Scallops and Asparagus
with Lemon Spaghettini
I’m not sure that there’s any kitchen experience more satisfying than perfectly searing a scallop. The smell of the melted butter, the gorgeous char on the surface, the way that they release from the pan when they’re just right – and of course, the incredible taste. I didn’t grow up eating scallops, and when I did start to encounter them it was usually the teensy ones. But nothing compares to a big, fresh, sweet bay scallop. In fact I’m going to put myself out there and say that it might just be the best food to come out of the ocean. But the question is – what do you serve with the scallops? Too plain and it will seem like a dull afterthought. Too complex and it will compete or clash with the flavour of the scallops.
Scallops are by no means solely a spring food, but their mild-yet-distinctive flavour work really well with spring ingredients. I had a hankering to do something with lemon and asparagus, and I’m happy to say that the brightness and acidity paired perfectly with the buttery scallops. The asparagus provides a grassy-green vegetal component, while the lemon provides acidity and brightness. Both components play against the sweet and rich scallops perfectly – and of course, it’s all tied together (or twirled together) with a nice hit of carbs. Mmm, carbs.
I’ve had a lot to say about some of the dishes coming out of my kitchen lately, but this one kind of speaks for itself. This is honest, delicious food. Well, I suppose I can’t resist the urge to reiterate my earlier points about pasta, and how it doesn’t have to be drowned in cream – but I won’t say much more than that. Get some scallops and start making some asparagus ribbons.
This is one of those meals that isn’t really difficult, but isn’t exactly easy either. Searing scallops can be a bit difficult if you haven’t done it before, but there are a few keys to success. First and foremost, you want to work at the right temperature, and with plenty of butter in the pan. Too hot (or too little butter) and the scallops will char rather than sear. Too cool and the scallops will sort of sit and simmer in the butter without forming any of that beautiful brown crust. Second, you want to make sure that you use a combination of attentiveness and patience. You have to watch your scallops as they cook, but don’t move them until they’re ready. Once you start to see crispy brown edges and the cooked opaque section about 1/3 of the way up on the scallop, CAREFULLY try to move the scallop with a pair of tongs. If it doesn’t let go of the pan fairly easily, give it a bit more time. Once you do turn the scallop over, the opposite side will need a little less time to cook (the scallop is already warm). You want to remove the scallops from the pan while their centers are still slightly translucent. Ultimately you should have a sort of layered scallop: seared and brown on the very outsides, white and cooked immediately after that, then pale pink and slighty translucent in the ‘rare’ center.
The asparagus might seem a bit odd, but there’s method to the madness here. By cutting it into ribbons, it cooks very quickly, and you can twirl it up with the long spaghettini noodles. Short pieces of asparagus are much harder to grab up in a forkful of pasta, plus they don’t get coated with the cheesy lemony sauce as easily. You can cut the asparagus into ribbons using a mandoline (watch your fingers!) or with a vegetable peeler. I personally prefer to use the vegetable peeler as it’s a little less nerve-wracking. Try to get the asparagus ribbons fairly thin, and as uniform as possible. The tips do tend to break apart a little bit when sliced thinly, so you could consider removing them and saving them for a different recipe or sauteing them and serving them as-is along with this dish. If you really love pasta (I’m setting the bar pretty low on that one), save the asparagus tips to make linguine primavera and use the stalks to make this.
No ingredient pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe. Like to see one? Let me know in the comments below or by email.
No pantry pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe. Like to see one? Let me know in the comments below or by email.
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