Category Archives: Scallops

Thai Red Curry of Scallops

scallopcurryForget all you have ever heard about scallops having a fragile taste or being easily spoilt by strong and hot seasoning. This fiery dish, bursting with bold flavours – like every Thai curry – proves exactly the opposite. After years of eating my beloved mollusc prepared in various ways, I can say without hesitation this is by far my favourite scallop dish.

I have found this jewel of a recipe in David Thompson’s Thai Food, a beautifully edited, high-quality cookery book I have been reading and testing for the last few months. Until now, I have only posted Squid Salad (a dream treat for squid lovers), but all the other dishes I tried proved also fantastic and highly superior to what I have ever had in any Thai restaurant. These results are not accidental: they are obtained thanks to the use of genuine fresh ingredients and, in the case of curries, a homemade paste is the crucial reason of the stunning difference. This scallop curry is the perfect example of the elegance and sophistication only a homemade paste can yield.

Even though David Thompson has completely changed my way to see the Thai cuisine (for example I will never even consider using a commercial curry paste), I must confess I do not follow all his recommendations… I do not prepare fresh coconut milk, as the author urges everyone to do, and I allow myself to reduce significantly the fat content in coconut milk/cream – based curries. Served in my house as the main course with rice and some vegetables, they are much too rich and, anyway, it’s an old habit of mine to lighten dishes as long as they remain delicious. In this recipe, I have also used more scallops (and in general indicated this recipe, normally for four, as serving two, since I have it only with rice and vegetable side dish, which is less than a typical Thai meal). Even though I’m a coriander fan, I didn’t like it here; sliced makrut lime leaves and chilli seemed a sufficient “fresh touch” at the end. For the original recipe, check David Thompson’s wonderful book.

TIPS: Since every curry paste I prepared was different from the previous one, every ingredient is of a high importance and cannot be skipped, so if you embark on a curry paste making adventure (though, since it takes me about 5 minutes, I don’t know if “adventure” is the right word), make sure you have ALL the required products. You will be thrilled to recognise them, afterwards, one by one in the finished dish.

I am able to buy all the fresh ingredients necessary for Thai pastes in Asian grocery shops and I know these are available in many European countries, so I hope you can get those in your city too. (Some can be sold frozen, for example makrut lime leaves).

Curry paste can be prepared in a mortar (an optimal solution, apparently) or quicker and easier in a food processor (I use a small baby food mixer). The author recommends to add some water (not coconut milk; see below), which makes it easier to obtain a smoother paste.

This recipe will yield more paste than necessary; the remains can be stored in the fridge for several days and then used once more (I experiment with other ingredients). Do not add coconut milk to the paste before refrigerating because it will spoil quicker.

Do not freeze the remaining curry paste! You will completely spoil its aroma and texture.

I have realised that – purists might criticise me here – certain Thai ingredients freeze quite well (though they lose some of their aroma, so I advise using a bit more of these; I usually use 50% more makrut lime leaves for example). I have been freezing makrut lime leaves, grachai, galangal (this one loses quite a lot in the process, but is still acceptable), coriander roots and fresh pepper corns. Do not freeze homemade curry paste, Thai basil or coriander leaves. Frozen ingredients are obviously better than no ingredients at all and definitely better than dried ones (do not even try to dry makrut lime leaves).

Preparation: about 40 minutes

Ingredients (serves two):

Curry paste:

5-8 dried long hot red chillies (deseeded, soaked until soft in warm water and drained)

a big pinch of salt

5 thickish slices of galangal

4 tablespoons chopped garlic

3 tablespoons chopped lemongrass (remove the outer tough leaves, the upper 1/3 of the stalk and also the lowest toughest small bit)

3 tablespoons chopped red shallot

1 tablespoon chopped coriander root

10 white peppercorns

1 heaped teaspoon roasted shrimp paste

14-16 scallops (depending on the size and your appetite, of course)

500 ml (about 2 cups) coconut cream (I have used only 250 ml coconut milk instead)

1 tablespoon palm sugar

2 tablespoons fish sauce

250 ml stock (or coconut milk; I have used homemade chicken stock because I prefer a cleaner taste)

4 makrut (also known as kafir) lime leaves, thinly sliced (I always remove the central vein)

1 tablespoon thick coconut cream

1 fresh red chilli, sliced

(coriander leaves, torn; I don’t like their presence here, so I have skipped them the second time I prepared this curry)

Prepare the paste, grinding all the ingredients in a mortar or mixing in a food processor, adding some water in order to obtain a more or less smooth paste (see the tips above).

