Thursday, April 25, 2013

Pan-Seared Scallops with Bacon-Braised Chard

I've never made scallops at home before.  I guess I just never got around to it back in my lonely bachelor days, and the wife told me she didn't like to eat the Kingdom Animalia, phylum Mollusca, class Bivalvia, order Ostredoida, family Pectinidae.  And then she experienced the Scallop Crab Motoyaki, prepared by Chef Shin Thompson at the late Bonsoiree.  Her scallop-hating world was turned upside down.  That dish was the star of many over the course of our tasting menu, and soon afterwards I declared Bonsoiree my favorite restaurant in Chicago.  We dined there a couple other times before it closed, bringing friends and much more wine, both key moves.  My second favorite dish they often served was called Duck Duck Goose- duck confit, seared duck breast, and foie gras with gooseberry, saffron gastrique, black mission fig, and vidalia onion jam.  Thompson's new venture is opening soon- Kabocha, and is rumored to have DDG on the menu. 

More recently, celebrating an anniversary, we loved a scallop dish during the chef's tasting menu at Takashi.  That chef would be Takashi Yagihashi, who you might know from Top Chef.  So after two scallop experiences the young lady found tasty, I decided it was time to make them at home.  The recipe I centered on is from Stephanie Izard, who also gained fame through Top Chef and is head girl at her Goat enterprises.  Izard also used to cook at Scylla, which occupied the space before Takashi opened.  The scallop is indeed a circle.

Among minor adjustments, I halved Izard's recipe as this should be a meal between just you and your lady friend.  Or a man friend, if that's your thing.  Everybody gots to eat.  To really impress, find diver scallops, which simply means they are harvested by hand, obviously a person in the act of 'diving' for them.  Wild scallops are preferred over farm-raised, which is what I procured at my local fishmonger.  Whatever you get, be sure they do not have any trisodium phosphate added for moisture retention.  Do you really want to consume something that is also used to clean the walls of your house prior to painting?

Cooking scallops is pretty simple, only a couple key elements- First, season well with S&P, let it rain from high up to spread evenly.  Secondly, get that skillet ripping hot...a cast iron is preferred, you want a nice brown crust to contrast the tender interior.  And lastly, if you have an exhaust fan, use it!

Pan-Seared Scallops with Bacon-Braised Chard2 servings

2 thick slices of bacon, cut into 1/4"pieces
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 small plum tomato, seeded, diced
1 lb rainbow chard
1.5 ts soy sauce
kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
6 large sea scallops, about  3/4 lb total
1 TB unsalted butter

Rinse the chard and shake any excess water.  Cut off the stems and slice them into 1/2" pieces.  Cut the large (any over 5" across) leaves in half and then into 1" strips.  Set aside.

Fire up a large, deep skillet over medium heat.  Add a TB of EVOO and cook the bacon until crisp, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.  Spoon off (and save, of course) any more than 2 TB fat.  Add the onion and cook until soft, stirring often, about 4 minutes.  Add the garlic and stir constantly to avoid burning, for 30 seconds and then introduce the tomato.  Cook for about 2 minutes until the tomato breaks down, then add the chard stems.  After those soften at 3-4 minutes later, bring in the leaves and turn up the heat a bit to medium-high, cook until the chard is wilted, another 3-4 minutes.  Add a couple healthy dashes of soy sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Keep warm over low heat while you cook the scallops. 

Season the scallops well with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper.  Fire up a heavy skillet over high heat, and once very hot add a couple TB's of EVOO.  Add the scallops and sear for 30 seconds, then turn down the heat to medium-high.  Cook for about another 2.5 minutes, until a nice golden crust develops.  Add the butter and turn the scallops, cook on this side for about 3 minutes, spooning the butter over them often.  Remove from the skillet when the scallops are just white throughout.

To serve, plate the bacon-braised chard with a slotted spoon and then top with the scallops. 

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