Sophisticated Savories

Sophisticated Savories

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Seared scallops with pea puree, white wine-poached peas, cilantro oil and microgreens/flowers

Seven years ago, my culinary arsenal consisted of my college meal plan card, a can opener and frozen prepared meals.  One step above ramen noodles... or maybe not... everything was already made!

Two weeks after I graduated from college, I stepped off the plane into the dazzling City of Lights, Paris, France.  Armed with enthusiasm, a hunger to learn and ridiculously-large smile, I began my studies as Le Cordon Bleu.  Though providing more of the comic relief, rather than culinary experience, to my fellow students, I learned.  I improved.  I actually learned the basic fundamentals of cooking.

But as a chef, there is so much more to just recipes, techniques and cooking methods.  Food is fuel.  Food is art.  Textures, flavors, seasonings, colors, portion sizes, menu variation... I know it may seem overwhelming, but don't jump ship just yet.  As you experiment in the kitchen, you will gain confidence in your own creations.

"Experience: the most brutal of teachers.  But you learn, my God do you learn." - C.S. Lewis

Cooking example:

Scallops are one of my favorite shellfish to cook and consume.  I always pair scallops with vegetables, as opposed to potatoes or pasta.  Why?  When cooked properly, scallops for a crisp, golden crust that provides a slight buttery crust on the palate.  The inside flesh is tender, yet slightly creamy.  Much the same consistency to potatoes or pasta... in fact, too similar.  When pairing with vegetables (cauliflower puree, peas/edamame, etc.), the vegetables provide a necessary "crunch" to 'bring to the table.'

Pun intended.

Remember to keep it simple.  Draw on the wise words of da Vince: "simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."  

Seared scallops, pea puree, peas poached in white wine and finished with cilantro oil, microgreens and edible flowers.

When plating, remember that odd numbers will provide more symmetry on the plate.  Consider your plate as the face of a clock.  First dollop a small drop of pea puree at 12, 4 and 8 o'clock.  This will act as your glue, in order to "secure" your scallops to the plate.  It will also incorporate the sweet pea puree directly into the scallop when the knife makes its first incision- breaking the crisp crust seal, through the perfectly cooked shellfish and landing in the pea puree.

Rather than littering the plate with wondering peas, remember to showcase the scallops.  I mean, let's face it - they are already sitting on a platform of pea puree... let's give them their 15-minutes of fame and surround them by their pea "fans."


For a touch of color and more flavor, drizzle the rim with cilantro oil.  Lastly, use the microgreens and flowers to add finesse.  This is not the shire, so do not showcase your green-thumbs on the plate and build a garden.  Rather, a few will do.  Gently place the microgreens on the scallops.  Lastly, I used purple flowers.  Why?  Purple signifying royalty.  Ok, that was not the reason... though it is appropriate for the scallops!  Rather, look at the plate... you're already working with green and yellow/gold... purple is a nice additive in order to provide a subtle burst of color.  Not too much, but just enough.

"The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work" - Emily Zola


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