It’s the Year of the Horse in the Chinese zodiac. It’s the Year of Radiant Orchid if you speak Pantone. In my house, it is the Year of the Scallop. I am damn well going to learn how to perfectly sear a scallop if it takes me all remaining 42 weeks to do it.
I’m sure by now that you’ve figured out by my not-so-subtle frustration that last night’s foray into scallops (Fire In My Belly, page 133) was a flop just like my previous attempt. This was not the recipe’s fault. The recipe was quite good and if you already can make perfect scallops, you should try it. The instructions were very clear and very precise. Because the instructions were so precise, I followed them closely. But I think it would have helped to have success with the scallop before attempting this recipe.
The good news is that I learned a thing or two about the scallop process this time. I also learned that if all you can find at the grocery is 10-20 scallops (instead of U10), you should plan a different meal. Couple more tips? Drying the scallops is important, as is salting them very well. I forgot this step last step. Fortunately, my cauliflower was over-salted, so the combined bite was pretty good. When the instructions say to get the oil hot and to use high heat, they mean it. Hot, people. And don’t touch the scallops while they are getting their sear on. If two minutes isn’t enough, you will know it. Having failed at this a couple of times now, I can tell you for certain that you can absolutely tell when the scallops are searing. If you don’t think they are searing, they aren’t. Either turn up the heat or give them another minute.
My kids don’t particularly like scallops (which I forgot when meal planning because I like scallops), so I made them shrimp instead. After searing the scallops and melting the butter, I added the shrimp to the same pan. If I were to do this again, I would add the shrimp before melting the butter but I thought this would make the shrimp over-cooked. In fact, I ended up undercooking everything, which was fine because the scallops and shrimp were cold by the time I finished the cauliflower, so I just popped them back into the buttery pan on high and seared them. Problem solved.
The cauliflower part of this was great. I made the purée first, then let it sit while making the scallops and the pan-fried cauliflower. My cauliflower for the purée took a little longer than 20 minutes, and I did let the cooked cauliflower and milk sit in the blender in the refrigerator to cool off for about 10 minutes before blending. I had no luck with the recommended last step – putting the purée through a fine mesh sieve. I couldn’t get mine to come out the other side. All I was left with was cream so I scrapped that step. The purée was just fine without being strained.
The other tricky bit for me was that all cauliflower heads are different, so “half a head of cauliflower” made measuring a bit subjective. I played with my measurements quite a bit. Adjust to taste is all I can say. Also, if you use salted versus unsalted butter, you might have to adjust the salt measurements downward. I would recommend unsalted butter (might have learned this the hard way) so that you can upwards adjust your salt if necessary. As I said, my cauliflower was salty but that worked with the purée and scallops, both of which were under-salted.
Would I make this recipe again? I’m still not sure. There are so many great scallop recipes out there waiting to be explored… That said, it was very tasty, and the little people ate it without fuss. Do I think it is worth you giving it a try? Absolutely. And when you do, let me know how it comes out. If you have any tips for me to hasten my Year of the Scallop, those would be great too.