Five-Spice Seared Sea Scallops with Purple Potato Cauliflower Puree, Glazed Baby Spinach and Arugula, and Port and Red Wine Reduction with Brown Butter
Recently, I shared with a friend how gorgeous Peruvian purple potatoes are, and that when you cook and mash them, they turn a lovely shade of lavender, a surprising color to find on a plate. When I was trying to come up with an idea for a Valentine’s dinner for this blog, that conversation came to mind, and I imagined that a delicate purple puree would be the perfect romantic accent in a Valentine’s Day themed dish.
This aphrodisiacal treat was designed with sea scallops as the focus, but you can substitute medallions of steamed or grilled lobster tail, seared shrimp, filet of halibut, monkfish, or sea bass, if you prefer. Encrusted with Chinese five-spice powder, the scallops have a slightly sweet and spicy exotic accent.
I pureed the purple potatoes with cauliflower to lighten them up, and accompanied the dish with butter-glazed baby spinach and arugula. Everything is brought together by an orgasmic Port and red wine reduction, emulsified with delicious, nutty, brown butter, which I swirl around each plate, since it is absolutely heavenly with each of the elements of the dish.
Wash it all down with some Champagne, Prosecco or your favorite sparkling wine, eat it slowly and luxuriously with your lover, preferably feeding each other, and see what unfolds…at your own risk!!!
Five-Spice Crusted Sea Scallops with Purple Potato Cauliflower Puree, Glazed Baby Spinach and Arugula and Port and Red Wine Reduction with Brown Butter
(for two servings)
For the brown butter:
2 tablespoons premium unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled till cold and firm
For the Port and red wine reduction:
1 cup Port
1 cup dry, full-bodied red wine, like Merlot, Syrah, Zinfandel or Cabernet
To finish the sauce:
2 tablespoons chilled and cubed brown butter (see below)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or pinch of fine salt
Prepare the brown butter. Place a small pot over medium-high heat for a minute or so, until is gets very hot. Add the chilled butter, swirling the pan over the heat, for about a minute or so. Allow it to get brown in color, being careful not to let it burn. Remove pan from heat, transfer brown butter to a small ramekin, and put it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, until firm and cold.
When brown butter is cold, run a paring knife on the inside of the ramekin to release the butter onto a cutting board, and cut it into small pieces. Return it to the refrigerator until just before serving.
Prepare the Port and red wine reduction. Pour the Port and red wine into a small or medium pot over high heat. Bring wine mixture to a boil, lower heat slightly, and allow it to reduce for about ten minutes, until the bubbles get larger, and the reduction is almost as thick as a syrup. Test the viscosity by dipping the back of a spoon into the reduction and tracing your finger across the spoon. If it doesn’t bleed back together, it is done. Cover and set aside. This reduction can be prepared in advanced, and reheated just before serving to complete the sauce.
To finish the sauce, right before serving, reheat it over medium heat. When hot, check for consistency; if it is too thick, whisk in a few drops of water until it is slightly thickened, but still runny. When it comes to the boil, turn off heat, and add chilled brown butter pieces, two or three at a time, and swirl them into the sauce until they are completely dissolved, and repeat until all of the butter has been used. Whisk in salt. Adjust seasoning if necessary.
When the scallops are ready, drizzle sauce onto plates.
For the purple potato cauliflower puree:
12 oz. Peruvian purple potatoes (make sure they are the kind that are purple on the inside as well as the outside), peeled and cut into small chunks
8 oz. cauliflower florets (from 1 cauliflower, cored, and thick stems and leaves removed), cut up into small pieces
3 tablespoons premium unsalted butter
3 tablespoons creme fraiche or sour cream
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
Put a medium or large pot halfway filled with water up to boil on high heat. Add the cut up potatoes and cauliflower. Let it come to the boil, and lower heat slightly. Allow vegetables to cook until they are very soft. When they are done, pour contents of pot through a sieve in the sink.
Transfer the cooked potatoes and cauliflower to the bowl of a food processor, and add the butter, creme fraiche and salt. Process until a smooth, homogenous puree is formed. You may need to scrape down the sides of the bowl a little, and process again for a few seconds until everything is incorporated evenly. Using a rubber spatula, transfer contents into a small baking dish, cover with foil, and keep warm in a 300 degree oven.
For the glazed baby spinach and arugula:
2 cups water
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons premium unsalted butter
5 oz. baby spinach leaves, washed and drained of excess water
2.5 oz baby arugula leaves, washed and drained of excess water
In a medium or large pot, bring water, salt and butter to a boil. Cover and remove from heat.
Right before serving, when scallops are almost done, bring seasoned water to a boil over high heat, and place spinach and arugula into the water, pressing down with tongs to submerge the leaves. When they are completely wilted, transfer greens to a sieve, in the sink or over a bowl, and press excess water out with the back of a spoon.
For the scallops:
6 large sea scallops, muscles on sides removed, dried thoroughly with paper towels or a clean kitchen towel
2 tablespoons clarified butter (ghee) or vegetable oil
kosher salt to taste
Chinese five-spice powder (about a teaspoon or less)
For the garnish:
pink tea rose petals and tiny flowers
Turn on fan above stove. Heat a large skillet (cast iron is best) on high for about two minutes, until it is very hot.
To coordinate the spinach and arugula, reheat the buttery water on medium high. When it comes to the boil, lower heat until water is simmering lightly.
Season dried scallops with salt on both sides. Sprinkle some five-spice powder on the tops of the scallops.
Add clarified butter or oil to the hot pan, and when it is hot and shimmering, add the scallops, spice side down, not touching, with plenty of space in between. Using tongs, loosen them from the pan until they are not sticking, and let them cook until a brown crust forms on each.
Meanwhile, plunge spinach and arugula into the simmering buttery water. Pour contents of pot through a sieve in the sink or over a bowl. Press with tongs to drain out excess water.
When scallops are brown on one side, flip them over, and allow them to cook on the other side for a couple of minutes.
Reheat the port and wine reduction over medium, and add the brown butter, as described above, and the salt. Remove the purple potato/cauliflower puree from the oven.
Drizzle a generous amount of the sauce on two plates. Scoop some of the purple potato/cauliflower puree onto each plate, and place a small heap of the spinach/arugula mix next to these. Place three scallops, spice crust sides up onto the sauce on each plate, and garnish with tea rose petals and tiny flowers. Serve with Champagne or sparkling wine, for a memorable, sensual, shared dinner experience for you and your loved one!