Roast Scallop, Scallop Tartare, Caviar, White Chocolate Velouté
Specialty Equipment: none
Specialty Ingredients: caviar
Dish as in The Fat Duck and The Book (restaurant photo is low quality):
There is a huge difference between scallops already out of their shell in a plastic tub and the ones scooped up by divers in the seas, if you have any, near you. I never really liked them until I ate a fresh one out of the shell. No buckets of water. No bitter note. Just sweet tenderness wrapped in beautiful shells. As you can probably tell I was not at all reluctant to start with this recipe. I was a bit worried about the combination of white chocolate and caviar, but honestly not that much, because all the other uncommon combinations in the book went down well.
I found hand dived scallops, but they were not 14cm or more in diameter as specified in the recipe.
Cleaning scallops is often seen as a difficult task at home, but once you see someone do one and attempt a few yourself it is not that hard. What helped me immensely is the use of an offset spatula or putty knife. It works, at least for me, way better than a knife. With a spatula you can pry open the side of the scallop to open it up a few millimeters and separate the muscle from the top (flat) shell in a one swoop. Sometimes you see chefs scoop out the muscle from the skirt and roe in one move, but I remove everything with a spoon and then strip the centerpiece.
It’s handy to store scallops against each other so they keep their shape or to straighten them if they have a tendency towards the diagonal.
The roes, black sacs and skirts.
The white chocolate velouté is made from the skirts, vegetables, milk, cream, white chocolate and some more stuff. You first have to fry the skirts and I can tell you it’s the same as taking out your plant sprayer, fill it up with oil and spray your stove and everything surrounding it with oil. They are like little bombs when paired with oil and a hot pan.
Finishing the velouté with cream, milk and white chocolate.
The next step was unfamiliar territory for me. I’ve seen wild lemons or Amalfi lemons numerous times, but never bought them. My sister once told, in horror, about an Italian friend of her who ate a lemon whole. ‘He just freaking ate it with skin and all!’ Now I know why. These lemons are less bitter, by a mile, and less sour. In the recipe you have to pickle them for two days and that makes them even more digestible. They are really delicious. After two days they are ready to be used in the scallop tartare.
The pickling liquid: chardonnay vinegar, sugar and water.
Another ingredient of the tartare is a shallot confit. It are shallots cooked in oil until soft and translucent. I had a hard time keeping the temperature at 90˚C, so mine were probably a bit darker than the Fat Duck version.
Between the caramelized scallops and tartare lies a onion confit made by cooking sliced grelot onions in a beurre monté for a few minutes.
Everything to finish the dish.
In the photo of the book the peashoots have freaky curls, not like regular peashoots. I had a feeling it was a cress and not the ‘regular stuff’ you find in Asian food stores. Turns out Koppert Cress, an international supplier of a wide range of cresses, sells it as Affilla Cress.
The last part of the dish is caviar. What can you say about it? It used to be served in bars for customers to boost the booze sales. Now it is extremely expensive to the point it is getting ridiculous. I love the comment of Ferran Adrià in the documentary of Anthony Bourdain, ‘Decoding Ferran Adrià’, where he questions our attitude towards certain premium product. Why are foie gras, caviar, lobsters, truffles etcetera better than the humble pear. Indeed, screw that. The rarity and therefore the cost make it a special ingredient. I can’t honestly say that I love the taste of caviar so much I’d pay anything for it. Or that is a measure of good taste.
In my eyes beetroots could just as easily rank themselves among the most expensive product of our current time. They have a very distinctive, pungent taste and are the same sort of love it or hate it product. To me it’s all bullshit. Eat what you like and don’t like something because you have to. I would never never never ever order foie gras, caviar or truffles if it was to be my last meal. I’m again discussing something only related to the recipe in the slightest sense, so I’ll get back to the recipe. By the way, I used good quality farmed caviar. I didn’t feel like spending 74€ for 30g out of principal, although the farmed one was still expensive.
To finish I pan-fried the scallops, frothed the velouté, mixed the ingredients for the scallop tartare, picked the Affilla cress stalks and plated the dish. The only thing I forgot were a few drop of langoustine oil to finish the plate.
After my tirade on caviar and similar products I do have to admit I enjoyed it. A lot actually. White chocolate and caviar are like peanut butter and jelly, two best friends. The chocolate towns the caviar down and boosts its sweetness. As for the caramelized scallops, you can’t go wrong there. In all, a very tasty plate of food.