Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The perfect sear

Scallops surrounding a colorful bed of young lettuces, studded with kelly green edemame and lemony yellow tomatoes, nestled with rainbows of red onion. This was dinner. With a second course of sweet potato fries, unlovely but darned tasty. Fast, healthy and colorful. Yay!

I have always loved scallops, although I know some people don't. Personally, I think most of these people have just had overcooked, rubbery scallops (in much the same way that people are ruined on calamari). I have what I consider to be the perfect way to get a perfect sear, which is the perfect way to eat them (in my humble opinion.)

Dry the scallops of excess moisture. Dust in searing flour, a very finely milled flour. Heat olive oil in the pan until shimmery and just before smoking. Lay scallops in, being sure not to crowd the pan; don't move them. Allow them to form a crust and cook about a third to half way up. Flip, cook only until they color on that side. Remove immediately. Yes, they're underdone. They will finish cooking on the plate due to carryover cooking.

Properly seared scallops have a crispy crust, soft, pillow like interior with sweet, yielding flesh. They should not be chewy or in any way resemble a bouncy ball. We like them sitting on top of risotto, by a salad or with pasta, although there are many many uses for them. My mother marinates in soy and then pan fries without the searing flour--wonderful as well.

A quick note on sweet potato fries: this is one side dish that is tasty, healthy and quick, and yet hearty and decadent. We peel our sweet potato and cut into long, even fingers. Toss in olive oil with salt, chili powder and nutmeg. Then we pop them in the oven at 400 degrees for maybe 15 or 20 minutes. The fries become soft and the natural sugars slightly caramelize, with the spice enhancing this without overpowering it. We aren't afraid to mop up the extra olive oil with the fries--or even bread. It's wonderful tasting, having become infused with the spices and the potato flavor, too!

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