Thursday, May 24, 2018

Scallops Jalfrezi

Jalfrezi could be called the "leftover curry."  During the time of the British Raj, cookbooks included recipes for jalfrezi that consisted of sauteing or frying pieces of leftover meat or fish with onions and spices to produce a thick sauce.  The dish became very popular amongst the British in India during that time.  And, not unexpectedly, its popularity was exported back to the United Kingdom, where jalfrezi dishes are some of the most well liked dishes on the menu of Indian restaurants across the British Isles.

Prior to this recipe, I had never eaten a jalfrezi of any kind.  The most popular Indian recipe in the Chef Bolek household (or at least according to the Chef Bolek stomach) would be a Vindaloo or a Rogan Josh.  (It was very difficult to write that last sentence because, truth be told, I love just about all Indian food, except when it is based on ingredients that I don't like, such as spinach.) 

I came across a jalfrezi recipe in a cookbook when I was looking for a scallop recipe.  This recipe for Scallops Jalfrezi satisfied my objective for finding a dish incorporating scallops and, as a bonus, went straight to my love of Indian food.  So,  I decided to make the dish.  The only thing that was different is the use of the rice vermicelli, but that is only because I had some lying around that had to be used.  It seems only appropriate for a dish that was designed to use leftovers. 

Recipe from 660 Curries, pg. 281
(Serves 6)

Ingredients (for the curry):
1 pound of large sea scallops
1 tablespoon ginger paste
1 tablespoon garlic paste
2 teaspoons Balti masala (see below)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 large red onion, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 medium size green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and
     cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 cup of tomato sauce
1 medium sized tomato, cored and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems

Ingredients (for the Balti masala):
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon black or yellow mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon cardamom seeds from black pods
1/2 teaspoon nigella seeds
3 fresh or dried bay leaves
2 cinnamon sticks (each 3 inches long), broken into smaller pieces
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1. Make the Balti masala.  Preheat a small skillet over medium high heat.  Add the whole spices, reserving the cayenne and nutmeg) and toast, shaking the skillet every few seconds until the fennel, coriander and cumin turn reddish brown, the mustard, cloves and cardamom turn black, the cinnamon and bay leaves appear brittle and crinkly, and the mixture is highly fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.  The nigella will not turn color.  Immediately remove from the heat and transfer the spices to a plate to cool.  Once they are cooled, place the spices in a spice grinder and grind until the texture is like ground black pepper.

2.  Marinate the scallops.  Combine the scallops, ginger paste, garlic paste, 1 teaspoon of the masala and 1 teaspoon of the salt in a medium size bowl.  Toss to coat.  Refrigerate, covered, for about 30 minutes or as long as overnight to allow the flavors to mingle. 

3.  Saute the scallops.  Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the scallops, marinade and all, arranging them in a single layer, and sear them on their two broad sides until light brown, 3 to 5 minutes.  Transfer them to a plate.  

4.  Saute the vegetables.  Add the onion and bell pepper to the same skillet and cook until the vegetables start to turn light brown around their edges, about 5 to 8 minutes.

5.  Add the tomato sauce.  Add the tomato sauce and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally until there is a light sheen of oil on the surface of the sauce, about 2 to 4 minutes. 

6.  Finish the dish.  Add the seared scallops (including any liquid) pooled on the plate, the tomato, cilantro and remaining 1 teaspoon of Balti masala.  Cover the skillet and simmer, basting the scallops with the sauce but not stirring too often, until the scallops are firm to the touch but not rubbery, 3 to 5 minutes.  Then serve. 


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