Monday, April 27, 2015

Pan Seared Scallops with a Roasted Red Pepper Curry Coulis

My relationship with scallops as an ingredient has, historically, been a troubled one.  At times, I love the ingredient and think of various different ways to prepare this shellfish.  Those times often coincide with other inspirations and influences.  The results are dishes such as Seared Sea Scallops with Carrot-Orange Gastrique and Cauliflower Puree.  Then there are the periods where I hate scallops.  I see it on a menu and I keep looking.  When I am in the kitchen or my local grocery store, my mind races away from the ingredient, looking for substitutions or different recipes altogether.

Recently, I was inspired by my beautiful Angel to make a scallop dish.   I perused the Internet looking for recipe ideas and I came across the idea of scallops served with a red pepper coulis.  A coulis is a thick sauce made from fruits or vegetables.  The name itself comes from an old French word -- couleis -- which, in turn, comes from the Latin word -- colatus -- or "to strain."  The sauce is made by pureeing the fruit or vegetable and then passing it through a sieve or strainer.    The one coulis most often paired with scallops is a pepper coulis.  I found a recipe from a website, that for a roasted red pepper curried coulis.  Given my love for curry, this recipe seemed perfect.  I had my recipe - Pan Seared Scallops with a Roasted Red Pepper Curry Coulis.

Jessica Gavin happens to be a certified food scientist and her recipe included something else that interested me ... a step that called for brining the scallops.  This step originated with Thomas Keller, who has a recipe for Caramelized Sea Scallops in his cookbook, Ad Hoc At Home, that calls for the scallops to be brined before being seared. A brine for scallops is intriguing.  Like many seafood, scallops are notorious for how quickly they cook and for how absolutely horrible they are when overcooked.  The brine helps to provide some additional flavor to the scallops and also helps to firm the scallops' flesh.

These two new elements -- the  brining of the scallops and the use of a coulis -- have opened new doors for me, to say the least.  From now on, a brine will be a mandatory, preparatory step whenever I prepare scallops.  As for the coulis, the ease of making it means that I will be experimenting with this sauce, particularly on those evenings when I have less time to prepare a nice meal.  

Recipe adapted from one by Jessica Gavin
Serves 2

Ingredients (for the scallops):
1 pound of jumbo scallops, muscle removed (about 8 to 10 pieces)
3 tablespoons of grapeseed or olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Sea salt, as needed
Freshly ground black pepper 
Micro-greens, for garnish

Ingredients (for the scallop brine):
1/2 cup kosher salt
1 cup hot water
4 cups cold water

Ingredients (for the Roasted Red Pepper Curry Coulis):
1 large red bell pepper (about 2/3 cup of roasted pepper)
1 tablespoon of grapeseed or olive oil
1 tablespoon of shallots, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon of curry powder
1 tablespoon of coconut milk
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

Ingredients (for the Vegetable Stack):
1 eggplant, sliced
1 Yukon Gold potato, sliced
1 sweet onion sliced
Grapeseed or olive oil
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste

1.  Prepare the coulis.  Roast the red peppers directly over a gas flame or under the broiler, turning occasionally until the peppers are blackened all over.  Transfer the pepper the pepper to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to cool completely.  Peel the pepper and discard the skin, seeds and core.  In a food processor or blender, combine the peppers with the oil, shallot, curry powder, coconut milk, salt and ginger.  Puree the coulis until very smooth and then strain through a sieve to remove air bubbles.  Season the coulis with additional salt if needed.  Set aside until ready to serve.

2.  Prepare the vegetable stock.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Spray a baking sheet with a non-stick spray.  Place the sliced eggplants, potatoes and onions on a baking sheet.  Brush the vegetables with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and black pepper.  Bake for about 15 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked. 

3.  Brine the scallops.  In a medium sized bowl, combine the salt with boiling water, stirring to dissolve the salt.  Add ice water to cool the brine.  Add scallops to the brine and let stand for 10 minutes.  Drain the scallops, rinse under cold water and arrange in a single layer on a paper towel lined baking sheet.  Place a paper towel on top of the scallops and gently press to remove the additional moisture.  Allow to sit for 10 minutes at room temperature before cooking.

4.  Sear the scallops.  Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large stainless steel frying pan over medium high heat until it ripples and begins to smoke.  Sprinkle scallops lightly with salt and add them to the pan without crowding.  Cook the scallops without moving them, until the bottoms are a rich golden brown, about 3 to 3 1/2 minutes.  Add 1 tablespoon of butter to the pan.  Turn the scallops and caramelize the second side, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.  Transfer to a serving platter.  Lightly season with freshly ground black pepper.

5.  Plate the dish. Stack the vegetables, alternating eggplant, potato and onion.  Spoon the coulis over the vegetable stack and on the plate.  Place 2 scallops on top of the stack and 3-4 scallops on the plate.  Top with micro-greens.