Scallops are one of my favorite seafoods. I love that they only require five minutes cook time MAX, that they are so tender, and that they taste of the ocean. I love eating them crudo and I love them seared. Just let me eat them!
I was introduced to this preparation at a local restaurant and decided to try it in my own kitchen. I have no idea how the chef prepared any of the components, but just went off my own instincts. The marriage of the briny scallops with the near sweet of the butternut squash, topped with the tarragon cream … it all went down so smoothly.
IT’S ALL SIMPLE! But because there are three separate (SIMPLE) recipes, I feel almost guilty sharing because I know some of you will think, “What is she thinking?! There’s no way I’m going to this trouble!”
HOWEVER … you owe it to yourself once in a while to try a culinary challenge, a budget buster, a delicious home-made indulgence! Here we go, then, right?! Are you with me?
Searing the scallops is easy! A little salt and pepper, a couple minutes in a searing hot skillet, and they are done! But we’ve got to get the butternut squash puree made and the tarragon cream sauce. Not a big deal! Hold off on the scallops for a bit and follow along for the other two components.
Butternut squash is easy to cook, but hard to cut so be careful with that knife! Cut it in half lengthwise. Then scoop out the seeds with a sturdy spoon.
Put the halves of butternut squash in a baking dish, drizzle them with oil and salt them generously.
Then turn them over, cut side down, and put them in a 400 oven till they are soft. Turning them cut side down concentrates the steam under the skin and in the scooped out seed spot. Baking will take about 40 minutes, but of course, this all depends on the size of the squash. I use a toothpick, cake tester, or the tip of a sharp knife to see if they are done. If you test the part where the seeds were, it will fool you. Because there’s less flesh there, it will get done sooner so be sure to test the “neck” part of the squash since it has thicker flesh and will take longer to cook through. (If you have a pressure cooker – digital or stovetop – you can cook it in there. There’s plenty of instructions on the internet.)
Once it’s done, let it cool and pull the skin away. This is a much easier way to get the skin off rather than using a vegetable peeler when the squash is raw. Once it’s cooked, it peels away easily.
All that’s left to do is sauté up some shallots. Alternatively, you could spread these out around the squash while it roasts. That would be yummy.
Put the roasted squash and sautéed shallots in a blender and pulse to combine. Add a couple of tablespoons of butter and puree until smooth. If it’s still too thick, add a little chicken broth or cream, but I usually find this unnecessary. Season with salt and pepper. Hold over super low heat until you’re ready to plate this scrumptiousness with the scallops. You can also make the puree a few days ahead and reheat it gently over low heat.
As for the Tarragon Cream Sauce … Cook some more shallots over low heat till they are soft. Deglaze the pan with white wine, add the tarragon leaves, and reduce the wine. Strain the shallots and tarragon, return the sauce to the pan, then gradually add the cream over low heat. Be sure to season with salt.
The very last minute thing to do is to sear the scallops. They literally only take 2-3 minutes on each side and it’s time to eat. When buying scallops, look for dry ones. Scallops that are dry have not been packed in a preservative liquid. Nobody needs that! Be sure to buy wild ones or ones from a day boat if you’re fortunate enough to live near a place where that kind of wonderfulness happens. They will still have some moisture so I always lay them out on paper towels to get them as dry as possible and only season them right before searing them to keep them from giving more moisture.
One more thing … some scallops in the market will still have a “side muscle” attached to them. In the photo below, the one on the lower right and the one third from the left on the top row still have it. I left it to show you that that is what you are looking for and you can just pull it off. It’s not desired.
I use cast iron to sear the scallops, but stainless steel would work beautifully as well. I advise against non-stick because I’m in the “no-teflon” camp. Get the skillet nice and hot, add some oil, and immediately put the scallops in. Be sure to look at the clock … and TWO minutes later, check to see if they are brown enough. If not, leave them just 30 more seconds, then flip them. You want the outside to be beautifully seared and the inside to still be beautifully soft and succulent.
Put some warm butternut squash puree on the plate, top it with the gorgeous scallops, drizzle the tarragon cream, them top it lightly or surround it generously with microgreens. The photo at the top of the post is an appetizer offering and the photo below is an ample dinner portion. Whichever way you serve it, enjoy it to the fullest!
Seared Scallops with Butternut Squash Puree and Tarragon Cream Sauce
Inspired by a dish eaten at Revolve, a food and wine bar on Main Street, Bothell, Washington
Scallops, dry - allow 2 per person as an appetizer and 3-4 as a dinner portion
Microgreens for garnish
BUTTERNUT SQUASH PUREE
- 1 butternut squash
- 2 shallots, sliced thinly
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- cream or stock, if necessary to thin it
- salt and pepper to season
TARRAGON CREAM SAUCE
- 1 shallot, chopped
- 3/4 cup dry white wine
- 3 sprigs of tarragon
- 1/4 cup cream
- salt to season
BUTTER SQUASH PUREE
Start by cutting it in half lengthwise. Then scoop out the seeds with a sturdy spoon. Put the halves of butternut squash in a baking dish, drizzle them with oil and salt them generously.
Then turn them over, cut side down, and put them in a 400° oven till they are soft. Turning them cut side down allows the steam to be concentrated under the skin and in the scooped out seed spot. Baking will take about 40 minutes, but of course, this all depends on the size of the squash. Use a toothpick, cake tester, or the tip of a sharp knife to see it it's done. If you test the part where the seeds were, it will fool you. There's less flesh there and it will get done sooner. Be sure to test the "neck" part of the squash to be sure it's done. (If you have a pressure cooker - digital or stovetop - you can cook it in there. There's plenty of instructions on the internet.)
Peel the squash by simply pulling the skin off … it's seriously that easy once it is baked.
Sauté the shallots till they are soft. Or if you're lazy like me, lay them in the same pan with the butternut squash to roast along with it.
Put both the squash and shallots in a food processor or blender to purée. Add the butter, salt, and pepper and purée again till smooth. If needed, add cream or stock to thin it. I usually don't find this necessary.
Hold over low heat till ready to serve or make ahead and reserve in the fridge for up to a week.
TARRAGON CREAM SAUCE
Cook the shallot over low heat till soft. Pour the white wine in, add the tarragon leaves, and reduce the wine. Strain the shallots and tarragon, return the sauce to the pan, then gradually add the cream over low heat so that it doesn't separate. Be sure to season with salt.
Lay the scallops out on paper towels to get them as dry as possible. Heat a cast iron or stainless steel skillet over medium high heat. Season the scallops with salt, add oil to the skillet, and carefully put the scallops. Allow to cook without moving them for two minutes before checking on the sear. If they aren't brown enough, leave them for 30 more seconds, then check again. Turn the scallops over. At this point, you can turn the heat off because there will be enough heat in the skillet to continue cooking the scallops.
To serve, put some butternut squash purée on a plate, top with the seared scallops, drizzle with the tarragon cream sauce, and garnish with microgreens.