Seared scallops with celery root risotto

Marie and I have almost gone through an entire scallop season in Brittany and realized that we haven't posted a single recipe, despite the fact that we get them live at the market almost every Saturday. We regularly eat them raw in tartares and carpaccios, cooked in stews and sautés, or as scallop rillettes and in crèpes with sauteed leeks. Recipes are endless for this sweet mollusk.  

The best way is often just searing them in a hot skillet with some butter, a pinch of cayenne pepper and maybe a splash of a sweet style wine or their cousins; Pineau de Charente, tawny port, a late harvest wine, or as in this case a Breton or Normand specialty called Pommeau made from apples.  This adds just a hint of extra caramel sweetness to the scallops.

The scallop – coquilles saint Jacques in French – is a big deal in Brittany. Harvested from October to April, sometimes until May depending on the fishing authorities. You can find them all along the northern coast of France and the Atlantic. But many people feel that the best come from the Bay of Saint Brieuc, 100 miles northwest of Rennes. They not as big as in some areas, but they are very sweet. You can find live scallops in almost every market in Brittany. People line up at les Lices to buy nearly two tons every Saturday!

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At the Marché des Lice you can buy them and shuck them yourself, or ask your fishmonger to do it for an extra charge. Cleaning them is easy once you get the hang of it. In France you will often see fresh scallops sold with their bright orange “coral”. Personally, aside from being pretty on the plate and a base for a colorful cream sauce, I don’t use the coral because it just doesn’t have much flavor. 

This recipe couldn’t be easier and takes just a few minutes. So if you are preparing side dishes to go with your scallops, do them first! 

Celery Root “risotto”

It wasn't until I got to Brittany that I tried celery root, or at least in a form that I enjoyed. It is really versatile and can replace potatoes and other root vegetables; roasted, puréed, mashed or raw in salads it has a great fresh flavor. Traditionally, scallops are served with a celery root purée that you can make just like mashed potatoes, with a little salt and butter. But, I decided try my hand at another celery root preparation that I tried at the Clos de Vallombreuse in Douarnenez last summer.

Technically this isn't a risotto at all, since there is no rice whatsoever in this dish. However, celery root, when chopped into small pieces, acts like Arborio rice, absorbing flavors while keeping its form and crunch when cooked with care. This is much lighter than real risotto and is gluten free.  You follow the same steps for a traditional risotto but it is a lot faster to prepare.

Ingredients for two servings

  • Half a celery root bulb
  • 2 oz. of salted butter
  • Two cloves of garlic
  • 4 oz dry hard cider or white wine
  • 1 cup of fish or shellfish stock see recipe for stocks
  • 1 cup of crab meat – blue, Dungeness, stone crab, lobster can work too
  • Pepper
  • Parsley

 

Instructions 

  1. Peel the skin and knobs off your celery root, cut it in half and dice into pieces the size of a grain of rice. Easier than you think: we used a mandoline to julienne it, and then cut in rice size pieces.

  2. Over medium heat melt about 1/3 of your salted butter in a deep sauce pan
  3. Chop the garlic and add to the butter
  4. Add chopped celery root to the butter and garlic mixture to coat well
  5. Add the cider or wine and cook until there is no more liquid left (be careful not to burn)
  6. Add fish stock and cook until the stock is almost all absorbed and the “risotto” is al dente
  7.  Add the rest of the butter, it will start to have a creamy texture
  8.  Add a pinch of black pepper to taste
  9. Stir in crab meat and chopped parsley
  10. Set aside on very low heat and prepare scallops 

Seared scallops, flambee with pommeau

To sear seafood with butter, start off with a neutral oil rather than butter: butter will burn and turn black. Add butter for taste closer to the end of cooking

Ingredients for two servings

  • 10 to 14 scallops depending on size
  • Neutral oil – sunflower, canola, etc..
  • 3 Tbsp of salted butter
  • A pinch of cayenne
  • 1/4 cup pommeau or other sweet wine

 

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Coat your skillet with the neutral oil and heat 
  2. Make sure your scallops are not wet, pat them dry: they will get a better sear
  3. Place the scallops in the skillet and sear for 2 minutes on one side
  4. Turn on the other side, and sear for 1 minute
  5. Add the butter to the skillet and melt
  6.  Add a pinch of cayenne
  7.  When butter is melted (about a minute) and starting to bubble, add your pommeau, tip the skillet to the flame, it should flambé for a few seconds
  8. Coat the scallops in the butter and pommeau mixture
  9. Serve scallops on top of the risotto and drizzle the butter sauce on top. 

WINE PAIRING:  SéHéDIC CIDER FROM la forêt FOUESNANT

the Séhédic shop in Fouesnant

the Séhédic shop in Fouesnant

Lately, I have really been getting into the region’s fantastic hard ciders and other things made with apples, like pommeau which is a actually a fortified cider between 16 to 18% alcohol and Breton Lambig which is a distilled spirit made from cider that can be as high as 45%! The Lambig or Fine de Bretagne is not unlike Calvados.

We paired this recipe with a great cider and a special pommeau called Forestic, from the producer François Sehedic. These ciders are not your run of the mill sparkling apple juice or the industrial stuff you find in many pubs these days.

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From the small town of Foret Fouesnant in French Cornwall on the sea, the Séhédics make a range of award winning organic ciders from a sweet dessert cider that goes well with cheeses and pies, to special ciders made from traditional heirloom apples, to a bracing bone dry extra brut. Plus they make a cider vinegar that actually tastes like the apples it comes from, cider jelly, eau de vie, a killer apple juice and more.

We recently took a trip out there to visit our friend Christine, who lives there, and got a lesson on cider making from the knowledgeable and friendly staff.

Sehedic Cidre Brut :

 

We paired the scallops and the risotto with their Brut. With slightly more residual sugar than the extra-brut, it retains a vivacity and freshness that makes a perfect food drink. It has the alcohol content of a good lager at 5 to 6%. It is made from a mix of sweet and tart fruit that comes through at the attack. At the mid palate you get hints yeast and cut hay, not unlike a good champagne. The finish has a wonderful clean bitter bite that is a characteristic of really good ciders.

Many of the region’s best tables are now serving Sehedic ciders. I heard that there is some interest from US importers, cider is a gluten free alternative to beer! There are more and more wine shops that have taken an interest in this diverse and refreshing drink. So ask around and find your favorite. If you are lucky you might even find one of these.

 

To flambé the scallops,  and as an aperitif for the cook : a special Pommeau called Forestic Rouge Vieux.

Though I don't drink them that often, I am a sucker for good fortified wines, ports of all kinds, banyuls, Pineau de Charentes, etc…I tried Pommeau years ago, and I thought that they were all just gooey overly sweet apple liquor. But when the Séhédics produce a special aged version, you just can’t say no.This one is aged for at least six years in chestnut casks, where it acquires a ruby color and a caramel apple flavor with notes of dried fruits and nuts. It has a good shot of strong eau de vie in there, too, but finishes with the smoothness of tawny port. With butter and cayenne pepper, Forestic added depth to the scallop sauce. 

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