People who know me would tell you that it's hard to tell which I like more: gardening or cooking. I'd say it depends on which I'm doing at the moment. Anyway, French cooking and French gardening go hand in hand. For me, cooking is an on-going adventure. Join me here on my culinary explorations, where I share with you both my old favorites as well as new inspirations. It's my fondest wish that these recipes serve as a springboard for your own new creations.
02/12/2002 Sea scallops with leeks two ways (Sauté des coquilles St. Jacques aux poireaux fondus et frits )
For 4 servings:
For the leeks: 6 leeks, white and very pale green parts only, well cleaned 2 T. unsalted butter 1/8 t. paprika 1 c. crème fraîche Salt and freshly ground pepper 1/2 c. milk 1/2 c. flour 2 c. peanut oil
For the scallops: 16-24 fresh sea scallops (depending on their size and on how many you want to serve per prson) 3 T. unsalted butter
Cut half the leeks in small (1/4") dice, and the remainder into fine julienne strips about 2 inches long. Melt the butter in a sauté pan over low heat, add the diced leeks and a pinch of salt and the paprika, and very slowly cook them (the French call this "melting", which is a good description) over low heat until they are meltingly tender, without letting them color. Add the cream, raise the heat just a little, and simmer 5-10 minutes, or until slightly reduced. Adjust the seasoning and keep warm.
Begin heating the oil in a deep saucepan or fryer. Pour the milk into a small bowl and swish the julienned leeks in it. Scoop them out, let the excess milk drain off, and put them in a mesh strainer with the flour mixed with some salt and pepper and shake to coat them, letting the excess flower sift out. When the oil sizzles nicely when you test it with a strip of leek, dump the leeks into the oil and give them one swish with a fork to separate them in the oil. Remove as soon as they are pale golden, drain on paper towels and keep warm.
Melt the butter over medium heat in a sauté pan just wide enough to hold the scallops. Sear them gently on each side until they are just lightly golden and become opaque. Do not overcook.
Distribute pools of the melted leeks among 4 warmed plates. Arrange the scallops in a circle on each, and top with a mound of the fried leeks in the center of the scallops. Dress with a sprig of chervil if desired. Serve immediately.
I ate this dish in a seafood restaurant in the Norman fishing town of Fécamp last Saturday. It is absolutely delicious, with a perfect complementarity between the succulent scallops and the smooth flavor of the leeks. It also satisfies my lust for textural contrasts, with the crunch of the friture on top. If you live on a seacoast, try to get your scallops with the succulent semicircle of bright orange and fawn-colored coral still attached.