Monday, September 3, 2012

Seared Scallops and Beurre Blanc

Fresh, meaty scallops, sweet and tasting of the sea are a nice treat.  
They're great as an appetizer, as a first course, or as a light dinner or lunch on a bed of spring greens.

Most of the time, having one small, perfect something is better than a lot of the same. 
There's some satisfaction in that, and things are certainly made more special. 

When selecting scallops, make sure they are fresh, white, firm, and practically odorless (at least they should be nowhere near "fishy" in scent.)

The key when handling scallops is keeping them fresh and cold, using them soon after purchase, and not overcooking them. Texture is superior when leaning more towards "silky" and less towards rubber
If quickly seared over a high heat, the scallops will gain a golden crust and retain their moist and tender interior.  

As fas a beurre blanc goes, it's a simple pan sauce, a classic French sauce, and great with seafood.
Like mayonnaise, beurre blanc is an emulsified sauce. However, instead of being an oil emulsion, it's a butter emulsion.
And, being a warm emulsion, the sauce can "break" (separate) if it becomes too hot. The good news is that it can be saved. A little cool water quickly whisked into the sauce should re-emulsify it.

Pan sauces are good tricks to have up your sleeve, and the nice thing is that you don't need a lot to gain great flavor.

Seared Scallops with Beurre Blanc
serves 12 as an appetizer, 4 as a light meal (maybe on a bed of spring greens)

12 large sea scallops
Freshly ground black pepper
9 T butter (127g), divided
1/3 c white wine (80 ml)
3 T white wine vinegar (45 ml)
2 T minced shallot (about 1 small shallot) (18g)
2 t fresh thyme, minced (1g)

Pat the scallops dry and remove the small ligament attached to the side of the scallop if present. Sprinkle scallops lightly with salt and pepper on both sides.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 T (14g) of butter. After the butter has melted, rotate the pan so that the butter coats the bottom of the pan. Add the scallops to the hot pan and sear until golden brown. Flip the scallops and sear on the other side until just cooked through (the scallops will only cook about 5 minutes total). Remove the scallops to a platter to rest. 
To the hot pan, add the white wine, white wine vinegar, and shallot. Cook the mixture, scraping the bottom of the pan to incorporate the caramelized bits, until the liquid is reduced to about 3 T. Add the thyme and stir through. Reduce the heat to low and carefully pour any scallop juices from the platter into the pan.  Add about half the remaining butter, stirring the mixture until it has completely melted. Remove the pan from the heat. Cut the remaining butter into 4 pieces and add them to the pan. Swirl the pan to mix the butter into the rest of the sauce. Plate scallops as desired and spoon sauce over the scallops. 

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