This is part II of a two-part series detailing my first ever personal cooking lesson with a real chef! Richard Garcia of Tastings Wine Bar & Bistro. In Part I, we learned how to make a beautiful oven roasted chicken. Today, we'll be learning how to make perfectly pan seared scallops with carrot & cumin puree, homemade saffron oil, and trumpet mushrooms.
Super Quick Frozen Scallops
Half the beauty of this dish comes from the quality of the scallops. Richard gets his scallops from this father and son fishing duo who have patented this crazy half-a-million dollar freezing contraption (I kid you not) that can flash freeze the scallops within seconds as soon as they are harvested at sea.
Super quick freezing maintains the integrity of the cell wall (no time for sharp, jagged ice crystals to form!), which results in scallops with textures that are virtually indistinguishable from fresh when defrosted. I can attest that these scallops tasted phenomenal raw. (Heh heh, he gave us a tiny sample straight up raw before cooking it. Oh my . . I wanted to eat the whole thing raw . . . it was so good!)
But alas, the class had to continue. I mean, this is a cooking class after all, so I guess we should cook the scallops. Thankfully, Richard only barely cooks them, resulting in beautifully seared scallops that are oh-so-sweet and seem to melt in your mouth. Yum yum yum yum . . .
This dish is much more complicated than the oven roasted chicken - mostly because of all the steps that need to come together. Here, we've got the pan seared scallops, the carrot-cumin puree, the saffron oil, and the mushrooms! All of which are made separately! Phew! All this work for an appetizer that you'd probably finish in less than 5 minutes if you visited his restaurant.
Thankfully, none of the components are all that hard. In fact, they're pretty easy, and they come together so beautifully! This is really great entertaining food!
For a printable version without pictures, click here
Carrots & Cumin Puree
1 lb carrots
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 T olive oil blend
Peel and cut carrots into 1 cm rounds. Toss carrots together with cumin and olive oil. Wrap the entire mixture together tightly in foil. Roast in the oven for 450 degrees for 20 minutes or until tender.
Blend in a blender until smooth.
In a small jar, crush the saffron threads with a back of a spoon. You should end up with about 1 teaspoon of crushed saffron. Stir in 2 teaspoon of hot water and let it sit for 10 minutes. In a small saucepan, heat ½ cup each grape seed oil and EVOO over low heat until hot. Pour the contents of the saucepan over the saffron in the jar. Cover and shake the jar vigorously. Set aside to infuse for at least 24 hours before using.
Pan Frying Scallops
Heat the cast iron skillet until it is very hot (almost smoking). Add oil and add scallops. Cook for about 2-3 minutes until browned on one side. Flip the scallops over. Turn off heat. Add about 1-2 teaspoon butter and baste the scallops once the butter has melted.
Sautee your favorite mushrooms with a little bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Of course how you do this is entirely up to you, but I thought it was cool to see how they did it. Smear on some puree, put scallops on top, then the mushrooms, and finally finish with some saffron oil and orange zest. Beautiful!
This dish was really good. Again, the quality of the scallops makes a huge difference. These scallops hardly gave off any water when cooked, which is how they get that beautiful browned crust. This dish looks fancy when presented, but none of the individual parts are all that hard, right?
Again, thanks so much to both Richard Garcia and Matt Maue for the time they spent giving this private cooking lesson. I had tons of fun and learned a lot. I believe Richard actually offers these cooking lessons if you're interested. Check out his blog for more details.
Thanks to Loren Shih for taking some of these photos and thanks to Matt Maue for letting me borrow his camera after mine ran out of batteries!
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