Scallops & Carrots

Pfeww. What a week this has been. I will spare you the details but while hurricane Sandy was raging outside I took the time to organize food photos I’ve taken over the past year or so. At least that’s what I did until we lost power but that’s another story. I came across this dish I made after spending too much time browsing through the pages of the beautiful Eleven Madison Square Park cookbook which you must buy if you haven’t already done so.

It reminded me talking to a cook at Eleven Madison Park once about their style of plating and he told me that they were asked to think outside the box and taught to build whimsical miniature amusement parks on the plate. I had leftovers. So I built a miniature amusement park of my own.

I love the delicate flavor of scallops and to highlight their natural sweetness I played with the different flavors and textures of the mighty carrot: roasted, pureed and pickled. Carrots enjoy a surge in popularity and as serious cooks know, “freshly dug” is as important for carrots as “diver” is for sea scallops. So don’t skimp on quality or it won’t be worth it. Sometimes dishes are born of just what is around and in this case it was quail eggs, purple potatoes, blood orange and bottarga which respectively provided richness, crunch, tartness and umami. Don’t look at me with those eyes. It worked.

This post is not meant as an exact recipe (although I’m more happy to provide it) but rather as an inspiration on creating your own dish and presentation. What started off as me playing around with a few ingredients resulted in an accidental dish with a surprisingly good balance. Now go dig up something in your refrigerator, cook it up, and come back to show it off on zenspotting.

  • Scallops & Carrots Three Ways

    • Serves 4
    • Scallops:
    • 8 scallops, cleaned and dried
    • salt and pepper
    • 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
    • 3 tablespoons butter
    • Carrot puree:
    • 3 large organic carrots
    • 4 tablespoons butter
    • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
    • salt and white pepper to taste
    • Pickled carrots:
    • 8 ounces organic baby carrots
    • 1 cup rice wine vinegar
    • 1 cup water
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1/4 cup honey
    • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
    • 1 tablespoon juniper berries
    • 1 tablespoon coriander seed
    • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
    • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
    • 2 bay leaves
    • 1 teaspoon dried chili flakes
    • Roasted carrots:
    • 8 ounces organic baby carrots
    • 3 tablespoons olive oil
    • salt and pepper
    • Finish:
    • 8 quail eggs, pan fried
    • small purple potatoes, sliced and fried until crispy
    • blood orange segments
    • bottarga, grated on microplane
    • herbs
    • Scallops:
    • Season the scallops on both side with salt and pepper. Heat the grapeseed oil in a medium pan until very hot.
    • Sear the scallops until golden brown on one side, about 2 minutes. Turn them over and cook 30 seconds longer. Add the butter to the pan and, using a spoon, baste the scallops with the foamy butter until glazed, about a minute longer.
    • Carrot puree:
    • Peel the carrots and cut into chunks. Place in a pan and cover with cold water. Add salt and bring to a boil. Cook until tender. Strain reserving some of the cooking liquid.
    • Place the cooked carrots in the bowl of a food processor, add a little of the cooking liquid, butter, cumin and salt and pepper. Process until light and fluffy. Adjust seasoning and keep warm.
    • Pickled carrots:
    • Prepare brine, bringing vinegar, water, sugar, honey and salt to a boil for 1 minute. Add spices and bay leaves and boil for 1 minute.
    • Trim and scrub the carrots and blanch them in salted water for 1-2 minutes. Drain and cool quickly using ice cold water.
    • Pour brine over carrots, let it cool, refrigerate overnight before using. The pickled carrots will last for weeks in the refrigerator.
    • Rosted carrots:
    • Preheat oven to 375’F
    • Trim and scrub the carrots. Place on a baking tray and season with salt and pepper. Roast the carrots until easily pierced with the tip of a knife, about 20 minutes depending on size.
    • Finishing:
    • Serve the scallops on a bed of carrot puree. Top with a quail egg. Garnish with roasted and pickled carrots, crispy purple potatoes, blood orange segments and bottarga. Garnish with herbs.
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    I always avoided scallops because I thought they might be gross, but I tried them recently and fell in love! Now I’m going to try to make them – starting with your recipe :)

  • kitchenriffs

    These pictures are just total fun and whimsy. I love how playful they are. The recipes are kinda nice too, although this post really is all about pictures and visualizing plating and thinking about ingredients. I’ve not looked at the Eleven Madison Square Park Cookbook, although it sounds like I should. Really fun post – thanks.

  • Oui, Chef

    In my wildest dreams I can’t imagine plating anything so beautifully, you have a special gift, my friend. Glad to hear you survived the storm…so tragic.

  • Linda

    Wow – this is such a beautiful picture of scallop. The plating, colors – everything looks so vibrant. I’m a fan!

  • Kamran Ahmed
  • monicalups

    beautiful! Wishing you a speedy Sandy recovery…

  • zenchef

    Thank you, Monica!

  • zenchef

    Thank you, Linda!

  • Frank Fariello

    A fascinating pairing of flavors and colors and textures. That you were able to pull this off while Sandy was raging is a real tribute to you, Hats off!

  • zenchef

    Thank you, Steven. Yes, we’re coping with the storm but we’ll be ok. We’re New Yorkers!

  • zenchef

    Thank you! I knew you would appreciate those shots.

  • zenchef

    Not as gross as you originally thought, my friend. :)

  • Chris Chang

    I was drawn in to this post by the simplicity of the name. And a good friend of mine has the Eleven Madison Square Park Cookbook which I LOVE just looking through. I really need to get my own copy…

    This sounds lovely. A very interesting take on the flavors. No one normally thinks “scallops and carrots go well together” However, I’ve been finding that really sweet things go great with scallops like caramel. So it does sound like it could work. The plate is beautiful! And I LOVED that you took the humble carrot and presented and prepared it wonderfully! You are amazing Chef Zen!

  • zenchef

    Thanks, Frank. Yes it was a way to distract myself from the chaos outside. Food, photography.. they all have a soothing effect.

  • zenchef

    Thanks, Chris. Scallops do benefit from a little natural sweetness. And carrot is such an underrated ingredient sometimes so it’s nice to bring it back as the “Star”

  • Andria Tejada

    No other word to describe your dish…Beautiful-Hermosa canva.

  • Pascal

    Superbe ! Depuis début octobre, nous sommes en pleine saison des coquilles Saint-Jacques. Un régal de fraîcheur sur nos étals de marchés Bretons. C’est l’un de mes plats préféré. J’avoue qu’une recette comme celle-ci ne peut que sublimer le produit. Sans parler des photos culinaires exceptionnelles. Ce magnifique blog mériterait d’être retranscrit en français par son auteur, même s’il met utile pour perfectionner mon anglais 😉

  • Bren Herrera @ Flanboyant Eats

    I don’t eat scallops but I love you. Oh, how I love you!

  • Pattouche

    Bonne Année. Quoi de neuf pour débuter 2013?

  • Francine Godoy

    Yes, the book is amazing… have this one myself ! your plate is really beautiful and really does reminds me of some of the pics on the book! Congrats Again! ;o)

  • Елена

    Какая красота!