Scallops in a sake reduction

A few days ago I picked up some lovely bay scallops at Whole Foods. I wanted to honor their loveliness, all creamy smooth and shining, and I had lemongrass in the fridge, so I did some digging for some kind of recipe that combined scallops and lemongrass. I found a recipe from Caprial and John's Kitchen, a cooking school and catering firm in Oregon, but I didn't have quite the right ingredients in the house. I improvised. Boy, did it turn out well. I am grateful to Caprial and John for sharing the recipe that inspired me.

If you've not used lemongrass before, try this tip. Bend the entire stalk. Cut it at the point where it bends, the same way you would asparagus. Cur off the botton quarter inch or so and peel off the outer layer. Smell it, close your eyes and savor the incongruity of the finest lemon you've ever sniffed from a woody stalk. Imagine it growing. Be grateful. Now take the flat of your knife and whack the stalk a few times until it cracks a bit; this softens the fibers and releases more of the aroma. Chop the stalk into thin slices and set aside for use.

Place 1c sake (cheap is fine), 4 cloves garlic, 2 chopped stalks lemongrass and about 2t grated ginger in a saucepan. Simmer until about 1/4 of liquid is left. Add 2 cups fish stock (you could sub in chicken stock) and 1/2 of a bird chile you've seeded. This is important. If you leave the seeds in the whole thing will be terribly hot. Sinner again until you have about 1 cup left. Whisk in 2T melted butter, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer,  then add 1/4t fish sauce. Taste and decide if you want to add a little more, then strain the whole thing and set the liquid aside. Keep it warm. Discard or compost the solids.

Sear about a pound of scallops in a heavy pan, coated with a little oil. Season then with a bit of salt and fresh pepper. Don't overcook them, break one open after a minute or two and see if the inside is just creamy, not transparent. If so, it's done.

Plate the scallops (I put them on a bed of baby spinach) pour some of the sauce on top. Close your eyes. Enjoy.

(c) 2011 Laura S. Packer


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