As you read earlier in Katie’s Capital Chefs Part I, we trekked out to Tyson’s corner (on a Saturday) to catch some peace, quiet and scallops with Inox Restaurant’s co-owner Chef Jon Mathieson. After ooo-ing and ahh-ing over his adorable two little kids playing tag and harmlessly tackling each other around the empty restaurant, Katie and I were not disappointed by the no-nonsense cooking style of Chef Mathieson, who had clearly spent some time in the kitchen with his other two (actual) children.
“Which one of you cooks?” I raised my hand. “Alright, then if you’re making this at home, you can start practicing now.” And we were off to a running start. “Stand over here. See this cabbage? See this color? Here, here’s a towel for you to hold the pot handle. Stir it. Now pull it off the heat.” Chef Mathieson coaxed me through the process of emulsifying the butter sauce while perfectly coating and braising the cabbage.
He made it seem so easy. He showed me, in multiple ways, where it could all go wrong, and the lesson was over in half an hour. Could it really be that easy?
Chef Mathieson was kind enough, or perhaps it was his lovely wife who had the foresight, to print out the recipe for me. Quantities, ingredients and detailed instructions were already weaving the recipe together for me before we even melted the butter. That was a first. You mean I don’t have to approximate how much salt you just threw on the scallops? Thank god. No wait. Thank you.
On the menu:
SEARED DIVER SEA SCALLOPS
Braised Savoy Cabbage, Pearl Onions, Sweet Potato,
Asian Pear, Smoked Bacon Emulsion
The best part about this recipe? I like ALL of the ingredients, and I like them a lot. Oh, and the second best part? Yeah, they go really, really well together. Especially when swimming in a creamy, bacon-y butter sauce. Mmm hmm.
So I took a lot of notes for you, dear reader. And I asked a lot of questions. And I’m feeling pretty darn good. And I’m feeling like you’re going to love this recipe as much as I do, and that it’s going to become a part of your usual repertoire, too.
Chef Mathieson, for the record, I had to adjust the quantities a little bit. Don’t hate me… But I think cabbage at my grocery store must be 12 times the size of yours!
Seared Diver Sea Scallops with Braised Savoy Cabbage, Pearl Onions, Sweet Potato, Asian Pear, and Smoked Bacon Emulsion
- 12 Sea Scallops – I bought mine fresh from the grocery store and left them in the fridge on paper towels for 3 hours. This still wasn’t enough to dry out the chemical substance that they are soaked in. You need to get the doubly expensive “diver” scallops or “dry” or “day boat” that don’t have chemicals. So, just keep that in mind when you are trying to brown your scallops. It’s not you… But they are still darn good. Just don’t overcook ’em.
- 1 head Savoy Cabbage, large dice (1″ x 1″ pieces) and blanched – It’s not possible to use one whole head of cabbage for this recipe. Aim for 1/4 to 1/2 of the whole cabbage. Save the rest for some pickling?
- 1 pt. White Pearl Onion, blanched and halved – You can find these in a mesh bag by the other onions.
- 1 Sweet Potato, peeled, small dice and blanched
- 1 Asian Pear, peeled and small dice – If diced in advance, grab some apple juice or lemon juice to keep the pear from browning.
- 4 oz. (about 4 pieces) of Apple Smoked Bacon
- 4 oz. Chicken or Fish Stock
- Butter “As Needed” – Have about two sticks on hand: one for the bacon sauce, one for the vegetables.
- Salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste
Prep work (can be done up to a day in advance):
- Dice and blanche the vegetables for 30 – 60 seconds or until tender in boiling, heavily salted water (“salty-like-the-sea”). Shock in ice water.
- Dice the pear and preserve in apple juice.
- Dice the bacon and begin cooking in the chicken stock. Once the stock has come to a boil, strain out the bacon reserving the liquid. The bacon may be rendered until crisp and reserved until needed. Reduce the liquid by half and add 4 oz. (one stick) of butter until the sauce is emulsified. To keep the sauce from “breaking,” listen to your pot. If it starts crackling, take it off the heat. If it breaks, give it more butter. To revive it later, use an immersion blender and put it back on the heat.
When ready to serve:
- Scallops: Pre-heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Make sure the scallops are dry and season with salt, pepper and cayenne. Sear the scallop on one side until “brown” (approx. 2 – 3.5 min), then flip the scallops over and brown on the other side (approx 2 – 3.5 min again). Don’t pull your hair out when they don’t brown, just try to remove some of the liquid if possible so they don’t poach, and stick to the timing. Keep warm until ready to serve.
- Cabbage: When ready to re-heat, start with a small amount of the emulsified bacon butter you made in advance. Add the cabbage. Season with salt and pepper. Add more butter until creamy. Stir, a lot. “Listen to the pan,” and remove it from the heat once the butter sauce starts crackling and the sauce looks like it’s going to break. The final product should coat the cabbage with a creamy buttery sauce. The cabbage should cook while the sauce gets creamy.
- Vegetables: EITHER 1) Throw them in with the cabbage. The bacon, sweet potato, pearl onion and Asian pear can be thrown in with the veggies for a family-style presentation. Just cook them until hot. I did this at the chef’s recommendation. It worked great. OR 2) For the more upscale plating featured above, pre-heat a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add the bacon, sweet potato, pearl onion, Asian pear, and some more butter and cook until hot. Season with salt and pepper.
- Plate, layering in this order: cabbage, then scallops, topped with veggies, and surrounded with more of the butter sauce (either from the bacon emulsion or the cabbage). If you chose to throw the veggies in with the cabbage, use the combo as the bottom layer, topped with scallops, and surrounded with some more of that freaking delicious butter sauce.
- Oh, and serve with bread, cause you’re gonna want to sop up that butter sauce ’til it’s all gone.
If I could change one thing about this recipe, I would add one more pear. I really liked the sweet, spicy, and even the hint of delicate boozyness of the Asian pear contrasting with the buttery and bacon-y vegetables.
This recipe is a real crowd pleaser and ideal for a dinner party. Almost the whole recipe can be done in advance. Stir in some more butter, sear the scallops for 5 minutes, and you’re ready for plating. It doesn’t get any easier than that! However, moving that dinner party on down to Inox and having Chef Mathieson cook this for you would not be half bad.