Scallops with Spiced–Brown Butter Cassava Purée
So in a few weeks I’m headed down to St. Lucia to do a little cooking. Last time I was down there, it was a bit of a blur because I was perfecting this rum punch recipe. This time, I’m all business! Usually, I travel to learn about the food and cooking of a place, but I’m actually going to partnerwith a local restaurant to do some exciting things with their menu. The fact that it’s at one of the most beautiful resorts in the world (in my opinion!) makes me pretty much one of the luckiest ladies out there, and the fact that the menu is based on South Asian / Indian and West Indian influences couldn’t suit my background and passions more. Here is a sneak peak at one of the dishes I’m developing for them.
Scallops, brown butter and spices work together really well, particularly with a nice root purée. The island has incredible local seafood as well as produce – cassava is a local vegetable that’s starchy and takes on flavor beautifully. I cook it here much like I would heavenly, creamy mashed potatoes and infuse it with signature South Asian spices like cumin and coriander. I may change my mind and mix it with a bit of potato or use dasheen (taro root) instead, but I really did like the way this one came out so I wanted to share.
I am in absolute love with my ricer for making purées of root vegetables, and it really helps create that creamy, silky texture. The spices make the cassava pop, and the nutty brown butter pairs with sweet scallops in such a lovely way. I love to get a nice crust on the scallops, and secretly I cooked them in the same pan in which I made the brown butter for some extra flavor. This is an easy weeknight meal but is certainly entertainment worthy. You can absolutely substitute potatoes or even cauliflower here (adjusting cooking times of course) if cassava isn’t readily available. Enjoy!
1 quart chicken stock
3 cups water
2 cassavas, approx. 1 ¾ lbs peeled, chopped cassava
½ tsp kosher salt
1 stick + 2 tbsps unsalted butter
¾ tsp turmeric
1 ½ tsps cumin
1 ½ tsps coriander
¾ tsp white pepper
large pinch cinnamon
large pinch cayenne
2 cups heavy cream
16 large, dry sea scallops, muscle removed
kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
In a stockpot, bring stock, water, cassava and salt up to a boil and lower to a simmer. Simmer for 20 to 25 minutes until cassava is tender and breaks very easily with a fork. Drain, pass through a ricer (or use a potato masher) and put back into a large saucepan. Place saucepan on low heat, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes to dry out the cassava thoroughly.
In a small skillet, melt 1 stick of butter over medium-high heat. Add spices and continue cooking butter until it browns and becomes fragrant in a hazelnut kind of way.
Whisk browned, spiced butter and heavy cream into cassava and heat through. At this point you can serve like this or push it through a mesh sieve to get an even finer texture. To keep warm, hold purée in a double boiler (i.e. in a bowl over simmering water).
For the scallops, you want to develop a nice, deep color on them. Thoroughly dry the scallops before cooking and season generously with salt and freshly ground pepper. If they are wet, they won’t caramelize and will sort of steam in the pan. Also, if you crowd the pan, they will also steam, so work in batches if necessary.
Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and add vegetable oil to just coat the bottom of the pan. When it’s just about to smoke, add the scallops, dragging a little so that the side gets coated in olive oil. Cook for about two minutes and add a tablespoon or so of the butter. Let cook for another minute or so and then flip. They should have a nice brown crust on them. At this point, I turn the heat down just a tad. Let them cook on this side for another three minutes or so until they are cooked to your desired level. I like mine so that the middle third looks a bit translucent and the top and bottom thirds are opaque, but remember different-sized scallops will take differing cooking times.
Serve scallops immediately with a side of the cassava purée and some chopped herbs if you desire.