Food escapades in modernist cuisine

Sous Vide Scallops, Garlic Butter, Orange

Fish and seafood don't seem to be quite as popular as meat and poultry, possibly because of the cost but also because they're difficult to cook properly. I'm incredibly fortunate to have access to very affordable, fresh seafood all the time, as my wife works for one of the largest seafood import/export companies in the New England area. Her company supplies most of the major distributors, supermarkets and restaurants in the area, so if you've ever eaten fish or shellfish out in Boston, it more than likely came from her company.

We picked up some beautiful U10 sea scallops that came packed in a huge 8 lb tin. These were the largest scallops I have ever seen in my life. Immediately when I opened up the tin, I could tell how fresh these were - no strong, offputting fishy smells, just a delicate, clean aroma of the ocean.

Prior to purchasing our Sous Vide Supreme, we would cook our scallops in the stove, searing them on a hot pan. Scallops tend to be costly if you're buying them retail, so the focus is always placed on not over-cooking and ruining the expensive product. Perhaps it was my lack of skill or experience, but I would find that it'd be difficult for me to get the timing right when cooking scallops. Sometimes I'd get a hard sear and nice crust on the outside but when I sliced into the middle, the scallops were still a bit under cooked. Likewise, there were other times when I would over-cook the scallop, resulting in a tough, rubbery end product that was not enjoyable to eat (insult to the mouth, injury to the wallet). It was tough to time it just right.

Using sous vide as the cooking method has changed all of that. Now I always opt to sous vide my scallops, except for when I'm strapped for time. What I typically do is season the scallops with salt (experiment with different kinds - I've used smoked as well as coffee salt), pepper, and either olive oil or butter. The seasoned scallops are then placed in a zip loc bag and then dropped into the pre-heated Sous Vide Supreme for 45 minutes at 130 degrees. You can also cook the scallops at a lower temperature - some people like 120 degrees and even as low as 108 degrees. Note that if you are cooking for high risk individuals like pregnant women, you may elect to cook the scallops at 140 degrees, which will pasteurize the scallops, kill any pathogens like listeria, and make them completely safe to eat. I have a trusted source for my seafood and know the quality of the product, so I don't worry quite as much about those concerns as others may. At whatever temperature you do cook the scallops, understand the benefits and risks and make an informed decision for yourself. From a textural perspective, if you cook at a lower temperature, the scallops will simply be less firm.

After taking a dunk in the water bath, the scallops will be removed. I dry off the excess moisture with a paper towel and then quickly sear them in a very hot saute pan. With the scallops, I love to serve them with a quick brown butter sauce with garlic. To make this, melt some butter in a pan and cook until it starts to foam at the edges and turn brown. Then add finely chopped garlic and remove from heat. The key here is to take the edge off the raw garlic but not cook it so long that the garlicky flavor mellows out too much. With this, I also like to serve segments of orange, as the acidity of the fruit cuts through some of the richness of the butter sauce and also brightens up the dish. This is one of my all time favorite dishes.

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