I really enjoy writing these seafood diaries. This series may well go to 11, like Spinal Tap. All of the recipes are from moi, concocted and served in the various eateries I used to
slave run in Sydney. Today it's the turn of the majestic scallop. Next week will be about the octopus and the squid.
When I cooked in the Seventies & Eighties, most chefs were not fully aware of the depletion of seafood in our oceans & rivers. To us, particularly in the southern hemisphere, we took the abundance of produce as granted. Mercifully, with the advent of the internet and its social and news websites we have a better idea of the damage done: savvy chefs & restaurant owners purchase their ingredients from known sustainable sources.
Venus, the goddess of love, is said to have emerged from the sea on a scallop shell. Perhaps she knew the scallops were an incredible source of a very important nutrient for our health, vitamin B12 and low on calories. In addition, scallops are an amazing source of omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium and potassium, three other nutrients that provide significant benefits for our cardiovascular system. And the best thing about them is that farmed scallops are sustainable and available year-round (always check provenance). Farmed bay scallops are raised in racks suspended in the water so there's no dredging. Like mussels, they're filter feeders they do not require wild fish for feed and they actually improve the surrounding water quality.(Obligatory pic of
Uma Thurman Venus below)
"When grown using hanging cages, scallops are among the choicest sustainable alternatives," reports the Wildlife Conservation Society.
I'm lucky that I live 10 minutes from a natural scallops bed, so when the tide is out, I put my wellies on, grab a bucket and a small shovel and proceed to gather enough for a quick pesto panfry. Like all the best things in the world, simplicity is the preferred approach for such a delicacy. I make a pesto with sun-dried eggplant & toasted pine nuts plus a handful of basil and use the blender to add the virgin olive oil. Another version I like is to make it with sun-dried red bell pepper & walnuts: equally good.
The trick is to get the right frying pan, pour some sunflower or canola oil over high heat, dip the scallops in pesto on both sides and sear away, 20 seconds on each side, depending on the size. They tend to get rubbery if overcooked so make sure they feel bouncy when you tap them with the back of your index finger (a chef's trick). Serve immediately on a bed of greens.
People have been enjoying scallops as a food ever since this beautiful mollusk appeared in the Earth's waters, basically since time immemorial. The great scallop gained great prestige during the medieval era. Pilgrims visiting the shrine of St. James in Spain began to use empty scallop shells for both eating and begging.
The scallop and its shell quickly became a symbol of this magnificent shrine with people using them to decorate their doorways as well as their coats of arms. In honor of the shrine, they were called the shell of St. James, now best known by their translated French name of Coquille St. Jacques.
Vanilla Scallop Ceviche:
this dish started as a delicate vanilla-infused scallop broth but the sheer amount of time spent on prepping it made me simplifying the recipe and it was reborn as a Ceviche on my menu. Since the scallop is rather dainty I worked out the right mix of citrus in which I marinated the slivers. For 4 to 6 persons you will need at least 3 to 4 scallops per person, the juice of 2 limes, 2 mandarins, 1 vanilla pod, a teaspoon of honey, a pinch of freshly cracked black pepper, and a pinch of sea salt.
All you need to do is to cut the scallops into thin slivers and put them into a bowl. Before you juice the citrus, make a few zests with the skins and set aside. Mix the juices of the mandarins and the limes then add the honey, the salt & pepper. Split the vanilla bean and scoop the insides into the mix, and stir. Pour over the scallops and marinate for 10 minutes. Add the zests as garnish. I tried adding various shredded herbs but in the end I found that it took away from the subtlety of the vanilla. By the way, you can follow this recipe using fresh abalone instead of scallops.
one thing that has kept me surprised over the years is the cavalier way in which some people discarded the roe from the scallop (also called coral). What fools! The roe is most useful when making a bisque or a sauce. For this bisque, for 6 to 8 persons you will need about 30 scallops, with roe, 6 ounces of shiitake or oyster mushrooms (if you can't get either, try Paris button mushrooms), 1 pound of ripe cherry tomatoes, 2 leeks, washed and minced, 8 garlic cloves, minced, 2 sticks of celery, chopped up, 1/2 bottle dry white wine, 1 pint of shellfish stock, half a glass of Brandy, half a pint of double cream, and a pinch of saffron, salt & pepper to taste. And a dash of olive oil.
This is really the bisque Royale, without cheese. Only do this when you have guests that will truly enjoy it. You can, as the pic below shows, top it up with a piece of lobster or a large shrimp, for effect & richness.