Heat the coconut cream (or milk, if you opt for a lighter version), add 3 tablespoons of the paste (mine were well heaped) and stir-fry for about 5 minutes.

Add the sugar, the fish sauce, the stock (or coconut milk) and let it simmer until it thickens.

Add the scallops and 2 sliced makrut lime leaves.

Let the scallops simmer until they become opaque (if they are not completely covered in liquid, you might have to flip them once).

Taste the seasoning and adjust so that the flavours are at the same time salty, hot and fragrant thanks to the makrut leaves.

Serve the individual portions or on a serving plate, sprinkle with the fresh chilli, the remaining sliced makrut leaves and coriander, if using.

(Refrigerate the remaining paste for several days and use it with other ingredients.)

 

Korean Pancake with Shrimp and Scallop (Haemul pajeon 해물파전)

koreanpancakep

What you see above is my first, partly successful, attempt to prepare the famous Korean seafood pancake. I say “partly successful” because in spite of a burnt part and some other mistakes, I was literally spellbound by this extraordinary snack. First, I thought I would wait a second, better prepared and better looking batch before posting it, but finally I couldn’t wait to share with you my first experience with for what I consider as one of the most memorable dishes I have discovered in recent months or maybe even years.

Seafood pancake (haemul pajeon 해물파전)  is a very popular Korean snack or starter. Apparently it is served cut into small pieces and eaten with hands (I say “apparently” because I have never seen it in any restaurant here). It is composed of a batter made with two types of flour, several seafood species, chili peppers and spring onions. The original recipe (found in The Food and Cooking of Korea by Young Jin Song ) calls for five marine creatures and enoki mushrooms, but since I had leftover shrimp and scallops, I used only these and adapted the amounts to a smaller batch. As I have mentioned above, I had made some mistakes, but the preparation was really easy and quick (I was just a bit distracted) and the result impressive. When I prepared the pancake I didn’t imagine it even half as good as it proved, so the first bite was a huge surprise. I felt as if I were eating a very distant, more sophisticated cousin of a pizza, but it has also slightly reminded me of the Japanese okonomiyaki (see my last chicken version here). Both me and my husband were blown away by the result and the whole batch disappeared in no time at all. I will not exaggerate if I say I know I will prepare it dozens or rather hundreds of times in the near future and serve it for brunch, lunch, picnic or party snacks.

You will be surprised to notice that apart from the dipping sauce the recipe doesn’t require a single Korean (or in general Asian) ingredient. In fact, it can be prepared with very international ingredients, available worldwide. On the other hand the sauce, which brings an important Korean touch was a pure delight and I will never skip it.

Preparation: 20 minutes

Ingredients (serves 2 as snacks):

10 medium shrimps shelled and deveined (cooked or raw)

4 scallops

3 spring onion stalks

1/2 medium hot green chili

1/2  medium hot red chili

1 clove garlic

Batter:

1/2 cup plain flour

2 tablespoons cornstarch

200 ml ice cold water

1/3 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 egg, beaten

Dipping sauce:

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 stalk of spring onion finely cut

1 clove garlic, crushed or grated

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

Prepare the dipping sauce and put aside.

Prepare the pancake ingredients. Cut the scallops in two horizontally in order to obtain eight flat, round slices.

Slice the garlic finely.

Slice the chilies into very thin strips.

Slice the spring onion stalks into thin strips.

