Seared scallops with creamy stone-ground grits, and chocolate-cardamom Pots de Crème
|February 17, 2010||Posted by ameliaps under dinner, scallops, seafood|
My husband and I enjoy cooking a romantic dinner for each other, when we can get the kids to go for a sleep-over at grandma’s. So we did, this past week-end. An understated yet satisfying dinner. The fun was learning a new technique together, sipping Veuve Clicquot in the process.
For Christams I had received Ad Hoc At home, Thomas Keller’s “family style” tome
I have wanted to try a few recipes from that volume ever since. The method for his “Caramelized Sea Scallops” was intriguing: I love trying new procedures. Here are Keller’s suggestions to improve a simple dish: 1) a brief 10-minute brine for the scallops (followed by refrigeration), which helps season them all the way through 2) clarified butter to sear, which has a higher smoking point 3) using a stainless steel pan (not a non-stick), which allows for a crisp and caramelized outside. We loved the result.
Keller did not call for pepper but I did add some fresh ground black pepper.
When I was at the market buying the scallops my eyes feel on a package of local stone-ground grits from Logan Turnpike Mill (we are in the South after all…) so I grabbed it and decided it would be the perfect “base” for the scallops. Grits have a bad reputation… I never used to like them because they were greasy and … yes, gritty. UNTIL I made my own. They are velvety, creamy and extremely comforting. Since I had made the clarified butter and had some left over milk solids I used those to season the grits, plus some white cheddar cheese. Dessert was simple chocolate pot de creme with vanilla and cardamom.
Conversation (before and after dinner) was warm and sweet.
Ad Hoc’s Caramelized Sea Scallops
Serves 6…maybe…I say 2 at most 4!
2 cups kosher salt, plus more to taste
2 cups hot water
8 cups cold water
12 U7 scallops (about 1 3/4 pounds), preferably dry-packed, tough side muscle removed from each one
About 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) clarified butter*
1/2 lemon (optional)
Line a small baking sheet with paper towels. Combine the 2 cups salt with hot water in a large bowl, stirring to dissolve the salt. Add the cold water.
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 the baking sheet. Cover with more paper towels and refrigerate for 1 1/2 to 3 hours (no longer, or the quality of the scallops will be affected).
Heat a generous film of clarified butter in a large stainless steel frying pan over medium-high heat until it ripples and begins to smoke. (Although you may be tempted to use a nonstick pan, a stainless steel pan will produce a more beautiful caramelized exterior.) Sprinkle scallops lightly with salt and add them to the pan, without crowding. (If necessary, cook scallops in two pans or in 2 batches; if they touch, they will steam rather than caramelize.)
Cook, without moving the scallops, until bottoms are a rich golden brown, 3 to 3 1/2 minutes. Turn scallops and caramelize the second side.
Transfer scallops to a serving platter and serve with a squeeze of lemon juice on top, if desired.
Creamy stone-ground grits
1 cup stone-ground grits, rinsed (to remove any bran pieces or stones)
4 cups water
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup grated white cheddar cheese
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
In a saucepan, combine grits and water. Bring to a boil, turn heat down and cook for about 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until water has been absorbed. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in butter and cheese.
Start with at least a quarter more unsalted butter than the amount of clarified butter needed, as the volume will be reduced during the straining process
On low heat, gently melt unsalted butter until it breaks into three layers:
1) The top layer is a white foam which is the whey proteins. Skim that off
2) The milk solids will drop to the bottom of the pan and form a milky sediment
3) What is left in the middle is a pure golden-yellow liquid called clarified butter
When you have skimmed off all the white foam from the surface remove the pan from the heat. Let the butter sit a few minutes so the milk solids settle to the bottom, and then strain through a cheesecloth-lined strainer.
This will store well in the fridge for a few weeks.
Chocolate-cardamom-vanilla Pots de Crème
1 1/4 cups light whipping cream
1 1/3 cups roughly chopped dark chocolate
1/2 vanilla bean scraped (or 1/2 tsp pure extract)
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
Heat the cream and the chocolate in a double boiler over low heat until the chocolate melts, stirring along the way. Add the salt, vanilla and cardamom. Whisk in the egg.
Continue to whisk over low heat until smooth.
Pour the mixture into 4 rammekin or small pots. Chill for a couple of hours before serving.
Delicious with a small dollop of sweetened whipped cream. (You can also add a cardamom pod or vanilla bean to decorate)