Scallops with Melon, Fennel, and Basil

Scallop Crudo with cantaloupe, fennel, and basil.

Here’s another dish that ties together multiple ideas and techniques gleaned from the Eleven Madison Park cookbook. Actually this one is just an adaptation and simplification of an EMP dish.

The feature ingredient is scallops, and they get a treatment I haven’t seen before. U10 scallops are very briefly steamed (2 minutes at 185°F) then chilled. This slightly cooks the outermost part of the scallops while the inside remains completely raw. I’m not totally sure what the point of this is, but I think it makes the scallops easier to handle during the intricate knife-work they are about to undergo.

These par-cooked scallops are then scalped so that their tops and bottoms are perfectly flat. The trim is reserved. The scallops are then divided crosswise to obtain two rounds of even thickness. These rounds are then trimmed with a ring cutter to obtain perfect rounds (as described in this post). So from each scallop you get two perfect circles of raw scallop, and a whole lot of barely cooked trim.

All this trim is then laboriously cut to a brunoise and use in a ceviche-type preparation which is then spooned on top of the raw circles of scallop.

I was happy to go through all of this processing, but in the end I had to ask myself if it wouldn’t have been better to just give the whole scallops an aggressive sear and be done with it.

Anyways. My version of this dish was made to pair with a Gerard Bertrand Domaine d’Aigle Chardonnay. I’m no expert, but for me this was a particularly not-traditional-French-Chardonnay, with low acid and a heavy oak treatment. The original EMP dish used tangerine, but I opted for cantaloupe to better match the acidity. A wise man once told me that for a wine-pairing menu “the food must follow the wine” especially in acidity. ie. you don’t want to serve food that has a higher acidity than the wine. Feel free to comment on that, but it has been my m.o. for many years.

The cantaloup is sliced, then compressed. Rounds are cut out of the compression, and the trim is juiced and used to make a xanthan-thickened vinaigrette.

Other departures from the EMP original.

  • I omit the rounds of gelée that are placed atop the ceviche.
  • The Hawaiian pink salt… I also omitted that.

While I’m very happy with this dish as a pairing to the wine, I have to admit that on its own it is not a show-stopper. None of my students would say this dish is “fire”. Despite the laborious treatment this dish lacks punch.

Scallop Crudo – cantaloupe, fennel, basil.

Scallop Crudo with cantaloupe, fennel, and basil.