Scallops with Cauliflower Puree

Lately, I always feel guilty when someone asks me about my site. I’ve been unable to post recently due to a various set of circumstances and I feel if they get on the site, they’ll be staring at the same article for a month. But fear no more, I am here with a new recipe this week. Not to mention the first post for the HideAway Steakhouse page (look to your right, no, I mean on the screen) which will act as my journal from construction through opening. I also have a new photo post coming from a shoot last week with a new restaurant here in town, Zi Cuisine. Also looking forward to an upcoming shoot at Opus this month. As you can see, things are busy and I’m hoping I won’t take as long between posts this time.

Scallops (derived from the French word for shell, escalope) are one of those things that seem to intimidate the average cook. It’s not hard to turn scallops into rubbery chunks of fishy tasting gobs of protein. Conversely, it’s not hard to cook perfectly seared scallops either.

The trick to cooking scallops, like all other fish, is to leave it alone. The average cook in your average restaurant wants to shake the life out of anything put into a hot sauté pan. While this is completely acceptable for a plethora of lettuces and vegetables, it doesn’t do well with meat and seafood.

“But Chef, it will stick to the pan otherwise.”

I teach all my staff to place your proteins, such as scallops, in a very hot pan and then…walk away. Don’t touch it, don’t move it, don’t shake it, and don’t even look at it too long. The idea is to let the heat of the pan caramelize the flesh, which in turn keeps the flesh from sticking to the pan. Once the item has caramelized it releases from the pan.

This is a classy yet simple dish you can do for friends and family. The cauliflower puree can be made ahead of time and reheated when needed.

A word about using frozen scallops… Frozen scallops will, when heated, release most of the liquid which keeps them tender. The process of freezing scallops, or any other protein for that matter, causes the damage to the cell holding the moisture inside the muscle. As the water freezes, it expands, bursting those cells and making it impossible to hold the moisture at high temperatures. While this won’t affect the flavor as severely, using frozen scallops will tend to yield a rubbery or chewy scallop.

Pan Seared Scallops with Cauliflower Puree and Warm Mushroom Salad
Serves 4

16 large, fresh scallops
Corn oil
5 oz onions, diced
3 oz carrots, diced
3 oz celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 lb cauliflower, rough chopped
1 lb potato, large diced
6-7 cups stock/water
1 cup heavy cream
2 oz butter
1 tsp. thyme leaves, picked
Kosher salt

1. In a sauce pot on a med-low flame, melt the butter.
2. Add the onions, carrots and celery and cook over low heat until the carrots soften and onions become translucent taking care not to let any of the vegetables brown.
3. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.
4. Add the potato and cauliflower.
5. Add the stock/water.
6. Cover and bring to a boil.
7. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until the potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes.
8. Drain the cauliflower and vegetables, making sure to save the cooking liquid.
9. Puree cauliflower and vegetables in a blender using just enough of the cooking liquid to allow the vegetables to puree.
10. Strain through a cheesecloth or china cap.
11. Add Cream and thyme.
12. Season with kosher salt.
13. Hold warm for the scallops.

For the scallops:

1. Brush a large sauté pan with corn oil, just enough to create a thin film on the bottom of the pan.
2. Heat pan over high heat just until you begin to see wisps of smoke from the oil.
3. Season the scallops with salt and place carefully into hot pan.
4. Allow the scallops to sear on one side, untouched and without shaking the pan, for 2-3 minutes, or until you can see the scallops caramelizing where the edge of the scallops meets the pan.
5. Flip the scallops and do the same on the other side.
6. Scallops should be medium rare to medium when served.

For the mushrooms salad:
1 cup oyster mushrooms, rough chopped
1 cup portabello mushrooms, degilled and diced
2 oz corn oil
1 tsp shallots, minced
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 oz aged red wine vinegar
½ cup parsley leaves
1. In a sauté pan on medium low, add the corn oil, shallots and garlic.
2. Cook for 20 seconds and add the mushrooms.
3. Mushrooms will absorb much of the oil, continue cooking until mushrooms begin to release their liquid.
4. Add the vinegar and remove from heat.
5. Add the parsley leaves and season with salt.

To plate:

Place 3-4 oz of cauliflower puree in the center of your plate.
Arrange 4 scallops closely in the sauce.
Spoon the warm mushroom salad over the scallops and serve.

4 Responses

  1. That seems to be the hardest lesson for people to learn in the kitchen — put the meat in the pan and leave it alone! I keep coming back to your blog, even when you haven’t posted anything new, just to look at the photos. Your photos are sooooo good! I’d love to get your opinion on the photo I just posted today.

  2. Jenn says:

    Oh this looks great! I love cooking scallops, I think they are my favorite seafood :) It took me more than a few times learning the hard way to leave things alone, and also to start with a hot enough pan. The purée sounds lovely – I’m usually not a cauliflower fan, but I think I would like this!

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