Friday, 26 March 2010
Seared Sea Scallops on BLT Salad with Oven Roasted Potato Slices
Scallops are one of my all-time favourite foodstuffs. Their incredibly sweet, delicate flavour and texture is an eating experience in itself, which means it is vitally important that one be extremely careful not to overcook scallops, or to serve them with anything which will overpower their flavour. I have eaten scallops raw - straight from the shell - only minutes after they were hand-plucked from the seabed, I have eaten scallops poached and I have eaten scallops seared in a pan, as in this recipe. Regrettably, I have also had another eating experience with scallops which illustrates perfectly why it is so necessary to be careful when cooking or serving scallops...
It was while living in Edinburgh a few years ago that I visited a top, "European," style restaurant - I will not name the country for fear of causing offence! - to mark a special occasion. (Though believe it or not, I can't remember specifically what the special occasion was!) I knew that it was going to be an expensive night but, well - everyone needs a treat now and again.
As soon as I saw scallops on the menu, I knew what I was having - there was no further decision to be made. I duly ordered them and - given the restaurant's reputation - awaited them as a child would Santa Claus on Christmas morning. I can still remember my horror when the plate was laid before me - I even did a mental check to make sure it wasn't April 1st! The scallops had been completely covered in what was no doubt an elaborately prepared sauce - but to me, given what it was covering, appeared as no more than a destructive yellow slime, equating to an oil-slick on the ocean. I looked up at the young waiter and he looked aghast because he no doubt saw my reaction. I was so shocked, though, I couldn't speak and forced myself to eat the preparation. Needless to say, I tasted nothing of the scallops as their flavour had been completely over-whelmed.
That meal for two (OK - including the wine) cost me mere pennies less than £250.00 (almost US$400.00) and needless to say I never ventured near the establishment again, nor would I ever recommend anyone else do so. Although I had long since known the way scallops could be overwhelmed in such a fashion, that was my first - and hopefully last - experience of it!
The scallops which I cook with come from the cold Atlantic waters off the West Coast of Scotland (pictured are the beautiful but treacherous waters of the Sound of Islay.) The fresher they can be obtained, clearly the better and although I generally leave the coral attached (looks almost like an orange tail) the ones used in this recipe had already had the coral removed prior to me obtaining them.
This recipe is for one person.
6 or 7 baby sea scallops
1 medium potato
2 rashers of unsmoked bacon
6 cherry tomatoes
2 lettuce leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A little sunflower oil for cooking the potatoes
It is first of all necessary to get the potato slices on to cook. The oven should be put on to preheat to 400F/200C/Gas Mark 6. A baking tray with circa a tbsp of sunflower oil on it should be placed in the oven to heat simultaneously. Note that putting the potato slices on to a cold baking sheet with cold oil will simply cause them to stick to it, absorb the oil and be ruined. The potato should be washed, dried (but not peeled) and sliced in to 1/4" thick discs. When the oven is heated, they should be seasoned with salt and cooked on the baking tray for half an hour, turned after 15 minutes.
When the potato slices are in the oven, the two bacon rashers should be placed in to a dry, non-stick frying pan and heated gently at first (to release some of the fat) until fairly crisp. It is the fat of the bacon in which the scallops will later be cooked. When done, the bacon rashers should be patted dry, thinly sliced and added to a mixing bowl. The tomatoes and lettuce leaves should then be washed and dried before the tomatoes are halved and the lettuce shredded. The tomatoes and lettuce should then be added to the bowl with the bacon and seasoning added in the form of freshly ground black pepper only - the bacon should provide all the salt required. The ingredients should be stirred and covered until required.
Seconds before the potato slices are to be removed from the oven, the pan with the bacon fat should be put back on to the heat, at maximum. The potatoes should then be removed from the oven and placed on a plate covered with kitchen towel to be dried. A second sheet of kitchen towel should be placed on top.
When the frying-pan is virtually smoking hot, the scallops should be added and cooked for thirty seconds each side - no more. They should then be removed from the pan and the meal plated up as shown in the top photograph of this post.