Saturday, October 22, 2011

restaurant quality pan seared scallops at home

It all began this afternoon. Actually, it all began about two weeks ago when midterm projects and exams began. That was around the same time that J came down with a wicked cold. I remember because it started the day after Yom Kippur and the day before Thanksgiving. The Jewish holy days always come with lots of traditional foods. Yom Kippur is different because it comes with the denial of food for 25 hours followed by a huge binge. I think this was a bit of a shock to poor J's system. This was his first fast and I was very proud of him for making Yom Kippur meaningful in his own way and in his own time. Le sigh.

Anyway, J started to come down with something the day of his mom's family Thanksgiving and spent half of the day trying to sleep in his old bedroom, avoiding his nieces and nephew. Since then, I've eaten more soup than any span of time in recent memory. I took very good care of J making soups from turkey bones, beans, and squash. My dad always told me, a good soup always starts with a mirepoix and a frying pan.

As you might expect, I eventually caught J's cold and had to continue the soup cycle for another week. J made a weird soup that kind of didn't work. I think he just make the mistake of putting too many things
in it. One night I tried the Chinese take-out counter down the street, Mirama. Great chicken noodle soup. Cheap and cheerful soy sauce chow mein. Got a couple spring rolls for J and the three things came out to $11. Visit their website by clicking on the link for a take out menu and the number to call. Free delivery over $10! Cash only...

Today was a special day. It was the first day in two weeks that neither of us had an exam or paper and both of us were feeling on the better side of this cold. We walked down to Monkland Village. I am thrilled to say that the bad days are over and the coffee maker that I broke has been replaced with a lovely french press, a grinder, and some freshly roasted Kenyan beans. The coffee came from Le Maitre Boucher, 5652 Ave. Monkland (between Harvard and Oxford), (514) 487-1437. As did a most surprising assortment of goodies.

The shop was very crowded and there were
all kinds of treasures inside. I spotted them out of the corner of my eye. In a little, see-thru plastic container, nestled in an open refrigerated case, there sat protected from the world, ten beautiful scallops from Nova Scotia. I should have taken a photo of them all cozy in the package together, each one a beautiful, clean tasting morsel of the sea.

I had to think of a plan fast so I went for
some strong, crumbly, sweet blue cheese and a large, firm pear. They will end up in some sort of bruleed masterpiece when I figure out how to use my new blow torch. We quickly dropped off the precious ingredients at home and I leafed through old copies of Cook's Illustrated. I remembered a sweet pea puree that I had seen used under some halibut recently. I know I've read articles about how to complete perfect pan-seared scallops at home, if only I could find the issue.

Out the door again, this time to the supermarket for frozen peas and a couple other key ingredients. Cream for our new coffee. The baby bok choi also looked fresh so we picked some up and figured we'd find a way to cook it later.

The pea puree was very easy to make and left one huge but simple component complete and at the ready. The scallops needed little
more than salt, pepper, vegetable oil, and unsalted butter. I wasn't sure of the exact order of what to do when, but I was sure I had read an article about it this summer. I kept looking through the magazines and couldn't find it. That's when I remembered my online membership. I was on the recipe faster than a flash in the pan.

Inside of a minute I had found a cross-referenced article about sauces for scallops and settled on a lemon-herb brown butter sauce. J came into the kitchen when things started to smell good and made himself useful as photographer, sous-chef, and dish boy. The penne aglio olio never would have happened without him.

Next time I make this (which will be at a dinner party near you) I would do a couple of things differently. Rather than boiling them in a high walled frying pan I would blanche and then stir fry the bok choi in ginger and green onion.

I would also add more liquid to the pea puree when I blended it.

We have enough leftovers to turn this into an appetizer for us tomorrow night. If they don't get eaten cold from the fridge as an afternoon snack during the day.

Pistachio ice cream for dessert.


  1. oh wow that looks fantastic! What's in the pea puree?

  2. Hi Danielle, Melissa here from Food Bloggers of Canada. Just stopped by to check out your blog and let you know we've added you to our member directory. Welcome aboard!