recipe.  The author/blogger only described eating the dish, not how the dish was prepared.

I now had a challenge ... to create a recipe based solely on the name of the dish.   The name has three components ... scallops, a carrot/orange gastrique and the Parmesan pancetta crisp.  Given Clare does not eat meat, I decided to forgo the Parmesan pancetta crisp.  I also decided to replace that component with a cauliflower puree.  The puree would give me a base upon which the scallops could be placed.  As for the remaining components, the scallops had to be seared and I had to make a carrot and orange gastrique. 

I now had a problem ... I had never made a gastrique before.  Generally speaking, a gastrique is a sauce made from caramelized sugar that is deglazed with vinegar.  It is a combination of sweet and sour (or tart), that is often enhanced with other flavor components, such as fresh fruit, herbs or, in my case, carrot and orange juice.  I dutifully studied "how-to-make gastrique" pages in preparation for making this dish.  And, although I wanted to do a couple "test-runs," I decided that I would go ahead and make it for the pairing.  Truth be told, I really wanted to try the La Grande Dame and, given the fact that I have not been cooking as much as I used to, I did not want to have to wait for the opportunities to try making gastriques.

In the end, everything worked out well, with one exception.  The scallops seared well, the gastrique was very good, and the puree, which Clare made, was very good.  That last bit is significant because I am not a fan of cauliflower, but Clare did a great job.  The one thing I need to work on, as you can see from the picture below, is my presentation.  Well, I guess I need to have something to work on....

A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 2

Ingredients (for the Sea Scallops):
About 1 pound of sea scallops
Salt, to taste
Ground pepper, to taste

Ingredients (for the Carrot-Orange Gastrique):
1/2 cup of sugar
2 tablespoons of water
1 pound of carrots
1 orange (Valencia)
2 cups water
1/2 cup of white wine vinegar

Ingredients (for the Cauliflower Puree)
2 pounds of cauliflower
1/4 cup of skim milk
3 tablespoons of utter
Garlic powder

1.  Prepare the Carrot-Orange Juice.  Rinse the carrots and cut into pieces.  Puree the carrots in a food processor or a blender.  Add a tablespoon of water if the carrots are a little dry.  Remove the carrot puree to a large bowl and add two cups of hot water.  Let it the puree sit and steep for fifteen to thirty minutes.  Then strain the puree and set aside the juice.  Add the juice of one orange to the carrot juice.  Stir the juices and set aside.

2.  Prepare the Cauliflower Puree.  Steam the cauliflower florets in a steamer for about twenty to twenty-five minutes.  Remove the florets and place in a blender.  Add the butter and milk.  Blend the cauliflower until it is a smooth puree.

3.  Prepare the gastrique.  Add the sugar and water to a small, non-reactive saucepan.  Heat the mixture over medium high heat until the sugar dissolves and begins to bubble.  Watch the sugar mixture very carefully as it begins to caramelize.  You want to the mixture to have a nice golden color.  Once that color is achieved, add the vinegar.  Do not add it in a slow stream; add the vinegar quickly.  The sugar will harden, but it dissolve again as the mixture cooks.  Once the sugar has re-dissolved, add the carrot/orange juice.  Begin by adding one-half cup.  Taste the mixture to determine its tartness.  Keep adding the carrot/orange juice until you have added at most two cups.  If the mixture is still too tart, you can add a little more sugar.  Once you have the taste you want, continue to cook the gastrique until it is reduced and thickens a little.

4.  Sear the scallops.  Heat the oil on high heat in a pan.  Add the scallops and cook on high heat for about four or five minutes (depending upon the size of the scallops).  Flip the scallops and continue to cook about three to four minutes more.

5.  Plate the dish.  Spoon the cauliflower puree on the center of the dish. Plate four to five scallops over the puree.  Spoon the gastrique over the scallops and around the sides of the puree.

In the end, this was a great dish.  I will definitely make it again.


This dish was made for a special wine, Veuve Cliquot Ponsardin's La Grande Dame (1998), so I highly recommend that wine as the natural pairing for this dish.  However, it is a very expensive wine, so if you do not want to spend that much money on a wine, consider a French Champagne or sparkling wine.


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