Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Food & Wine Pairing: Ad Hoc's Caramelized Scallops with Cakebread Cellars Reserve Chardonnay

I have very quickly become a fan of Thomas Keller's cookbook, Ad Hoc At Home.  My husband professes to dislike scallops.  Yet, every time I have made them lately, he seems to enjoy them.  My last two scallop recipes, scallops in a lemongrass coconut broth with mushrooms and scallops with a blood orange vinaigrette, were both my recipes, and were fairly complex in the ingredients that accompanied the scallops.  This time, however, I decided to prepare Thomas Keller's classic caramelized scallops and pair them with one of my favorite wines - Reserve Chardonnay from Cakebread Cellars.  This recipe is more challenging than it looks to get the scallops with the right caramelized texture, but it is also quite rewarding and showcases the quality of the ingredients used.

About a year and a half ago, my husband and I had the pleasure of visiting Cakebread Cellars and tasting many of their wines when we visited Napa Valley. Cakebread, of course, is well known as a legendary Napa winery that makes some of the best Chardonnay on the planet.  I paired the scallops with a bottle of Reserve Chardonnay that I received so kindly from Cakebread back in December that I have been saving for the perfect meal - and in my mind seafood and Chardonnay pair nicely together.  I feel that the Cakebread reserve Chardonnay is truly a special wine, and because it is my favorite Chardonnay of all time, it's sad to see the last drop all gone.  But surely it was enjoyed.  And this time, we have enough leftover for accompanying the next night's meal (saffron mushroom risotto, so stay tuned!)

I paired the Ad Hoc scallops (from one of Napa's many wonderful restaurants) with this smooth, well balanced Reserve Carneros Chardonnay for an all-California treat on the east coast.  This Chardonnay is a nicely oaked Chardonnay that has a smooth, balanced flavor.  There are hints of lemon, along with tropical flavors, pears and a bit of spice.  This wine is just the closest thing to perfection in a Chardonnay that I know and tastes lovely with seafood.  I think it would also pair nicely with my Asian/Pacific Rim Marinated Chilean Sea Bass with Papaya Salsa, given the tropical fruit undertones in the wine.  I love the way the oak in the wine (they age the wine in French oaks, as I recall) balances out with these tropical flavors and the pear aroma.

The scallops, simple but elegant, are quintessentially Keller -  showcase of fresh, ingredients prepared in an uncomplicated way that showcases the scallop, pure and simple, rather than blending its flavor with other complicated ingredients (which, in my opinion is often nice, as well).  Because of the simple elegancy of this meal, it paired so well with the Chardonnay because it allows the taster to focus on the flavors of the scallop and the wine.  Plus, I love just about anything caramelized, so a caramelized scallop is just genius in my eyes.

Ad Hoc's Caramelized Scallops  
2 cups Kosher salt (plus more to taste)
2 cups hot water
8 cups cold water
12 U7 sea scallops (or about 1 3/4 lbs of local fresh scallops)
2 T clarified butter
1/2 lemon

I will note that i used regular scallops rather than U7 scallops because they were a fresh catch at my local fishmonger.  They were good but they absorbed the salt a bit faster than the larger U7 scallops so it was just a tad saltier than I might have preferred, due to the brine.  Next time, I will purchase U7 scallops like Keller suggests, but cut the recipe in half if I am only making it for two people again.

First, combine the salt with the hot water to prepare a brine.  Stir to dissolve the salt.  Add the cold water next.  Add the scallops to the brine and let stand for 10 minutes (and only 10 minutes so the scallops do not become too salty).  I might have suggested five minutes if you are using smaller scallops than U7.

Heat the clarified butter in a large frying pan over medium heat until it begins to smoke.  Season the scallops lightly with salt (and if you are like me, a bit of pepper).  Add the scallops to the pan, making sure they do not touch each other.  Cook without moving the scallops until golden brown for about 3 and a half minutes on each side.  Serve them simply with a bit of lemon juice on each scallop.

Scallops on FoodistaScallops


  1. I am craving scallops now!

  2. ooh cakebread cellars! i've had their wine before and it's great! i would absolutely enjoy a meal of scallops paired with this wonderful chardonnay!

  3. Sasha - is the clarified butter just for flavor purposes? or does it serve a role in the caramelization?

  4. You are quickly making me want to buy Ad Hoc - and I will check out the Chardonnay to see if it is around here. I love a good Chardonnary and it sounds perfect with those luscious scallops.

  5. Yes Matt, the clarified butter (without the milk solids) does have a role in the caramelization - it keeps the butter from burning and helps covert the sugars into the caramelized exterior. Interestingly, whenever I caramelize onions, I use butter or oil and sugar, but I could actually just use clarified butter and achieve a similar result, I think (something to try next time I caramelize onions).

  6. Sounds fantastic... I've heard that Cakebread makes outstanding wines, but haven't had the opportunity to enjoy yet. Must do something about that! Your scallops look amazing!

  7. What a simple recipe! I love it! And I love the vino pairing, sah-weet :-)


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