Prepare the batter combining all the ingredients.

Heat some oil in a big pan. (Keep the pan on medium heat, otherwise the pancake will be burnt like mine).

Pour 1/3 of the batter and make sure it spreads on the whole surface.

Scatter the shrimps, scallops, spring onions, chilies and the garlic over the batter and quickly pour on top the remaining batter.

Cover and fry on medium heat until the seafood is cooked.

Turn it over and fry for about two or three minutes just to brown this side a bit too.

Slice the pancake into small pieces (one or two bite-sized) and serve with the dipping sauce.

 

Scallops Fried in Nori, or Hotate no nori age

This simple, but surprising way to prepare scallops is another palatable – but maybe not visually appealing – discovery I owe to the Japanese Cooking. A Simple Art by Shizuo Tsuji. I have already written about this incredible book for example here, so I will not bore you with my enthusiastic impressions or details. I will just say that not only do I praise it as highly as at the beginning, but the longer I have it, the more I am convinced it is the best cookery book I have ever seen in my life.

This frying method is defined as “Kawari age”, meaning “variation frying”. According to Shizuo Tsuji, it is quite a recent innovation in the Japanese cuisine (although the book was written about 30 years ago). Just like tempura, this method consists in deep-frying, but first the food is dipped in the egg white and then in different types of coating.

As a recent, but avowed fan of deep-fried scallops (see here the recipe for Deep-Fried Breaded Scallops), I decided to try them in one of the kawari age coatings. I experimented with several of them, with more or less successful results (e.g. I strongly advise you against poppy seeds, which become very bitter), but chopped nori seaweed (the one used for maki rolls) was the absolute winner. Fried nori darkens and becomes crunchy, but doesn’t lose its delicate “oceanic” flavour or aroma and proves extraordinary with scallops. Strangely, scallops in crunchy nori remind me a bit of the freshly caught, fried, small river fish.

The instructions are quite easy to follow, the only really tricky part being the stickiness of the chopped nori. While coating the scallops I would advise placing chopped nori on a flat surface, a portion only for one scallop at a time.

I have almost forgotten to emphasize it’s an excellent way to use up leftover egg whites.

Preparation: 30 minutes (or more, depending on the batch and the size of the deep-frying pan)

Ingredients (serves 2):

10 scallops without the coral and opaque, tough “foot” (cut horizontally in two, if they are very big)

3- 4 sheets of nori seaweed

a couple of tablespoons flour

1 egg white

(salt)

Preheat the deep-frying oil (it’s hot enough when a tiny piece of bread thrown into the fat doesn’t “sink” and stays on the surface instantly browning).

Chop the nori seaweed very finely (scissors are very handy here) and place a portion for one scallop on a flat surface.

Beat slightly the egg white with a fork or with chopsticks.

Sprinkle some salt on the scallops (this step is not necessary) and dip them first in the flour, then in the beaten egg and then roll them in the chopped nori.

Deep-fry the scallops until they are golden.

I found them delicious served simply with soy sauce and rice.

Scallops and Red Onions on Toast

scallopsandwichpOne more desacralization of the venerated scallop! And a pure delight at the same time! The above seemingly simple toast was realised following a recipe from “La Cuisine de Fumiko Kono” by Fumiko Kono (狐野扶実子), a Japanese chef fascinated by the French cuisine. When my husband offered me this book I had been dreaming of, I was in heaven, but at the same time thought it would be one of those cookery books I read, admire, devour with my eyes, but never use in the kitchen. However, I quickly realised Fumiko’s style, albeit obviously in the category of what the French call haute cuisine, lacks the usual stiffness and seriousness, adds a joyful and playful dimension and thus emboldens the reader, namely me, to try out the scarily precise and beautifully presented inventions and even to omit and modify certain points.

Scallops and Red Onions on Toast were my first choice, since the scallop is one of my favourite sea creature. Even though serving scallops on toast may seem very down-to-earth or even disrespectful, the ingredients create a very unusual and surprising combination. If prepared with good quality bread (a nice crunchy baguette is perfect here) these toasts impress everyone.

