Saturday, March 27, 2010

Scallops with Tarragon-Parsley “Soup” and Morel Mushrooms

Note: This dish is technically very easy, and actually not very time-consuming. It also allows you to do most of the preparation beforehand and then finish the dish with about 10 minutes of cooking right before serving. However, it does require getting the proper order of operations, which is why the instructions are so lengthy. Don't be dissuaded; it's a great dish, and easy to do.

Serves 6

  • 30 whole bay scallops scallops (fresh, not frozen--frozen will have absorbed too much water to caramelize).
  • 1/2 pound sliced morels, lightly sautéed in butter; or freshly shaved white truffles
  • 1-2 T butter
Tarragon-Parsley Soup
(source: A Return to Cooking, by Eric Ripert)
  • 2 cups packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup packed chervil leaves (if you can't find chervil, you may omit it)
  • 1/2 cup packed tarragon leaves
  • ~ 1/2 cup water
  • 2 sticks butter cut into 1/2" cubes
  • Kosher salt to taste

Morel Preparation:

Selecting morels: morels should be firm (surprisingly so, given how delicate they look) and clean-looking. They should not be soggy, falling apart and bug-ridden. It is true that there will be some small bugs, and even (yes, it's true) the occasional maggot. However, this should be the exception not the norm. I mention this because the first time I attempted to prepare morels, I bought them late in the season, and they were crawling with maggots. I remembered reading that there was the occasional maggot and thought it was OK at first. It's not. I ended up throwing away $60 worth of mushrooms. If preparing the morels makes you want to retch, they're probably bad. Trust your gut :)

Cut each morel in half lengthwise. Place them in a bowl of salted water and soak for several hours (at least three). Try to keep the cut side up. Soaking them will get all of the bugs to vacate their shelters and ensure you don't get any more protein than your looking for. About an hour before cooking place the morels on a paper towel in a colander and let them dry out. Slice up the morels and let them continue to dry out on the paper towel and colander.

"Soup" Pre-Preparation

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Throw in all of the herbs at once, and blanch them for 1-2 minutes. Drain them in a strainer, and run cold water over them to stop the cooking (you may also submerge them in an ice bath). Puree all of the herbs in a blender, adding water as necessary to facilitate the blending. Set aside.

Scallops preparation:

Remove tough muscle from the side of the scallops. Pat all dry with a paper towel. Place onto some kind of mesh to allow more liquid to drain. Return scallops to refrigerator.

Finishing the morels (you may do this before or while the scallops are cooking)

Saute the morels in 1 T butter for around 5 minutes. Add salt to taste.

Finishing the "soup" (you may do this while the scallops are cooking, too)

Melt the butter over medium heat. You don't want it to get to hot, so once it's melted, remove from the heat. Whisk in the herb puree. Taste and add salt as needed. You will likely need quite a bit of salt before the flavor starts to come out.

Cooking Scallops:

Immediately before you plan to serve the dish cook scallops. Turn the heat to high. Place a small amount of butter (1/2 to 1 Tbsp) into a non-stick frying pan. Melt the butter to bubbling. Add the scallops, ensuring that each has the large round face down, in contact with the pan. Cook on first side until each scallop has noticeable caramelization. If your scallops retained too much water, you will not get the caramelization; in this case cook until mostly cooked through. Once caramelization is achieved, turn the scallops over and caramelize the other side.

Finishing the Dish

Ladle the parsley-tarragon soup into wide, shallow soup bowls. This is a generous amount of sauce for 6 people, and would be fine for 8, too. Place 5 scallops into each bowl in a star formation. Diving the sauteed morels evenly amongst the bowls and place in the center of the star.

Crab “Ravioli”

Serves 6

Special tools: Seafood scissors. If you haven't tried these, you must. It makes shelling ANYTHING easy, and painless (OK, maybe not stone crab, but anything else).
  • 2 pounds king crab, or other good crab (weight is only for shells)
  • 2 avocadoes avocado sliced into 1/8" radial slices, to preserve the shape
  • 1 recipe lemon aioli, use only half the usual amount of garlic.

Remove crab from shells. Place in a strainer and allow to continue to dry out for several hours (if you can).

Cut each avocado in half lengthwise, rotating gently to separate the two halves. then gently score the edge of the peel at the bottom of top and carefully remove the skin. For the side without the pit, carefully cut a 1/6" slice, so you have an avocado "donut." Place three of these to a plate. For the side with the pit, remove the skin as before, and cut radially around the pit to get your slice. Once you've made a full revolution, gently remove the slice from the pit and the rest of the avocado. 2 avocados should be plenty to get you three attractive slices of avocado per person.

