25 April 2007
Most restaurants have a whole slew of kitchen staff, special equiptment, an arsenal of ingredients, and a luxury of time to prepare the dishes they serve. When eating out, I like to enjoy the whole experience, the food, the company, letting someone else do the work, and while I often get ideas and inspirations from dining in restaurants, I rarely try to replicate a dish for the reasons I’ve just listed. (And after reading Bill Buford’s latest article, I’m really glad I don’t work in a restaurant either). I am, at heart, a home cook, I like simple things, and am perfectly happy making lunch out of some fresh fruit and slices of cheese and bread.
However, the other day when I had stopped by the store to pick up a lone red pepper, I emerged with a bag of groceries and a restaurant dish in mind. Some beautifully plump scallops had reminded me of a dish I had recently, and soon I was in the produce department getting asparagus to go with them. When I inquired about salsify, a black root also known as oyster plant, to my surprise the grocer went into the back and brought out a 3 pound bag which he let me pick from; my project was underway.
The preparation here is quite simple and I was very happy my improvisation turned out a dish just as good as the one I had, or at least a fascimile I'm satisfied with. Salsify does in fact taste remarkably like oyster when it is cooked in milk, however (fear not!) in this preparation it has a mild, almost sweet taste. The scallops, crispy on the outside, were positively creamy inside, and along with the asparagus, made use of the best of the season.
Seared Scallops with Asparagus and Salsify
This is an impressive dish with a very simple preparation. You can make this dish richer by adding milk or cream to the sauce, or lighter by cutting back on the butter. Serves 2.
1 bunch fat asparagus
1/2 lb salsify, also known as oyster plant
6 large scallops (about 3/4 lb), or more for a main course
3 tbl butter
1 tbl olive oil
1 tsp salt
1. Trim the bottoms from the asparagus then use a vegetable peeler to peel the bottom half of the stalks. Peel the salsify to remove all black parts, cut into 6 inch pieces and halve lengthwise.
2. Fill a large skillet with about 2 inches of water and bring to a boil. Add the asparagus and salsify to the skillet, they may not be submerged completely, that’s ok. Simmer for about 7 minutes, turning, until the asparagus is tender. Using tongs, remove the asparagus to a bowl and let the salsify simmer another 5-10 minutes, until the salsify is somewhat translucent and tender when pierced with a knife, kind of like a carrot. Remove salsify to the bowl with the asparagus. Drain the cooking water into a separate bowl and reserve.
3. Wipe out the skillet and melt one tablespoon of the butter with the olive oil over medium-high heat. When the foam has subsided, add the scallops and sear until browned on one side, about 5 minutes. Turn and brown on the other side (cooking time may vary depending on size and water-volume of scallops). Set scallops aside.
4. Add about a cup of the salsify cooking water to the pan, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom. Stir in the remaining 2 tbl butter and the salt. Simmer just for the sauce to combine.
5. Arrange the aspargus and salsify on 2 plates, top each with three scallops, then pour the warm sauce over top. Serve immediately, with bread to soak up the sauce.
Dress Up: Drizzle a little white truffle oil over or use lobster butter in the sauce.