Preparation: 10-15 minutes

Ingredients (serves 4):

12 big scallops (3 per person)

4 slices crunchy good quality bread or 1 baguette

30 g salted butter

4 heaped tablespoons cream cheese (in France St – Môret is the best)

40 g radish (I didn’t have any, so you won’t see it at the above photo)

320 g red onions

fresh coriander leaves

2/3 teaspoon Indian curry (madras)

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar (the second time I made these toasts I used good, Japanese rice vinegar and the result was very good too)

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

good quality sea salt (fleur de sel if you can find)

Peel the onions. Put aside one onion, slice the rest and sauté in butter until they are soft and slightly caramelised.

Pour the vinegar, let it evaporate, stirring.

Put aside.

Slice the radish and the remaining onion very thinly  and let them soak 3 minutes in ice cold water. Drain them, pat them dry and put aside.

Sauté the dried scallops in oil, 2 min on each side, on a very hot frying pan.

Cut them in two (height-wise) and sprinkle with a bit of salt.

Spread the cream cheese on bread, place the fried onions, the scallops, the radish and the thin raw onion rings (I have forgotten this step on the photo above, but don’t forget to add the thin rings, the crunchy side is delicious!).

Decorate with coriander leaves and serve.

Deep-Fried Scallops

I have a very quickly growing affection for scallops. They are delicious, smell divinely (the detail which I find rare in seafood), are beautiful and even very pleasant to manipulate – I love their soft texture and smooth surface. They are also difficult to spoil, the only faux pas being overcooking. Not to mention the low-calorie and low-fat factor. Moreover, the constantly increasing fish and seafood prices eliminate them out of the luxurious sea products group and embolden me to even very adventurous experiments.

Yesterday I think many rigid, French cuisine fans would have said I crossed all the limits of decency in scallops experiments. I simply wanted to transform them into a warming, down-to-earth, home dish… All the French cookery books were of course out of question and I was right opting for The Boston Cooking-School Cookbook by Fannie Merritt Farmer. I have chosen the Fried Scallops. The sacrilege I committed was not only deep frying them, but sticking completely to the recipe and  coating them with breadcrumbs, a culinary technique often associated with fast food. The only modification I introduced was using duck fat for frying, and, as always, it hasn’t let me down.

If I haven’t dared this “barbarous” recipe I would have never imagined scallops could be so tender and mellow, almost juicy. The taste was unforgettable. Even though they lose here their low-fat and low-calorie advantage, I’ll certainly deep-fry them hundreds if not thousands of times. (I don’t advise trying to make this recipe lighter by baking the crumbled scallops in the oven; I did it once and the result was more than disappointing… On the other hand the oven is very handy in keeping the plates warm keeping scallops warm while the following batches are made.)

Preparation: 30 minutes (or more if more batches of scallops are fried)

Ingredients (serves 2):

14 big scallops (without the coral and opaque, tough “foot”)

10 tablespoons breadcrumbs

1 egg, slightly beaten

salt, pepper

deep frying oil or duck fat

Wash the scallops and pat them dry.

Add salt and pepper to the beaten egg and place it on a small plate.

Place the breadcrumbs in a small bowl.

Heat the plates in the oven.

Heat the deep frying oil or fat (it’s hot enough when a tiny piece of bread thrown into the fat doesn’t “sink” and stays on the surface instantly browning).

Dip the scallops first in the beaten egg, then in the breadcrumbs.

Shake off the excess coating and fry them only several at a time, otherwise the oil temperature will lower and they’ll be soaked in fat. The number of scallops in one batch depends of course on the size of your pan.

Fry the scallops around 3 minutes until they are golden.

Put them on paper towels, shake off the excess fat and put them quickly on the warm plates kept in the oven at 50°C.

I serve them with a green salad and slightly hot fruit sauces, jellies, spreads etc. (they go perfectly well with Gold Chili Jelly).