Mound the crab into the hole in each of the avocados. This will create the effect of a ravioli.

Drizzle the ailoi over the top and serve.

Alternate preparation: Serve as a terrine, with diced avocado on the bottom, crab on top, and aioli drizzled over the top.

Additional ideas: de-constructed cobb salad, add mini-cubes of cooked bacon, Roquefort, and frisee on top. Potentially layer a slice of egg on top of the avocado.

Roast Pork Sandwich with Peach Chutney

Serves 2

  • ½ of a cooked one pound pork tenderloin
  • 4 slices of good bread
  • ½ cup spicy peach chutney, warmed
    • Substitutes: warmed peach preservers, lingonberry preservers, or cherry preserves mixed with mustar
  • ~1 cup loosely packed arugula leaves
  • Balsamic vinaigrette
  • Shaved, nutty cheese, such as aged gouda
  • Mayonnaise
  • Optional: marinated red onions

Toast bread, and spread mayonnaise on it. Slice pork loin into ¼ inch slices. Warm pork slices in the microwave for 30-40 seconds, till warm and just starting to steam. Toss arugula with vinaigrette. If using marinated onions, place on bread first. Arrange pork slices on bread such that they are slightly overlapping. Spoon warm peach chutney over the top. Arrange shaved gouda over the top of the chutney (liberal application recommended). Place half of the arugula on top. Finish the sandwich with the other piece of bread.

Tamarind Pork Loin Wrapped in Prosciutto

Serves 2

  • 1 pound pork lion
  • 3 oz. very thinly sliced prosciutto
  • ½ cup, plus ½ cup tamarind chutney: You can get this at some grocery stores, or buy some from a local Indian restaurant (very cheap, if not free). In St. Lucia the grocery stores carried a very, very spicy tamarind chutney made with habanero peppers. That is how we first tried this.
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pat dry the pork loin, liberally salt and pepper it. Place the pork on a roasting/broiling pan, and spoon the chutney liberally along its length. Do not attempt to rub it on the sides, just put a lot on top, and as it cooks, it will work its way down. Place slices of prosciutto cross-wise over the pork (initially, you'll create a "T" with the pork loin and the piece of prosciutto) until you have covered the whole loin, but don't fold under. Once you've covered the loin in prosciutto, one side at a time, gently fold the prosciutto under the pork.

Cook at 350 for 20-30 mintes, or until the pork is 145-150 degrees according to a meat thermometer. This equates to "medium-medium-rare" Still a little pink, but warm through.

Pairs very nicely with baked sweet potato fries, or plantain tostones. If you cook extra, you can use it for a sandwich the following day.

As an alternative, more savory approach, use pesto rather than tamarind sauce.

Spicy Peach Chutney

Needs editing, can't remember 100%

  • 1 T butter
  • ¼ cup chopped pecans
  • 1 can peaches and juice
  • 5 cloves
  • 1/8 – ¼ tsp cardamom
  • Cayenne pepper to taste
  • Kosher salt to taste

Melt butter and sauté pecans until they start to smell toasty. Add peaches, and mash with a potato masher. Add cloves. Cook over medium-low heat until you achieve a thick, bubbly texture, like jam. Add cardamom, cayenne pepper and salt to taste. Should be sweet and spicy. Goes beautifully with pork.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Cap Maison Rum Punch

This was how we were greeted when we arrived at Cap Maison in St. Lucia (well, after the glass of champagne right when we arrived…). It is by far the best rum punch I've ever had, which is a drink I had not previously given much esteem. This is a wonderful cocktail, period. I spent the rest of the trip trying to get something similar (much to Roy's amusement) and was disappointed every time. Not too sweet at all. As with so many good cocktails, the secret is in the quality of ingredients; you must use fresh lime juice, and it is greatly improved by the freshly grated nutmeg.

  • 1 part sugar syrup:
    • 1 part sugar, 1 part water
    • Heat stove top and boil for 4 minutes
    • Cool completely. Will store very well if not contaminated with bacteria.
  • 2 parts fresh lime juice
  • 3 parts dark rum
  • Dash of Angostura Bitters
  • Freshly grated nutmeg

Add lots of ice, an the dash of Angostura Bitters and freshly grated nutmeg on top

Bon appétit!