Thursday, April 18, 2013

Simple scallop salad

Scallops--coquilles St Jacques in French--are often overlooked by home cooks, but that's a pity, because they are not only delicious, they are very versatile and can be used in all sorts of dishes, from the very simple--scallop brochettes and scallop salad--to the rather more complex, such as scallop pie(a dish traditional to Tasmania, where we enjoyed several fine examples  when we went there a few years ago.)
The trick is that scallops should not be overcooked, or they risk losing their fine, delicate flavour and buttery texture. Fresh scallops need only a minute or so to poach or grill; frozen ones maybe a half-minute more.
Here's a simple yet deliciously intriguing dish I made the other day: scallop salad, based on combining a recipe from my battered old Larousse Gastronomique with ideas of my own(and lots of lovely salad ingredients fresh from the garden).
For each person, you'll need at least two scallops of reasonable size. You use both the white and the coral. You need some court-bouillon to poach the scallops--I was lucky enough to have ready-made court- bouillon cubes from France in my pantry, but you can make your own with a little fish stock plus a little lemon, or failing even that, some water, salt, pepper, herbs(tarragon is best), and a little lemon, boiled up to make a nice tasty liquid. Put a little white wine in with the court-bouillon, bring to a simmer, drop in the scallops, cook, covered. When cooked,  take out of the liquid, let cool. (Keep the court-bouillon separately)Slice thinly. Prepare a bit of sauce for the scallops: make a roux with a little butter and flavour, add the court-bouillon, stir till thick, season to taste, add herbs and a little lemon. Let cool too.
When you're ready to assemble the salad, use whatever ingredients best suit you as the 'backing salad'--I used soft lettuce, a little chopped sorrel, tomatoes, and some avocado I had in the pantry(chopped into small pieces). Then put the scallop in the middle of the plate, top with a little sauce, arrange the rest of the salad around it--sprinkle the vegetable ingredients with a nice tangy vinaigrette--and hey presto, an intriguing and simple entree!
Enlarged, it could also make a great lunch dish.

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