Tuesday, 2 September 2014
Seared scallops with celeriac, apple, smoked bacon, tarragon and brown butter
Sometimes when out food shopping I see something that is just impossible not to put into the basket. I have a blinkered mentality when buying ingredients for preconceived recipes, and will always be armed with a regimented list. This causes its fair share of problems. Mostly looking like a gormless idiot in the middle of a shop when told that the specific thing that I visited for is out of stock. Little cogs will be whirring away in my head trying to merge the detailed planning with the array of substitutes available. Hence the tendency for spontaneous, and not entirely useful or necessary ingredients. At this point I am in serious danger on picking up any old thing that looks interesting or particularly good. Sure that purple cauliflower, baby artichoke or gooseberries looked lovely in my larder (bowl on the side), but they sure as hell had nothing to do with any cooking I had in mind when leaving the house.
On this occasion it was the scallops. I was out struggling to find guinea fowl for a pasta lunch that I wanted to cook for some friends, and in my confused state I took a momentary breather at the fishmongers. Somehow I must have thought that looking at a varied and colourful display of ultimately totally irrelevant fish would clarify my judgement. It didn’t. But while I made my mind up I carried the extra weight of a handful of plump and voluptuous molluscs. Ever since my dad introduced them to me as an occasional childhood treat, I’ve always been a sucker for a scallop. And these were pearlers; firm to the touch, super-sized and carrying that subtle sweet smell of very fresh shellfish.
But what to do with them, that was the question. They certainly weren’t going to somehow cameo in my long thought-out and just about sourced poultry main. In my last post I rambled on about the importance of planning ahead when cooking for numbers, and with that in mind all I wanted to do was create something quick and simple. Paired with black pudding and peas they are a delicious classic, but not massively interesting. Tarragon, apple and lemon add tanginess, and contrast creamy, salty bacon butter to achieve a delicate balance. And all ready to go in a matter of minutes.
These scallops were very large, and on this occasion were perfect as a small couple of forkfuls before a main course. Double the quantities and halve the diners for something more luxurious and substantial.
For the scallops:
4 very large scallops, corals detached
1 large knob of butter
For the celeriac:
4 heaped tbsp of fine celeriac julienne
1 heaped tbsp. of fine braeburn apple julinne
1 lemon, juice only
For the bacon butter:
3 tbsp butter
2 rashers of smoked streaky bacon, finely diced
½ a lemon, juice only
½ lemon, juice only
4 scallop shells for presentation (optional)
Mix the celeriac and apple julienne with the lemon juice and a little seasoning in a small bowl. Cover and allow to soften and lightly pickle for about 30 minutes.
Heat a small saucepan to a medium-high temperature. Add a little oil and fry the bacon for 4-5 minutes, or until brown and crispy. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon. Spoon the butter into the same pan and turn the heat up slightly. When the butter turns a light brown colour, remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice and a little pepper. Tip the bacon back into the butter and keep warm.
Pour a generous amount of oil into a non-stick frying pan and set on a high heat. Pat the scallops and corals dry and season well all over. Sear both parts for 1 ½ minutes on each side, adding the butter with about a minute to go and basting everything well.
Spoon a quarter of the celeriac and apple mixture into the bottom of each scallop shell. Place a scallop and coral on top and pour over a little of the bacon butter. Scatter over some tarragon leaves and a squeeze of lemon.