If you purchase the shellfish stock, this bisque should not take much of your time to cook it. Making a shellfish stock is easy: shrimp skins, fish heads, crab leftovers etc...all combined with tomato paste, 2 onions, 1 leek,4 carrots & 2 celery sticks, cover with water plus a pint of white wine should do the trick.
Separate the row from the scallops and set aside. I use a blender to make this bisque. You will see why: purée the whites of the scallops with the mushrooms. Remove from blender. Do the same for the roe, adding a touch of cream to wards the end, to bind smoothly. In a saucepan, pour a little olive oil, add the leek, celery, garlic and the cherry tomatoes. Add the white wine and bring it to a slow boil, then add the Brandy, saffron, salt & pepper. Cook for 2 minutes and blend the whole thing to a smooth finish. Now the fun begins: in the same saucepan, over a low heat, pour the white of the scallops & mushroom paste and whisk in the warmed up shellfish stock. Whisk until well blended then add the roe and the cream. Correct the seasoning and cook very slowly for 10 minutes. Do not allow this bisque to boil. You can garnish the individual soup plates with finely chopped basil leaves. It's incredible with toasted brioche slices. And very, very elitist.
Terrine of Scallops, with Avocado Coulis:
if you're about to give a party and want to impress the guests, look no further than making this simple terrine. It won't take much time if you follow the recipe. First buy some vine leaves. It usually comes in a vacuum-pack of 8 or 12 ounces, from a Greek or Turkish food shop (I'm sure you have tasted their stuffed vine leaves). Some supermarkets stock it as well.
You need to soak them overnight in water with the juice of half a lemon. Rinse thoroughly and dry with kitchen paper. If you can’t find vine leaves you can substitute with fresh spinach leaves. Just plunge them into a saucepan of hot water and remove immediately. Stick them under a cold running tap for a minute and you’re done.
For eight servings I would suggest three pounds of white fish fillets (bream, snapper, cod or halibut, types of), 1 pound of scallops, 2 carrots. You will also need the whites of three eggs, salt & pepper to taste, a few sprigs of cilantro (or basil), and half a pint of double cream. If you’re going to serve it with the avocado & lime coulis you’ll need three or four avocados & two limes with a little cream added to it for texture.
First of all blanch carrots and cool them under cold water. Then chop them up into tiny cubes and set aside. Place the fish fillets (after making sure there isn’t any bones or scales left) into the blender with the egg whites, the salt & pepper and the cilantro. Blend till smooth at low gear, put the paste into a bowl then add the cream slowly with a rubber spatula. Add the cubed carrots and mix well. In a frying pan, add a little olive oil and sear the scallops. Do not cook them, just sear and set aside to cool. Pic of scallop terrine below, sans vine leaves.
Line your terrine with the vine leaves (or the spinach) and using a spatula add a layer of the fish mixture, then lay a few scallops in the middle, add another ayer of the mixture then scallops, then more mixture until it's all done.
Cover with the overlapping vine leaves and place into a baking dish, add water round it and stick it into a pre-heated oven (240 celsius) for forty five minutes. Take the terrine out of the baking dish, place a brick on top of it (or a stone) and let cool overnight.
For the avocado coulis, it’s as simple as making guacamole. Seed the avocados, mash them in a bowl, add the juice of the two limes, salt & pepper and fold in a little cream. If you feel extra rich, purchase a little amount of fresh salmon egg roe and as you place a slice of terrine over the avocado coulis on a plate, dot the coulis with salmon roe.
For those who have read this post to this end, here's the simplest recipe of all, the scallops Mornay in all of its glory...but with a twist.
Mornay Scallops with Endives:
the addition of cooked endive (or witlof, as it is sometimes called) brings to this dish another dimension: Mornay sauce is good but not great but with the unexpected pleasure and tangy sophisticated flavor of the endive it gives this dish some needed gravitas.
for 6 servings you will need six scallops shells, if you want to be traditional (let's face it, it's fun), 5 or 6 medium-sized scallops with roe on per person, 3 endives, half a pint of Mornay sauce (which is Béchamel with grated Gruyere & Parmesan cheese added to it. Here is the recipe for Béchamel, from my Nostalgic foods diary; salt & pepper to taste.
blanch cook the endives till soft, drain and cut up Julienne style and set aside. Set up your grill on high heat. Fill the bottom of the shells with the endives, lay the 5 or 6 scallops on top, cover with a generous amount of Mornay sauce, a pinch of black pepper and grill, baby, grill till done (should be about 5 minutes or until brown. This is a fast dish and great served with a green salad.
Share your seafood recipes for the next 6 days: in order to respond properly to questions and recipes enquiries I'll keep each diary open for a week, until the next installment is posted.