When cooking for myself I rarely go to the grocery store with a specific list of ingredients. Yes, of course I have an idea of what I want, like if I’m out of yogurt or my favorite dark chocolate raisins. But I usually try to buy what looks good, and hopefully what’s on special.
Yesterday I went to Whole Foods just to see what was new. I’m happy I did because I discovered large dry-packed scallops, something I don’t see too often, at least not at an affordable price. I purchased eight scallops (about 5 ounces) with no plan on how I would prepare them. But I knew the farmer’s market was coming up so I decided to wait and see what I’d find, then decide what to do.
Luckily I discovered some beautiful purple asparagus, a great match for scallops. Purple asparagus is a little sweeter and slightly more tender than traditional green asparagus but turns brilliant green once cooked.
I gave a lot of thought to this meal: I wanted it to be fairly healthy. I wanted to highlight the natural sweetness of the asparagus and scallops. And I wanted the dish to be special but not too complicated.
Check. Check. Check.
Please don’t be intimidated by the plating; the whole dish takes just 20 minutes but presents and tastes like it came from a high-end restaurant. Here’s the recipe:
Seared Sea Scallops with Purple Asparagus, White Wine Sauce & Balsamic Glaze, serves 2
1/4 cup aged balsamic vinegar (I recommend a high-quality 18-year aged balsamic vinegar)
1 pound purple asparagus (can substitute green asparagus)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon unsalted butter, divided
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
8 large dry-packed sea scallops (about 5 ounces), patted dry
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 shallot, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine (recommend Sauvignon Blanc)
Set a large pot of salted water over high heat; bring to boil. Prepare and ice bath and preheat the oven to 350°F.
To make the balsamic glaze: pour the balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan or saute pan. Set the pan over medium-low heat and simmer the vinegar until reduced by half (will have a syrup-like consistency), about 5 minutes. Be careful it doesn’t burn. Set aside. (Note: leftover balsamic glaze works well as a salad dressing.)
Remove the two thickest stalks of asparagus from the bunch and set aside. Trim the tough ends off the remaining asparagus and discard. Cut the asparagus on an angle into 2-inch long pieces then blanch in the boiling water just until tender, about 1 minute. Drain the asparagus and immediately submerge in an ice bath. Drain once cool and set aside.
Set a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon butter and the olive oil. Pat the scallops dry and season with salt. Once the butter has melted and stopped foaming, set the scallops in the pan and sear until browned on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Flip the scallops over and cook for 30 seconds, then transfer the scallops to an oven-save dish and place it in the oven. Bake for 5 minutes until the scallops are just cooked through (think medium-rare). Remove from the oven and tent lightly with foil to keep warm.
Make the sauce while the scallops are baking. Return the saute pan used to cook the scallops to medium heat. Stir in the garlic and shallots and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the asparagus and cook until heated through, then pour in the white wine. Simmer until the wine has reduced by half, about 2 minutes, then stir in the remaining 1 teaspoon butter. Season to taste with salt and a pinch of pepper.
Prepare asparagus shavings by laying the reserved thick stalks on the cutting board. Hold the bottom end of the asparagus with one hand and use a vegetable peeler to shave long strips off the stalk.
Plate the dish by dividing the cooked asparagus between two dinner plates. Top each with four scallops then pour the white wine sauce over the top. Arrange a small pile of asparagus shavings over the scallops and lightly drizzle 1 teaspoon balsamic glaze on each plate.