Joseph insisted that instead of going out for his birthday, he wanted to make a nice meal at home and break open a bottle of wine that we brought back from our honeymoon in Napa last year. One of the restaurants that we went to on our honeymoon was Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc (French Laundry wasn’t quite in our budget, not to mention it’s really hard to get reservations) and I gave Joseph Keller’s new cookbook, Ad Hoc at Home for Christmas. Now, Thomas Keller’s cooking at home isn’t quite what we do at home on an average weekday night (I wish). In fact, we hadn’t made anything from it yet, although Joseph has found the book to have really helpful tips, for example, how long to let meat rest before serving. I mostly like to look at all the pretty pictures.
Anyway, while many of the recipes are bit more involved, Joseph found a very simple recipe that he wanted to make and oh my goodness, you need to do yourself a favor and try it in your home right away. It’s very, very simple, and very, very tasty. A perfectly caramelized scallop is pure perfection – a sweet little treat from the sea. We served them with roasted broccoli and some rice, threw in a cheese course (Camembert that we brought back from the French airport highrollers that we are), all served with Joseph Phelps’ 2007 Sauvignon Blanc. The result was a meal that tasted so good it felt like we’d spent a small fortune at a great restaurant and the cleanup was pretty minimal so we weren’t left with a mess wishing that we had gone out.
Which leads me to the dessert. It was my husband’s birthday and I love to bake, so what did I make him? Well, I spent a long time pouring over recipes and at the last minute decided to just admit defeat and come home with a backup plan. I wanted to be able to enjoy the night with him not the KitchenAid, so I promised I would make something later in the week and got some Ben and Jerry’s Peanut Brittle and some hot fudge sauce. It was delicious and took no time to make, so no, I have no regrets, although I did feel a wee bit guilty. I did put a candle in his though, and we did have cake from Joyce Bakeshop over the weekend, so that counts for something, right?
Caramelized Sea Scallops
Adapted from Thomas Keller
I’ve included several tips for optimal caramelization. Follow them! You will thank me!
1 cup kosher salt, plus more to taste
2 cups hot water
8 cups cold water
12 large scallops (about 1 3/4 lbs)*
2 tablespoons clarified butter**
Line a plate or baking sheet with paper towels. Combine the salt with the hot water in a large bowl and stir until the salt has dissolved. Add the cold water.
Place the scallops in the brine and let it stand for 10 minutes. Don’t let them sit in there any longer than 10 minutes or they’ll get too salty.
Drain the scallops and rinse them well under cold water. Arrange them on the paper towels.
Heat the clarified butter in a large stainless steel frying pan till you start to see smoke. You could use nonstick, but you’ll never get a perfect caramelization because the pan won’t get as hot as you need it. Sprinkle the scallops with salt and add them to the pan, making sure that they aren’t too crowded – do not let them touch (they’ll steam and you won’t get the caramelization)! Once you put them in the pan, let them sit untouched until the bottoms are golden brown, about 3 to 3 1/2 minutes (moving them around will interfere with the caramilization!). Turn them over and repeat the process for the other side.
Serve with a squeeze of lemon and enjoy.
* Our Whole Foods only had small ones so we ended up getting more – a total of 5 per person.
** The process of clarifying butter removes the milk solids, allowing you to cook it at a higher temperature for a better caramelization