Seared Scallops with Yuzu Vinaigrette
One of my friends here in Durham is a cookbook author and he was inquiring recently why I haven't made the jump into the printed word. The answer would be primarily that seems like a lot of work I don't have time for, but I have had chances through the years to author a book, but most of the time publishers were looking for someone to write a book they had a concept for, not one that was true to my own passions. Only one publisher ever enticed me, enough so that I was even considering taking a sabbatical to develop recipes and write a book, and that pitch was to create a book aimed at the more experienced griller—recipes that involved preparations the novice might find daunting, but accessible for those who have already tested the waters and were ready to dive into the deep end. I feel like a lot of my recipes straddle that line, and in thinking of what might be one the best representations of that topic, these seared scallops with a yuzu vinaigrette and parsnip purée are exemplary.
To me, the title of the recipe has the sound of an item off of a fine dinning menu, but the components are totally within reach of the average cook with a little experience. Starting with the parsnip purée, this item may have a fancy ring to it, but it's totally simple to make.
The purée started with a few parsnips I peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices. I then boiled them until I could easily pierce the flesh with no resistance, a method that should be familiar to anyone who's made mashed potatoes before.
The I puréed the parsnips with a few tablespoons of butter and heavy cream in the food processor. What resulted was a rich and sweet purée that had a deceptively simple appearance compared to its powerhouse flavor.
The next fancy-pants sounding item is the yuzu vinaigrette, but really, this piece of the puzzle is just about locating a bottle of yuzu juice. If you have an Asian grocery near you, it should be exceedingly simple to get this Japanese citrus juice, but even if you don't, it can be ordered online, so only a little advanced planning is needed. With the juice in hand, the rest of the vinaigrette is simply extra-virgin olive oil and mirin, which all combine into a sauce that's bright, slightly tart, fruity, and sweet—a lot of complexity for only a few ingredients.
Then comes the scallops, which is all about the freshness and cooking method. Along with a butcher, a great fishmonger is something I'm lacking here in Durham, so I tried out the scallops at Whole Foods and was left wanting for a fresher product. Still, I knew if I could cook them right, they'd still pretty damn awesome put together in the final dish.
Cooking scallops is all about getting an excellent crusty sear without overcooking the inside. A super hot cooking medium—the grill in this case—is essential, but some added help by drying out the exterior also goes a long way. So before grilling, I first patted the scallops dry with paper towels. I then seasoned them with salt and placed them in the refrigerator to further dry out while I prepared the fire.
You don't really need any special equipment to sear the scallops, but my Craycort grates came with a griddle insert that seemed appropriate here to ensure maximum contact to an extremely hot surface to sear the scallops as best as possible. I used a fresh batch of hot coals and let my grill heat up for five to ten minutes to get that griddle as hot as it can be.
And it totally did the trick as the scallops developed a well browned exterior in literally seconds. This is exactly what I wanted as only a minute per side was needed to get the scallops in a state where they were just starting to firm up, but not cooked all the way through—grilling the scallops for too long would render them rubbery and chewy. So the fact that in the two minutes total cooking time I was able to achieve a deep, crusty sear made me very happy.
Then came the next, and most difficult, step for me—plating. I'm admittedly pretty terrible with presentation, but tried harder than normal here to make the looks match the great flavors. I used a spoon to spread a layer of the parsnip purée on a plate. I followed that by adding pieces of watercress for a fresh green color and then placed the scallops on top. After spooning on vinaigrette, I finished the plate with a sprinkling of hot Thai chilies, which added both color and a contrasting heat to the sweet purée and sauce.
All-in-all it was one of my better presentation efforts, but the real magic was in the flavor. The scallops were cooked incredibly well, with a pleasing soft interior texture contrasted with the crusty sear. They were complimented well by the bright yuzu vinaigrette whose own sweetness got and added depth from the parsnip purée. I would say the chilies are probably optional, but I think the little pockets of heat they created were a great foil to the sugars. The entire meal tasted light, refreshing, and fully realized. And while the dish may look and sound fancy, the ingredient list is short, the methods rather simple, and the time to complete is manageable even on a weeknight, all combining to be exactly the type of recipe I think would make for a great grilling cookbook, if I were ever to write one that is.
Seared Scallops with Yuzu Vinaigrette
- Yield 4 servings
- Prep 35 Minutes
- Inactive 15 Minutes
- Cook 2 Minutes
- Total 52 Minutes
- For the Parsnip Purée
- 3/4 pound parsnips, peeled and and cut into 1/2-inch slices
- 3 tablespoons heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons butter, melted
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground white pepper
- For the Yuzu Vinaigrette
- 2 tablespoons yuzu juice
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon mirin
- 1 1/4 pound dry sea scallops
- 1/2 cup watercress, washed and dried
- 1 to 2 Thai chilies, thinly sliced (optional)
- To Make the Parsnip Purée: Place parsnips and 2 teaspoons salt in a medium saucepan; add enough cold water to completely submerge parsnips. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce to a simmer, and cook until parsnips can be pierced with a paring knife with no resistance, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain parsnips and transfer to the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade.
- Add heavy cream and butter to food processor and pulse until parsnips are completely broken down. Run food processor until mixture is completely smooth, about 1 minute. Season with salt and white pepper to taste. Set aside.
- To Make the Yuzu Vinaigrette: Whisk together yuzu juice, oil, and mirin in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
- Pat scallops dry with paper towels and season lightly with salt. Let rest in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. Remove and pat dry again. Season lightly with more salt.
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place scallops on grill and cook until first side is well seared, about one minute. Flip scallops and continue to cook until second side is well seared, about 1 minutes more. Transfer scallops to a paper towel-lined plate.
- Spread a heaping tablespoon of parsnip purée on each plate. Place 3 or 4 scallops on top of parsnip purée and drizzle about 1 teaspoon of vinaigrette on top of each scallop. Garnish lightly with watercress and a few slices of pepper, if using. Serve immediately.
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Dylan Looks good man i'd like to see more recipes like this. I'd definitely try it out if i were more into scallops.
Jenine I can't wait to try this.
Write an E-book and provide it for purchase. Nothing to hold you back.