I like to say I was born with a stainless steel thumb - my culinary equivalent of the green thumb - and that's a lucky thing for me since my passion in life is food and cooking, and everything that comes a long with it.
What do I do with my life? I dream food, think food, look at food, read about food, work in the food business, travel via food, talk about food, use food as my artistic muse, teach others about food, and clearly, cook, play with and EAT food!
Food is my compass.
Enough with street food, it's time to get down to business. While pondering the million dollar question today: just WHAT should I cook?! Thoughts ran through my head...osso bucco (too long, I like instant gratification), chili (not cold enough), aguachile (I need to veer away from Mexican cuisine), or....sea scallops. It's been a while. And the thought process goes as such: scallops - vanilla - (oysters in champagne sauce?) - scallops in vanilla champagne sauce - with caviar. I know, that's not a normal thought process for anyone, let alone myself, but it happened, and I was determined to MAKE that vision a reality.
Jimmy Schmidt, master chef from Detroit, alumnus of the London Chop House and Rattlesnake Club had this amazing dish - oysters in champagne sauce. Absolutely epic - but then again, how can anything with cream, butter, and champagne be bad? I can't recall the first time I had this, but my mother had cooked it a few times for New Year's Eve - quite a decadent dish, appropriate for such a fine holiday...or a regular Friday by my standards. I must say, I JUST cooked this, and JUST ate it, and I'm purring. It is THAT good.
Caviar-Topped Sea Scallops in a Vanilla-Champagne Sauce (for two)
6 Sea Scallops
1 T unsalted butter
1 T minced cipolline onion
1/2 c brut champagne
1/4 cup clam juice
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 vanilla bean, split with seeds scraped out - save the pod!
Massive amounts of some kind of caviar
Chives, 2 T minced and a few stalks for garnish
For the sauce, melt the butter in a saute pan over low heat. Once the butter has melted, add in the minced onion. Let the onion sweat, and cook until translucent.
To this, add all but a few tablespoons of the champagne and the clam juice. Raise the heat and allow this to reduce by half. Once reduced, add in the cream and the scraped vanilla pod. Stir occasionally and allow to reduce again a bit. Once the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon - and the sauce doesn't budge when you drag a finger through it - season with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of white pepper, and strain through a sieve into a small sauce pan. Stir in some of the vanilla beans, set aside, and keep warm.
For the scallops, pat dry and remove the 'foot' if it's still there.
evil devil foot.
This is a tough portion of the scallop so be sure to remove it! Sprinkle generously with salt. Heat a saute pan over medium-high to high heat and swirl in a few tablespoons of olive oil. Once the oil is shimmering, set in the scallops. Allow to cook for only a minute or so, until the bottom has a nice golden crust on it and is still a bit rare in the center. Remove the scallops from the the pan and set on a paper towel so they aren't overly oily.
Stir in a tablespoon or so of the champagne into the sauce to thin it a bit. In a shallow bowl or plate, pour in just enough of the sauce to cover the bottom of the serving plate. Place three scallops in the center of the sauce.
Spoon as much caviar as you want on top of each scallop, and sprinkle the minced chive over top.
If you have pieces of edible gold, now is the time to sprinkle it everywhere (KIDDING. maybe.)
ENJOY! I would recommend having a glass of champagne with this to cut through the richness of the sauce - it really goes perfectly. It's delicate, sweet, buttery and delicious. The crust on the scallop gives the dish a nice crunch, as does the caviar, along with an added sea saltiness, crunch and cooling effect.