There are holidays where dining out is widely accepted as the norm. Valentine’s Day is one of them. You have to make reservations weeks in advance — and if you don’t shame on you, because you’ll be either be sitting in a booth at Denny’s with your sweetheart or waiting in an out-the-door-line at your cities’ favorite hot-spot.
The thing is, even once you’re seated — you’re not treated — it’s a strictly get ’em in and get ’em out mentality. Valentine’s Day is so busy for the restaurant industry, that most will want to turn the tables 3 or even 4 times if they can.
So there’s no intimate conversation while you’re caressing your darling’s fingertips. Nope, it’s average food at high prices, served with a bottle of cheap sparkling wine –(included in your meal if you’re seated before 6 p.m.) It’s loud and chaotic — and very un-romantic.
And invariably, the kitchen runs out of one or two specials before you get a chance to order. Like the Seared Diver Scallops. They ALWAYS run out.
What I’m saying is that (in my not so humble opinion) Valentine’s Day is strictly amateur night — and it’s not for us. Don’t get me wrong — I’ve had my reserved seating tickets for 50 Shades of Gray for the last 3 weeks — the night before Valentine’s. But on Saturday, we won’t be among the throngs. We’ll be home with some good jazz, smooth wine and a relaxed, sophisticated and satisfying meal.
Like these beautifully seared Diver Scallops over a root vegetable mash, drizzled with a tangy, herbaceous dressing. I serve it with some simple roasted tomatoes.
And since I’d rather be canoodling with my honey than cooking, most of the prep is done in advance, leaving plenty of time for other things.
That said, this dish is so unexpected and delicious that I’m already planning a reincarnation for another amateur-night — maybe St. Patty’s Day? I mean, green-beer? Really?
pan-seared scallops over mash
- for root vegetable puree
- 1 whole head garlic
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pound parsnips peeled and cut into 1/2" chunks
- 1 rutabaga peeled to remove wax and cut into 1/2" chunks
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 cup vegetable stock
- 6 tablespoons -1/2 cup buttermilk well shaken
for the herb sauce
- 1 cup packed italian parsley leaves
- 1 cup packed cilantro leaves
- 2 cloves garlic
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 lemon zested and juiced
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- 1/2 cup olive oil
for the scallops
- 1 pound fresh "dry scallops" preferably U10-15
- sprinkle of kosher salt and black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
for the vegetable puree
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. With a sharp knife cut the top 1/2" off the flowering end of the garlic (not the root). Place the garlic in a square of tin foil. Drizzle the olive oil over the exposed cloves and seal the tin foil around the head of garlic. Bake for 25 minutes until soft. Set aside.
Meanwhile, fill a large pot halfway with cool water. Transfer the rutabaga to the pot. Add kosher salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and continue to simmer for 25 minutes. Add the parsnips and cook an additional 12-15 minutes until tender. Drain vegetables and transfer to a food processor. Add the vegetable stock and puree until smooth, scraping the sides occasionally (this may take several minutes). Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves to release the soft interior and add them to the puree. Add 6 tablespoons buttermilk and puree until both garlic and buttermilk are fully incorporated -- add more buttermilk by the tablespoon if the mash appears dry and pulse. Set aside. (Can be made in advance and reheated at the last minute).
for the herb dressing
Add the parsley, cilantro, garlic, lemon zest, salt and pepper to the blender. Pulse several times to chop the herbs, scraping sides with a spatula. Add the lemon juice, mustard and olive oil and blend until emulsified. Pour into a small bowl or pitcher and set aside. (Can be made in advance. Serve at room temperature.)
Heat a dry skillet over medium high heat. Sprinkle scallops lightly with salt and pepper. When the pan is hot, add the olive oil -- it should slick across the surface. If it smokes immediately, remove it from the flame for 20-30 seconds to cool it. Carefully add the scallops 2-3 at a time and cook for 1-2 minutes to sear it. Using tongs, flip the scallops and cook for an additional 45 seconds to a minute. Transfer the scallops to a plate and continue to cook the remaining scallops in the same manner.
To plate: Place one or two scoops of the mash on the plate. Top with 3 seared scallops and drizzle the herb dressing over the scallops and vegetables. Serve.
Recipe NotesMany markets sell diver scallops - but beware. Ask the purveyor if they are wet or dry scallops? Wet scallops have been soaked in phosphates to preserve them, but the scallops also soak up additional water, making it impossible to get a good sear.
Dry scallops are never soaked and will produce a beautiful sear every time. Avoid wet scallops if you can.