Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Lone Star Scallop

Earlier this year I attended a cooking demonstration at Travaasa Resort and Spa near Lake Travis in Austin. What I loved most about this dish is that it only had a few ingredients, but could easily be transformed from an appetizer to an entree.

Chef Benjamin Baker has two decades of experience cooking in kitchens from Maui, HI, to San Jose, CA, and in Austin, TX where he is now the executive chef at Travaasa. His passion for baking breads and dedication to seasonal, organic and local ingredients was evident the moment he started the cooking demonstration.
This picture may look like Chef is grating cheese, it's actually cold butter! The base of his Lone Star Scallop is homemade pie dough, cut in the shape of a star.

The basic ratio for pie dough that Chef used was 1/4 pound of unsalted butter, chilled, and then grated into a bowl.  To that he adds 1 cup of all purpose flour, and then iced water until a ball forms.

To make these cute shapes, he rolls the pie dough out with a rolling pin and cuts them with star cookie cutters. To ensure they stay flat while baking, he sandwiches them between two cookie sheets for 15 minutes in the oven.

Now we begin to make the topping by rendering some fat from sliced bacon (prosciutto or butter could be used also).

To the fat in the hot pan he adds sliced fennel bulb, sliced shallots and the zest of one lemon.

 Lightly salt this mixture and stir to combine.

Chef continues to saute the fennel, shallots, lemon zest with the bacon pieces until the fennel is just wilted. Remove this to a separate bowl.

 On to the sea scallops. Rinse and pat dry with a paper towel.

Season with salt and pepper.

Chef added a squirt of olive oil and turned up the heat to medium-high.

All the scallops go in and we don't touch them for about two minutes.

Then the flip. The color on these look amazing and the smell is out of this world.

After another minute on the flip side, Chef starts to move them to the cutting board to rest for just a minute.

Now I know what kind of color to look for when I make these at home!

To build these beautiful appetizers, he layers a tablespoon of the fennel and bacon on top of the star shaped pie crust.

I would never have thought to do this, but Chef slices each scallop in half, separating the top and bottom before topping each plate.

He saved some of the fennel fronds and tucked them in between the two slices.

I think it made for a lovely presentation. The fennel has a licorice flavor which complements the butter scallop. All these flavors, from the pastry crust to the subtle zing of the lemon zest all adds up to one perfect bite! For a shortcut, I would suggest using frozen puff pastry - possibly following a recipe from Ina Garten and topping with the seared scallop. Ahh! I love cooking classes and cooking demonstrations - I always learn something new.

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