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.
11/21/2005 Seared sea scallops with carmelized endives and hazelnuts (Coquilles Saint-Jacques aux endives caramellisées, aux noisettes, et au Xeres)
For 4 main course servings: 6 large Belgian endives Half a lemon 3 T. unsalted butter 3 T. sugar 20 sea scallops, perfectly fresh, with coral if possible 6 T. aged sherry vinegar 2 T. chopped, toasted hazelnuts Few drops hazelnut oil (optional) 3 T. chopped chervil Flakes of sea salt and grindings of black pepper
Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in a large casserole, add a good pinch of salt and squeeze in the juice of the half lemon. Cut the oxidized end off the endives and remove any bruised outer leaves. Cut them in half lengthwise. Cook in the boiling water until just tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and refresh under cold water, drain cut side down on paper toweling.
Melt the butter with the sugar over medium heat in a heavy, preferably nonstick skillet. Cut the endive halves in half lengthwise (yielding fourths) and add them to the skillet. Reduce the heat and allow to slowly turn golden brown, caramelizing slowly on all sides. This will take at least 15-20 minutes. Remove to a plate and keep warm in the oven.
Raise the heat under the same skillet. When quite hot but not smoking, add the scallops all at once. Sear them no more than 1 minute on each side, and remove them to a warm plate. Add the sherry vinegar to the skillet and swirl, quickly reducing to half (this should only take a minute or two in the large hot skillet). Remove from heat.
Working quickly, distribute the endives onto four warm plates, arranging them attractively. Artfully add the scallops. Drizzle with the reduced vinegar, sprinkle with a few drops of hazelnut oil if using. Shower with chopped hazelnuts and bits of chervil, sprinkle with flakes of sea salt and grindings of pepper. Serve immediately.