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Pan Seared Scallops, Red Onion Confit, toasted pine nuts and sage oil


Blimey, scallops again you say. Well, yes. I am on a bit of a scallop fix lately. When the weather is hot, they just seem like the perfect seafood bite. They also cook in a snap, and are bloody tasty. That could be closer to the truth actually….

When my parents were over, they brought over this little tatty piece of paper with a recipe for Red Onion Confit on it. It actually wasn’t that tatty when they brought it over, but Drake got it.. He screwed it up, colored on it, and then I made it into a paper airplane, which flew rather pathetically. Drake even laughed at it. Cheeky bugger. I made a few modifications to it, and decided to serve it with some scallops.

The confit and the sage oil are really the stars here. The onions are cooked down in some balsamic vinegar and red wine, with a few herbs thrown in for good measure. The result is this sweet sticky soft onion confit that is just completely awesome. It is really pretty rich though. I then decided that I really needed something to lighten it up, especially when serving it with something as delicate as scallops.

Enter sage. Not the most delicate of herbs you might first thing. Well, compared to this red onion confit it is. I also found the pounding some up with a great olive oil in a pestle and mortar really released its floral notes, and just paired brilliantly with the confit. The oil was exceptionally light, and when added to a bite of the confit just lifted the whole thing and gave a great new dimension that was just soft enough as not to interfere too much with the onions.

The dish really needed some crunch to it, and a layer of lightly toasted pine nuts (another of my favorite things right now) did the trick for that. If you let the dish sit for a minute, you get some of the juices from the onion come out into the pine nuts, and give an extra flavor boost to em.

This turned out to be a great little dish for a warm summers day. Light enough to be refreshing (especially when served with a nice cold rosé wine), but hearty enough to be a solid main dish.

Oh, and if anyone has seen my big role of velum that I use to diffuse light from a window, please let me know. I cannot find it for the life of me.

Pan Seared Scallops, Red Onion Confit, toasted pine nuts and sage oil

1lb of fresh large sea scallops

5 to 6 medium sized red onions, peeled and finely sliced

6 tablespoons of red wine

6 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons of brown sugar

1 tablespoon of thyme – chopped

1 teaspoon of sage – finely chopped (for the confit)

sea salt

really good first cold pressed extra virgin olive oil

olive oil for cooking

1 small handful of pine nuts

5 sage leaves – finely sliced (for the sage oil)

a few sage flowers if you are feeling poncey.

Start by making the confit. In a really large saute pan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil over a medium heat. When hot, add in the onions. Cover and allow these to cook down slowly for about 10 minutes, until just soft. Add in the red wine, balsamic vinegar, sugar, thyme and teaspoon of sage. Gently mix. Let this cook slowly, so it is just bubbling for about 40 minutes. Stir every 5 minutes or so to make sure nothing is sticking (especially important towards the end when a lot of liquid has reduced). Turn the heat off under the onions when they are nice and sticky, and little to no juice is free in the pan.

About 15 minutes before the onions are done, take the scallops out of the fridge. Gently wash, and dry really well on paper towels. Season both flat sides with sea salt. Let them get to room temperature for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile lets make the sage oil. Put the sliced sage leaves into the bowl of a pestle and mortar, and pour in a few good glugs of the decent olive oil. Pound this up for a 5 minutes, until the sage leaves have mashed up a bit, and released some of their oils. Strain this oil through a really fine mesh sieve.

Toast the pine nuts in a saute pan over a low heat, until lightly browned.

In a large pan (use two pans if you have to – we don’t want to crowd the scallops) heat a little olive oil. If you are using stainless steel, make sure there is enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. If you are using non-stick you can use less oil.

When the oil is really hot, but not smoking, place in your scallops, placing them as far apart from each other as possible. We need to give them room to release their juices. If they are crowded in, they end up steaming and not searing.

Let them cook for a minute or two on the first side, then flip them when nicely coloured. Cook on the other side for no more than a couple of minutes.

To plate – put down a layer of pine nuts on a plate. Top with half of the confit. Top with half of the scallops. Drizzle the sage oil around the dish. Top with sage flowers if using.

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13 Responses to “Pan Seared Scallops, Red Onion Confit, toasted pine nuts and sage oil”

  1. MariannaF says:

    Well scallops again is fine for me! I love scallops!! This looks so delicious, you are so talented it’s insane! The flavours here sound amazing!

  2. matt wright says:

    you are too kind, thanks!

  3. Looks like you aren’t the only one in a scallop fix Matt! We had it for dinner a few nights ago with a tomato confit & mint at an LA restaurant and are making it tonight for dinner, right now as a matter of fact.
    But your red onion confit an sage oil certainly are the stars, we totally believe you! Your scallops looks great, perfectly seared and whole too! Ours a little broken up and we’re trying to salvage it..ugh!
    We had sage on our minds tonight too and thought about frying some up, but your oil version is perfect for summer. It’s on our list for next week!
    Hey, at last Drake drew on the red confit recipe instead of one of your Keller books! I don’t think you would have liked to see Keller’s recipe fly!

  4. Today, I bought a pack of frozen scallops which are different–they come with the guts and the orange attachment thingy. They are the kinds used by the izakaya joint near my house–just seasoned with salt and grilled over smoky charcoal. Delish!!

  5. i know the scallops were great, but i seem to want to focus only on the beautiful little sage flowers

  6. I have the hardest time making caramelized onions for some reason, so i’ll give this recipe a shot.

  7. mattwright says:

    Sarah – I love using the flowers of herbs as garnishes. Not long ago I had rosemary flowers to work with, now sage flowers.. OK, those are the only two herbs I grow right now, but hey. I find that used sparingly they add just a little delicacy to a dish.

  8. Niamh says:

    Another gorgeous post. This looks wonderful. I really like the sage flowers and the idea of sage oil. As for scallops. YUM.

  9. Hélène says:

    That would be the perfect appetizer to me.

  10. brilynn says:

    I’m making a birthday dinner for my mom next week and she’s requested that scallops be on the menu… this recipe may very well be the one I use, thanks!

  11. diva says:

    why oh why do i love scallops so much?

    beautiful picture..beautiful dish. i’m so in awe….

  12. Y says:

    MMm.. onion confit.. and scallops! Beautiful photo. Am glad to have discovered your site :D

  13. mycookinghut says:

    This dish looks delicious and delicate, especially the little touch of the sage flowers! I like this picture: simple, neat, clean, and soft lighting. Well done.