The Nomad: Scallop Seared with Parsnips and Grapes

Scallops-Parsnips-Grapes

Parsnips and scallops are a delicious match. The coolest thing about this recipe from The Nomad Cookbook is the various ways it uses parsnips. I am especially fond of the cooking method and result of the “pressed parsnip planks” (say that ten time real fast!). I will be using that again for sure. Other than sweet nutty parsnips and shellfish we also have grapes for acidity, freshness and texture. It’s a winning combination fit for a nice quiet dinner.

Parsnip Planks2

Parsnip Planks5

So let’s start with those pressed parsnips planks I liked so much. They are very easy to make. I just tossed 4 parsnips with salt and oil and put them side by side on a parchment lined baking sheet. I topped them with another parchment piece and another baking sheet then weighed them down with a heavy cast iron skillet. After baking them at 350 F for 1.5 hours they are tender, caramelized and flattened. Their texture after the pressed-bake is dense and soft. I cut those into even rectangular planks and before serving I seared them on the skin sides to crisp the skin and add more texture and flavor.

Parsnip Grape Puree

Parsnip Grape Puree2

The base for the scallops and vegetables is more parsnip. This one is a puree made from parsnips, sliced and sauteed in butter and cooked in milk until soft. The parsnips are strained and blended with more butter, green gapes and a splash of the cooking milk to get a smooth puree. The mixture is seasoned with white verjus (tart grape juice basically). To get a very smooth puree I passed it through a strainer and kept it warm.

I like the process that Chef Humm uses in Eleven Madison Park books and in the Nomad book to make seafood stocks. He sautees aromatics (fennel, shallots, celery,..) in oil till soft, adds white wine and allows it to reduce well. This is pretty traditional. Then he covers the seafood and aromatics with ice instead of water. I had never seen this before. The ice gently melts, extracts the flavor from the seafood and simmers for no more than 30 minutes. Done. For this recipe I am supposed to use lobster stock to make lobster nage.

Fish Stock

Not sure how to exactly define the French sauce category of nage. It really sounds cool and smooth and classy. Best way to think of it is an enriched stock made creamy with butter. In this case, I made fish stock (no lobster shells lying around) with red snapper carcasses using the Humm method. I strained it and “nage-ed” it by reducing it and emulsifying it with butter. Then I blended it with green grapes, a little lemon juice, and Xanthan gum. It got strained and resulted in a lovely rich seafood nage.

Scallops-Parsnips-Grapes4

Grapes feature yet again here. This time demi-dehydrated grapes. Green and red grapes are steeped in hot simple syrup for 5 minutes. They are then dehydrated in a 175 F oven until “wrinkled on the outside but still juicy”.  This took much longer than the 2 hours the recipe recommends, more like 4 hours.

Grapes-Syrup

Grapes-Dehydrated

What the hell is parsnip bark and why do we want it here? Well, first roast yet more parsnips -not pressed this time-  until very soft. Then carefully remove the skin in big chunks. That skin is the “bark” and after frying in oil and seasoning with salt it is crispy delicious stuff perfect for adding another dimension of texture to the dish. The problem is we kept snacking on them until we had almost none to actually put on the damn plate!

Parsnips-Roasted3

Parsnip Skin

The scallops are probably the easiest part here, brined (I posted about this a couple times), sliced and seared in oil. A couple of more components include sliced raw red and green grapes tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette and paper thin slices of raw parsnip. The parsnip sliced are soaked in ice water until they curl up and look pretty.

Scallops-Parsnips-Grapes5

To serve it, I put a thick smear of the parsnip puree on the plate and arrange a couple of parsnip planks on top. Next go the scallops, grapes, parsnip slices and the warm nage.

Scallops-Parsnips-Grapes2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Scallops with Butternut Squash Puree and Quinoa

Scallops-Pumpkin-Quinoa4
Scallops and sweet winter squash are a perfect combo and this quick dish brings them together in a delicious and beautiful plate of food. It was not a planned fancy dinner or anything. I bought the large scallops because Diana loves them and had the butternut squash on hand at home.

Scallops2
Initially I had thought of just sauteing the pumpkin and serving it with the seared scallops, but then figured that with a little more effort I can make something new, more impressive and at the same time incorporate more flavors and textures. The squash became a loose puree – almost a soup. To make that I baked the halved the squash lengthwise and baked it on an oiled sheet -seeds included- until it is soft. Then I flipped the halves over and baked for an additional 10 minutes or so to get more caramelized flavors and to dry out the squash a bit. The seeds and pulpy bits from the squash get thrown away usually at this point. I decided to toss them in a small pan and gently cook them with butter with the idea to flavor the butter and use later on.

