Thanksgiving is all about the best family recipes–the ones that use the most butter and cream and are handwritten on ancient recipe cards. Like my grandmother’s corn pudding recipe—at the bottom she wrote, “Serve, eat & slap yo’ mama!”
So don’t make this recipe today. Enjoy your favorite family dishes with those you love, and log this one away for later. Because you have to admit, this recipe from Ruhlman’s Twenty sure does look good!
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Sautéed Scallops with Asparagus
I first saw a variation of this recipe at The French Laundry where the poissonnier at the time, Grant Achatz, put it over the top with truffles and asparagus tied in a cute little bundle with a chive, additional chlorophyll keeping the sauce intensely green. And it was fabulous, but the main reason it was so good was that scallops and asparagus are an unparalleled pair on every level: contrasting colors and textures, and a wonderful mix of flavors.
The main critical points are to cook and shock the asparagus properly and to get a good colorful crust on the scallops. The hardest part is finding good scallops. Try to find a good fishmonger who can offer large dry-packed scallops in the fall and winter when they are primarily harvested. The larger they are, the better the dish will be, and the easier it will be to prepare.
- 1 1/2 pounds/680 grams asparagus, boiled and shocked
- 1 1/2 pounds/680 grams scallops
- 3/4 cup/170 grams butter, cut into 3 equal pieces
- Fine sea salt
- Canola oil
- Kosher salt
- About 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Finely chopped lemon zest for garnish
Remove the tips from the asparagus and reserve for garnish. Cut the stalks into pieces and purée in a blender until completely smooth. You may need to add a little water, 1/4 cup/60 ml or so, to ensure they’re completely puréed. You can also use a food processor; if you do, pass the purée through a basket strainer to remove any long fibers. The asparagus can prepared up to 24 hours before serving and stored in the refrigerator.
Remove the scallops from the refrigerator 1 hour before cooking and place them on a plate lined with paper towels. They usually have a little nib of connective tissue on their side; remove and discard this.
Just before cooking the scallops, put the puréed asparagus in a saucepan over low heat. Put the asparagus tips and 1 piece of the butter in a sauté pan over low heat.
Season the scallops on both sides with fine sea salt. Heat a large sauté pan over high heat. It needs to be large enough that the scallops aren’t crowded, or you won’t get a good sear, one of the pleasures of this dish. Add enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. A depth of 3/16 inch/5 mm is ideal, but gauge the depth by eye. It is better to err on the side of too much oil. You’re not eating the oil, just cooking in it. When it’s very hot, just before it smokes, add the scallops and cook until they are beautifully seared, about 2 minutes. Turn and continue cooking just until the scallops are warm in the middle and medium-rare, about 2 minutes more. With scallops, it’s better to err by undercooking them; raw scallops are delicious, but overcooked scallops are rubbery. Remove the scallops to paper towels to drain.
While the scallops are cooking, raise the heat on both pans with asparagus to medium. Warm the tips in the butter. Bring the puréed asparagus to a simmer and season with kosher salt, then whisk in the remaining butter.
Immediately before serving, add the lemon juice to the asparagus sauce. Divide the sauce among plates or large bowls. Place the scallops on the sauce and garnish with the warmed asparagus tips and lemon zest.