This was a fabulous appetizer without too much work. It’s from the famous chef Thomas Keller of the French Laundry. It’s from his Ad Hoc cookbook and is the first recipe I’ve tried from that book. Frankly, I’ve been a little intimidated by the sheer size of this cookbook, it doesn’t even fit on the same shelf with my other cookbooks! But this one was so good, I’m likely to be tempted to heft it out more often. I did change the recipe a bit as he called for way more butter with the leeks than I could bring myself to use and my change worked just fine.
Serves 4 as an appetizer
30 minutes for scallops
20 minutes for leeks
Special ingredient: You do need clarified butter for this dish to work. Clarified butter can take the heat needed to properly caramelize the scallops. It’s easy enough to make and you can keep the leftover butter around for other cooking. Here’s how you do it: Put a cube of butter in a small pan and melt. Continue cooking it over medium-heat and skim the foamy solids off the top. Continue cooking and skimming, adjusting the heat lower if needed, until you have all the white parts out of the butter. You should be left with clear, yellow, clarified butter. This will keep in the fridge for 2-3 weeks.
For the scallops:
8 large scallops
1 cup kosher salt
2 cups hot water plus 4 cups cold water
1 tblsp clarified butter
lemon juice (optional)
For the leeks:
2 medium leeks
3 tblsp chicken stock
3 tbslp butter
sea salt and pepper
To prepare the scallops:
-Put the salt in the hot water and stir. Keller’s recipe said to stir until the salt dissolved, but that didn’t happen, so I just added the cold water and then it all dissolved together just fine. Add the scallops to this brine and let sit for no more than 10 minutes, scallops could get too salty if allowed to brine too long. While scallops brine, line a plate with paper towels. Remove from brine, rinse and set out on paper towels to dry. While scallops dry, prepare the leeks.
-When ready to cook scallops, lightly season with salt and pepper. Then put 1 tblsp clarified butter in stainless steel saute pan, don’t use nonstick as the sear on the scallops won’t be as good. Heat butter to almost smoking and carefully put scallops in the pan. Let sit undisturbed for 3-3 1/2 minutes until nicely browned then turn over and caramelize other side. Serve by placing beside the leeks and spooning sauce over both. Squeeze lemon juice over if desired.
To prepare the leeks:
-Put on a large pot of salted water to boil and prepare an ice bath by putting water and ice in a medium size bowl. Place a rack on top of a baking sheet and line with paper towels.
-Peel away the outermost layer of the leeks, then cut away the tough, dark leaves down to the light green part of the leek. Cut away the root and slice leeks into 1/2 inch rounds. Check for dirt and carefully rinse in a bowl of water if needed to remove any dirt in the leeks.
-When the water is boiling, put the leeks in and cook for 5 minutes, until leeks are tender. Remove carefully with a slotted spoon and place in ice bath for no more than 15 seconds. Then put on rack to dry.
-Put stock in a saute pan and whisk in butter, 1 tblsp at a time. Then put leeks in pan and turn gently to coat. Turn heat on low, cover and simmer for 3-5 minutes. You can make all this ahead and then heat again when ready to serve or even serve at room temperature.