Scallops-Panfried

To finish the pumpkin soup/puree I sauteed onions and a little chopped golden potatoes in butter and added some stock to the mixture. When the potatoes where sufficiently cooked I put in the squash meat and pureed the mixture.

Scallops-Pumpkin-Quinoa2
I brine most of the seafood I cook for a several reasons. It enhances the texture by firming it up a bit, it also removes any impurities on the surface and helps the seafood get a better color when seared. Last but not least it of course seasons the seafood. I first started doing that after reading about it in Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home book and getting great results from it. Since then many other sources recommended brining the fish such as the folks from Ideas in Food and ChefSteps. The key here is to make a high salt solution, 10% salt to be exact and to brine the fish or shellfish for no more than 15-30 minutes depending on the size or else you end up with very salty fish. Scallops only get about a 15 minute dunk in there and then they get patted dry really well.

Scallops

Scallops-Pumpkin-Quinoa
To cook the scallops I seared half of them “naked” and the other half got a quick roll in a mixture of Wondra flour and finely chopped parsley. I then sliced the scallops into quarters and plated them up. The quinoa was really a late addition. I wanted to make the dish more substantial since it was our dinner but I did not want something too heavy like pasta, rice or potatoes. Quinoa fit the bill nicely. It cooks quick, is light and has a great nutty grassy flavor that paired well with the pumpkin and scallops.

That pumpkin butter I prepared using the seeds and pulp of the squash was a great flavor boost for the garnish. I used it to saute some pumpkin seeds and crisp up a few leaves of fresh sage. I tossed these with a touch of salt and pepper and used them as a topping for the finished dish. A final touch of creme fraiche rounded everything out very nicely and gave the plates a welcome touch of clean white streaks.

Scallops-Pumpkin-Quinoa3

Scallop Crudo and Citrus

There is a great selection of citrus fruit at this time of the year. For a nice dinner recently, scallops were the main star since they are one of Diana’s favorite seafood items. Since I had a couple more scallops than I needed for the main course (twice cooked scallops, polenta and swiss chard) I decided to quickly whip up a first course of scallop Crudo. Crudo is an Italian preparation of raw seafood, seasoned very lightly with olive oil, salt, pepper and usually little else. In that regard it is more similar to Japanese Sashimi than South American Ceviche.  The latter is typically marinated in a strong lime/lemon marinade that effectively denatures its proteins and kind of “cooks” it giving it a firmer texture. It goes without saying for any seafood, but especially in this case, the fish or shellfish has to be in pristine condition. For the citrus salad, I segmented a few varieties including blood oranges, navel oranges and pink grapefruit. I marinated those with some of their mixed juices, salt and extra virgin olive oil. I thinly sliced and cubed the fresh scallops and kept them very cold until plating time. I quickly tossed them with chopped blood orange segments, a little olive oil, salt, lemon juice and pepper. The scallops were then promptly plated and drizzled with more excellent olive oil and seasoned them with black salt for some crunch and color contrast. For another unique citrus-y accent I borrowed a recipe from the Alinea cookbook and made a Meyer lemon puree. That’s made by quartering and de-seeding a few Meyer lemons and then pureeing them in the blender pulp, skin and all with a little salt, water and sugar. I put this in a squeeze bottle and used small dollops of it on the plated Crudo and around the plate. The smooth bitter, tart and very flavorful puree offset the mildness of the scallops perfectly.

Scallops, Meyer Lemon Risotto and Parsley Oil

Most recipes in Thomas Keller’s “Ad Hoc at Home” are simple and the one for scallops is probably one of the shortest, but it uses a technique I probably never would’ve thought about. First the scallops, largest specimens I could find, are brined for about 10 minutes. After a rinse and a pat in paper towels to ensure they are dry, they are cooked in a very hot pan. To cook them, Keller heats clarified butter in a stainless steal skillet (I used my well-seasoned cast iron pan) until smoking hot. The scallops then cook for a relatively long time, about 4 minutes, on the first side in the hot fat. Once flipped, I cooked them for another 2 minutes. They came out perfect, moist and delicious with a wonderful texture.

To serve them I prepared a Meyer lemon risotto flavored with the juice and zest of the fruit. I made it a bit lighter by not adding any cheese and very little butter at the end. For a little richness, an herb flavor and color, I blanched parsley and shocked it in an ice bath. Then the parsley was blended with olive oil and strained to make a vibrant parsley oil.