First Course – “Truffles”
I think amuse bouches should be a little surprising, playful and, of course, tasty. I wanted the first two courses to, in one bite or so, balance the sweet vs savory vs non-traditional nature of what I was hoping to achieve throughout the entire dinner.
I’m not quite sure how I got around to scallops, but at some point in my brainstorming, I was trying to put together seafood and chocolate. Then, I thought about truffles, big surprise there. Rolling small scallops in cacao powder could make them look like little truffles. Biting into them would play against expectations with a salty, sweet combo. I had no idea if this would even remotely taste good…
I decided on bay scallops because the small size would be more in line with the typical size of chocolate truffles. Originally, the scallops were to be poached in white wine and butter. Then, I thought about poaching them in cream, which was more in line with the truffle theme. I couldn’t really decide which would be better, and maybe I should do neither and just saute them in brown butter.
A taste test was in order, I poached, sauteed, poached, let them cool to about room temp, and rolled them in cacao powder. The winner was the scallops poached in milk (I didn’t have cream at the time) and anise seeds (a spur of the moment adjustment). I mortar and pestled a little turbinado sugar and added that to the unsweetened cacao before rolling.
A quick note on the scallops. We tested and served these dishes with scallops purchased at Whole Foods, I wanna say that they were wild caught. They tasted great. For a photo staging shot, I recreated them using cheap farm raised bay scallops purchased from King Soopers. They were practically inedible. Moral of the story: with this particular dish, maybe more so than with others, the quality of the seafood will make or break it. I’m sure you can get good seafood at King Soopers and can have bad experiences with Whole Foods, but quality is super important.
What you will need:
14 Bay Scallops
1 Cup Whole Milk or Heavy Cream
1 tsp. Anise Seeds
Salt and Pepper
1/4 Cup Unsweetened Cacao Powder
1 tsp. Turbinado Sugar
Candied Lemon Peel for Garnish
Sprinkle the raw scallops with a little sea salt and black pepper. Heat milk and anise in a small pan over medium heat.
When bubbles start to form around the edges of the milk and steam is arising add scallops and cook for about 1 minute. I tilted the pan and pushed all the scallops into the deep end of the pool and using a spoon moved the scallops around a little to ensure even cooking. It is preferable to under cook rather than over cook these, just saying. When they are almost done scoop them out with a spoon, leaving as much of the liquid behind as you can, and cool on a plate.
Put the sugar into the mortar and pestle and grind it up to as close to a powder as you can. Mix the sugar and cacao powder together in another bowl. After the scallops are at room temp, this does not take much more than 5 minutes, roll them in the powder. Just like making chocolate truffles, right.
I served three to each person, plus a couple to the little archer, garnished with a candied lemon peel.
I served this with a sparkling rose. Segura Viudas Brut Rose, to be exact.