Monday, October 25, 2010

Seared Scallops with Apple Celery Root Puree, Pumpkin Seeds and Apple Cider Reduction

This Steelers Sunday was no ordinary Sunday in the household - it also just so happened to be my favorite person in the whole world's birthday.  She had a single food request for the day, one word which is one of my favorite words:  scallops.  I love scallops.  She does too.

One skill that I have been trying to get better at in the kitchen is the ability to come up with my own recipes.  I'm not so interested in just following recipes, although I think that I am starting to be able to recognize and learn more than just memorization from recipes.  I want to know why recipes tell you to use certain ingredients, amounts, and techniques.  I think Michael Ruhlman's books The Elements of Cooking and Ratio have been very helpful for me to get started in that realm.  I was incredibly excited for this dinner because it gave me an opportunity to try my hand at making my own recipe up, and I think the results were really solid.  The pumpkin seeds tip came from my boy Mike, so props for that.  Otherwise it would have been crumbled bacon, which isn't a bad thing, but I was psyched about the pumpkin seeds.

Seared Scallops with Apple Celery Root Puree, Pumpkin Seeds and Apple Cider Reduction

4 sea scallops
1/2 c raw pumpkin seeds
1 celery root
2 apples (I used Gala, maybe there are better baking apples out there, I always forget which kinds are good for which uses)
1/2c half and half or milk
1 c apple cider
1/2 c apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
2 tbsp shallot
1 stick cinammon
1+ stick butter
several sprigs fresh thyme

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Melt 1/2 stick of butter with a few sprigs of thyme to infuse the thyme flavor into the butter.  Trim the skin off of the celery root with a knife and wash.  Dice evenly into 1/2" cubes and put into a mixing bowl.  Peel the apples and core them, dice these into 1/2" cubes as well and add to the bowl.  Reserve a couple tablespoons of the butter and toss the rest with the apples and celery root.  Spread the mix onto a baking sheet with the thyme sprigs, sprinkle some salt on top, and bake for ~40 minutes, until the celery root is soft.  You may want to mix them up a couple of times to try to prevent them from drying out too much.  The apple will soften well before the celery root, so make sure that you check both.

They should be golden when pulled from the oven...

When both are done, toss them in a blender or a food processor and pulse, slowly adding the half and half until the mix reaches a puree consistency.

Fine mesh strainer = NO DICE
This part sucked:  straining the fibrous parts out of the puree and leaving a nice smooth puree.  I tried using my little fine mesh strainer but quickly gave up on that and switched to a chinois.  Using a wooden spoon, smash the puree against the holes of the chinois and push hard.  The smooth puree will come through the holes and the stringy fibers will stay inside the chinois.  This was done purely for texture, so you could easily omit this step if you were pressed for time or feeling lazy.  I would have to say that the trouble was worth it though, even though it took forever and was a total pain in the ass, the puree was creamy and really tasty.  Note to future self:  buy a damn food mill, I do not want to do this shit again.

Season the puree to taste and set aside, keep warm.  I kept mine covered in an oven set on low.


Saute the shallots in 1/2 tbsp butter until translucent.  Add the cider, vinegar, cinnamon stick, and peppercorns and bring liquid to a simmer.  Allow it to reduce to about 1/4 c.  It should take about 30-40 minutes.  When it started getting close, I actually pulled it off the heat and strained it to remove the shallot bits.  I was worried that they would affect my ability to judge when the reduction was the consistency that I wanted, so I quickly strained and returned the liquid to the pan to continue reducing.  When the reduction is done, remove it from heat and mount it with about 1 tbsp of butter.  Season to taste and reserve.

Pumpkin Seeds:

Take your reserved thyme-infused butter from the puree and put it in a skillet set to medium heat.  When the butter is hot, add the raw pumpkin seeds and a little bit of salt and fry for several minutes . The pumpkin seeds will pop and turn from a greenish to a brownish color.  Taste along the way to check for doneness and drain the seeds on a paper towel when they are finished.  Set them aside as well.

I had a hard time not eating all of these before dinner.
Rinse and salt the scallops.  Take the last of the butter (or more if needed.. do you see a trend here?) and heat up a cast iron skillet.  Melt the butter, when the foam reduces, add the scallops and sear for 3-5 minutes on one side.  Flip and sear for just a couple more minutes (do not overcook!!) and baste while searing.  Have the plates ready to go when the scallops are done...which leads to...

I'm pretty terrible at plating - especially when looking out there at all the amazing plating jobs that real restaurants put out (check out Schwa's plating videos - awesome.  Side note, eating at Schwa was one of the more mind blowing experience of my life.. candied lamb brains?  For real.).  I usually don't try too hard when it comes to plating, but I wanted this one to look nice.  Plating was probably the most stressful part of this whole process, haha.  I think it turned out ok.  I used a large ring mold and spread some puree on half of the plate to try to keep everything in a nice circular pattern (circle plate, circle scallops, circle reduction pattern, etc), put the seeds to the side and sprinkle with just a few fresh thyme leaves.  Scallops go on top of the puree and reduction is spooned around the whole thing.  I like that the seeds almost look like they're in a brittle or something.



  1. Nice work! Plating looks great. Gotta get some more light on your photos so we can see better!

    Might try this recipe out, It may be fun to do a post where we each try one of each others recipes and report back.

  2. I have a crappy desk lamp with some parchment paper tied to it to diffuse it that I've been using to try to give it some key light... but at the moment I can't use it in the kitchen while cooking. Need to find a way around the terrible kitchen lighting and the bad color balance on my camera...

    I'd be down to do a switcheroo blog entry, that would be cool!

  3. Looks delicious, man! If you are into cooking more by technique and intuition, you should pick up some Fergus Henderson cook books. he's all about it and has great ideas. Also the river cottage books rule.
    Lovin' the Blog. Can you portmanteau a portmanteau and call a food blog a Flog?