Seafood Recipes

Pan Seared scallops, beans, frisée and chilli

July 3, 2008


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 tomato

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.

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  • dp July 3, 2008 at 9:13 pm

    Interesting, I didn’t know tomatoes and potatoes kept beans from splitting. Do you happen to know how that works? I’d look it up if I wasn’t at work, pretending to work 🙂

    Scallops are my fav. I love the texture of the seared outside and the soft inside. You’ve made them look perfect!

    And about cooking in someone else’s kitchen…I don’t like it one bit, even if it is a gourmet kitchen. I always feel like I’m running around looking for stuff and I’m used to my own stuff. I know how hot my burners will get and how well my oven will roast.

  • Chocolate Shavings July 3, 2008 at 10:21 pm

    That looks absolutely amazing! I love the presentation.

  • steamykitchen July 4, 2008 at 3:13 am

    Hey M!
    get yourself a portable butane stove – $20! then you can sear scallops anywhere!

  • Syrie July 4, 2008 at 4:01 am

    Looks more than just OK to me. It looks bloody marvelous!

  • Mimi July 4, 2008 at 5:03 am

    Stumbled across your blog, gorgeous presentation of these scallops. Would love to know where you got the glass squares 🙂

  • matt wright July 4, 2008 at 5:06 am

    Thanks for all the kind comments!! to answer a few questions:

    dp: From what I understand, it is the acidity in the tomato, and the starch in the potato that prevent the spliting. This was actually the first time I tried it, and it worked great – way less splitting than before. Interesting stuff!

    Mimi – they were on sale at Crate and Barrel about a week ago.. really cheap too from what I remember.

  • White On Rice Couple July 4, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    Too funny, from your last post, the spirit of joy has definitely changed!
    UGH! What a horrible experience, maybe next time you should drive them to your place! But at least the dish turned out good, as well as beautiful.

    BTW- which pan are you using to sear your scallops? stain less steel? have you used cast iron on your scallops before? if so, how did it work for ya?

  • matt wright July 4, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    WoRC – I normally use either stainless steel, anodized aluminium (rubbish) or a really sodding good non-stick. For non-stick I prefer the Swiss Diamond brand as the weapon of choice – a really tough surface that works well enough with high heat.

    I wanna get a few carbon steel pans and give those a go too. I have a carbon steel wok, and that works amazingly well for stick-free cooking.

    I haven’t done much cooking with cast-iron. A well seasoned cast iron pan would work great with scallops I would think!

  • Rasa Malaysia July 5, 2008 at 12:57 am

    I love seared scallops and this dish of yours looks like it came out from a top-notch seafood restaurant. Drool. 🙂

  • matt wright July 5, 2008 at 4:44 am

    Rasa – thanks very much! personally, I am rather partial to your blog.

    WoRC – forgot to mention, it wasn’t really that horrible to be honest.. the drive there was a little stressful, but the cooking was “OK” 😀

  • Niamh July 8, 2008 at 4:37 pm

    Oooh yum! And great scallop cooking tips.

  • nina July 8, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    I’m dying for some fresh scallops here, but no luck! This looks so delicious!!!

  • Hélène July 14, 2008 at 11:41 pm

    You have a way to presenting your plates. It’s beautiful.