Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Scallops with Thai Coconut Sauce

So the other day a long-lost friend (thank you Facebook) made a special request for a blog post. I've never had one of those before, and thought it was hilarious and flattering at the same time. It seems that he is the cook of the house, and his lovely wife has decided that he needs to cook more of my recipes. Since he loves scallops (and his wife not so much) he requested some recipes that use this tender mollusk so that he might encourage her to give them a second chance. Boy, I hope I'm not getting him in trouble right now...

I personally love scallops. They remind me of my favorite fish, halibut. They are mild, tender and not very fishy-tasting at all. In fact, fresh ones should only have a slight briny perfume, and not an overwhelming odor. If they do, don't buy them. There is a season for the smaller of the two types called bay scallops. They are primarily harvested near the shore in fall and winter. The larger sea scallops are harvested year-round in deep Atlantic waters. Read more about them here. The scallops I bought were frozen New England scallops from Trader Joe's. I am a little reluctant to admit that because 1) it was Earth Day when we ate this meal and they have kind of a large carbon footprint coming from 3000 miles away and 2) I put so much emphasis on fresh. But seafood is flash-frozen, often out on the boats themselves, and can be a tasty alternative for when you cannot find them fresh. I have made these many times before and the quality is really quite good. I don't think you will be disappointed.

I tried to be creative and 'chefy' in the plating of this dish, but it was by no means a difficult endeavor. First I created a rice timbale, where I packed hot rice into a ramekin and then turned it out onto the plate, and then I drizzled a coconut sauce moat around it, in which the succulent golden scallops were floated. Then each scallop and the rice were topped with a dollop of my tomato chili jam (which you can buy at many stores by the way-not my tomato chili jam, but tomato chili jam all the same) and a roughly chopped handful of cilantro and basil. It was salty, sour, spicy and sweet...everything good Asian food should be.

Thai Coconut Scallops
serves 4

1 pound of sea scallops with muscle removed
1 handful of cilantro, stems and leaves separated
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 T fish sauce
zest and juice from 2 limes
1 T sesame oil
2 t chili garlic paste
1 thumb of fresh ginger, chopped
1 can coconut milk
1/2 t tamarind paste (optional)
1/2 C chicken stock
1 bunch of bok choy, thinly sliced
fresh basil leaves
hot cooked rice
Put rice on to cook.

Into a small food processor place cilantro stems, garlic, fish sauce, zest and juice from limes, sesame oil, chili garlic paste and ginger. Whiz until completely smooth. Heat a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Drizzle in a bit of olive oil and then pour in the cilantro paste. Stir for one minute then add the coconut milk, chicken stock and tamarind paste if using. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer for about 5-10 minutes, or until mixture thickens slightly. Add the slivered bok choy and leave on heat just until bok choy wilts. Cover, and remove from heat.

Heat a large skillet over high heat and drizzle with a bit of olive oil. Pat scallops dry and season both sides well with salt and pepper. Score lightly in a cross-hatch (tic-tac-toe) pattern. Place in the skillet, taking care not to crowd (you might need to do two batches). Cook on each side for about 2 minutes. Scallops should be golden brown, but be careful not to overcook them or they will become tough.

Pack hot rice into 4 oz. ramekins and turn out onto plates. Spoon coconut sauce over rice and around it. Place 4 scallops on each plate and top with tomato chili jam (or chutney of some sort). Sprinkle on chopped cilantro and basil leaves. See? That wasn't so hard.

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