A brief statement of purpose

There are already about a billion food blogs, so what might be a justification of yet another one, and who am I to do it?

What I aim to do in this blog is more than simply provide recipes. While recipes of my own will, in fact, be posted, some of the blog will consist of a variety of comments about restaurants and their practices, food preparation tips, personal annoyances (such as loud restaurants and the epidemic of misspellings on menus), and whatever else pops into my head relating to what we put in our mouths (and swallow, I hasten to add). The whole thing is meant to be somewhat provocative. I hope, if nothing else, it won't be boring. I, of course, solicit reader participation.

As for who I am and why I think I might have something to contribute to public discussions on this essential and pleasurable activity - eating - you'll have to click here.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Scallops with pureed potatoes and green pea cakes

  Some may have seen my lecture on scallops elsewhere on this blog, but here it is again: Scallops have been my favorite edible aquatic creatures for as long as I can remember .  . . (pause for effect) . . . provided they are good scallops in the first place and provided they aren’t overcooked and transmogrified into hockey pucks. Far, far better to undercook scallops than to overcook them, particularly since undercooked, or for that matter, uncooked scallops can be very good. Another personal preference: Big, fat sea scallops are better than small bay scallops or calico scallops which frequently masquerade as bay scallops. Yet another qualification: Buy only dry scallops, not wet. The latter have been marinating in a phosphate preservative which causes the scallop to absorb moisture which adds to the weight (so you’re paying for the preservative) and makes it almost impossible to brown the scallop. 
   All right, enough of the prefatory information. This recipe will be good without the truffle oil and truffle salt, but not as good. I don’t care that some “foodies” have alleged overuse of truffle oil, claiming that it’s faddish. I don’t put it on my breakfast cereal; in fact, I’m quite selective in its use. Leaving aside the fact that most truffle oil on the market isn’t actually made with real truffles - it’s made with truffle “flavoring” - it’s actually very good in some preparations, and its aroma certainly bears a similarity to the real thing. The truffle salt is icing on the cake here. 
   The dish is improved by pureeing the potatoes, not just by mashing them. Use a ricer for this purpose as well as large amounts of butter and cream. Eat less the next day. Don’t ever put cooked potatoes in a food processor unless you want something with the consistency of glue on the plate. 
   The green pea cakes are a nice accompaniment. I’ve lifted it from a cookbook by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Simple Cuisine (Prentice-Hall Press, 1990). 
Sea scallops, 12 oz or so for two people
Smoked paprika
White pepper
Canola or other vegetable oil
Mashed (pureed) potatoes
Prodigious amounts of butter and heavy cream
Frozen green peas, 1 1/2 cups, thawed
1 whole egg plus 1 egg yolk
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 Tbs flour
5 Tbs butter
Salt and pepper
Dried chervil, 1 tsp (optional)
Truffle oil
Truffle salt

Cook red, low-starch potatoes or a combination of low-starch and baking potatoes. Drain. When it’s cool, run them through a ricer. Return to a pan and add a lot of butter and cream, along with some salt and pepper. Keep this warm. 
Combine the peas, egg, egg yolk, cream, and flour in a food processor and process until smooth. Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter, add to the pea mixture, and process, adding salt and pepper. If you have some dried chervil, add a teaspoon to the mixture.  Over medium heat, melt the other 2 tablespoons of butter in a non-stick pan, or use non-stick spray. Drop about 2 tablespoons of pea mixture into the pan and cook until the  pea cakes are browning around the edges and firming up enough to flip them without destroying them. Brown the other side. Keep warm until time to serve the dish.
Remove the small muscle sometimes found on the sides of sea scallops. It’s whiter in color than the pearl color of the scallop. Combine some flour with the smoked paprika and add some white pepper. Make sure the scallops are dry. Press the tops and bottoms of the scallops into the flour mixture. Heat the butter and oil over medium high heat and add the scallops. Depending on their size and the heat of the pan, it should take no more than a minute or, at most, two minutes per side. I’ve already emphasized the importance of not overcooking them.
Put the pureed potatoes on the plates with the scallops on top. If there is any butter/oil remaining in the pan, drizzle it over the scallops. Place one or two pea cakes alongside. Now drizzle a bit of truffle oil on the scallops and potatoes and finish with some truffle salt. 

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