OK – after the last post, I am going to get through this one without a single exclamation mark. Lets see how I do…..
So this dish very nearly didn’t make it. I was meant to be cooking for my parents, Danika’s parents and us, at our house. Somehow it then got all screwed up, and I was then cooking at Danika’s parents house. Bastards. I am going to seem like a real high-maintenance bloke here, but I am not. Just don’t ask Danika that though!
So, I hate Danika’s parents kitchen. Their stove is rubbish. A match gives out more heat. They also don’t cook much, so the layout of the thing is pretty rubbish too, along with lots of stuff covering the counters, which makes it hard to work. The only work space is really on the bar, which is full of people, and snacks for said people.
This made me a touch pissed. I had raced down to Mutual Fish to get some awesome scallops, and was really looking forward to searing these bad boys. The thought of trying to sear scallops on a shitty stove that gives out no heat didn’t fill me with joy – especially since these things weren’t cheap (scallops for 6 people you know…).
Secondly, it was hot. Really sodding hot. Danika’s parents live 40 minutes away, and I don’t have a cool box. Taking fresh seafood somewhere in 90 degree heat, in a car, for 40 minutes, without a cool box. Double bastards.
Then, there is the beans. These are soaking in water, and I wanted them soaking until I needed to use them. Lets try transporting those in the car too. Tripple bastards.
At this point I am now using a few choice words. Words that I hope to god Drake never learns to use (I wasn’t swearing in front of him though).
Oh – and I really wanted red chili’s – to act as a nice visual contrast to the greens. No where had them. I mean, come on people. So, it had to be green ones.
To top it off, we get stuck in a traffic jam thanks to a stalled car. This makes the journey even longer. Thankfully, a ton of ice blocks managed to keep the scallops fine, and my Dad ended up with a rather wet lap holding the beans.
OK, now I sound high maintenance.
Anyhow – it all turned out OK in the end. I managed to get a decent sear on the scallops by doing them in really small batches – just 3 or so at a time. It took a while, but the results were fine.
Which does bring me on to a few top tips for my favorite method of cooking scallops – pan searing:
1) get decent scallops. If you go to your fishmonger, and they look a sickly color, and are knee deep in liquid, don’t buy them. They will be crap.
2) dry them really, really well. The less water in them, the better they will sear.
3) season well with salt and pepper. This will draw out some of the moisture. Dab off any water on them just before searing
4) make sure they are at room temperature before cooking
5) use a really hot pan, and a little olive or sesame oil
6) Leave them the heck alone when they are in the pan. Flip a scallop after about a minute – depending on thickness. Small ones will only take 30 seconds a side. Flip them once, and only once.
7) Don’t crowd the pan. You need to leave room for their juices to come out and evaporate. If you don’t have a high power burner, then cook them in small batches, and try to keep warm.
So – back to the dish. This is a modification from one in the excellent Italian Two Easy, by the lasses behind the London Rive Cafe, Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers. I chose to cook the beans with some herbs, to give them slightly more flavor, and added a potato and tomato to the beans whilst cooking to stop them from splitting. Oh, and they use arugula for this dish, but I prefer frisée. My method is different too, when it comes to the compilation of the dish.
As with everything in the book, the recipe is blindingly simple, but does require top notch ingredients and solid execution for it to taste great. I do highly recommend this book I have to say, I have cooked a lot from it, and everything is excellent.
Pan Seared scallops, beans, frisée and chilli
1 lb of scallops – about 6 large ones
1 small head of frisée
juice 1 lemon
really good olive oil, and some oil decent enough for cooking with
2 big handfuls of dried beans – cranberry are the best if you can find them, great northern are fine
1 red (bastards) chili
salt and pepper
small bunch of thyme and parsley
1 small starchy potato
Start the day before – soak the beans in a lot of cold water overnight. About 1 hour before needing to serve, drain the beans. Put them in a large pot of water, along with the thyme, parsley, potato and tomato. Bring to the boil. Simmer for about 40 minutes – or until the beans are just tender (cooking time depends on the beans you are using – great northern is about 40 minutes).
Prepare the scallops. Pat them dry with paper towel, and season both sides with salt and pepper.
Scorch the chili over a gas burner, until the skin is blistering.
Wash and coarsely chop the frisée. Finely slice the chili, removing the seeds if you wish.
Make a quick dressing for the beans – put almost all of the lemon juice in a bowl, and add in 3 times its volume of really good olive oil. Whisk to combine.
When the beans are done, drain them and discard the potato, tomato and herbs.
Get a heavy bottomed saute pan hot. I like to use stainless steel here, but feel free to use a good non-stick pan too. Add some regular olive oil to the pan (not the really good stuff). When nearly smoking, add in a few scallops. Sear for no more than one minute, then flip them. Cook for another minute. Remove scallops from the pan, and keep warm. Repeat with the remaining scallops. Remove the scallops from the pan, and add in the remaining lemon juice and sliced chili. Shake this around for 30 seconds.
Toss the frisée with the beans. Season with a little salt and pepper. Pour over some of the dressing and toss. Taste the beans and frisée. Add more dressing if required. I always add dressing in stages – you can add more, but never take some out if you add too much.
Divide the greens/beans between two plates. Pour over the pan juices and chili. Top with the scallops. Get stuck in immediately.