I first had Scallops with Butternut Squash Puree and Tarragon Cream 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 deliciously.
It sounds fancy! And maybe complicated?
Well, anything with scallops is fancy in my book! They have a pretty price tag, to be sure.
There are three separate components, but they are not complicated! The "worst" part is the butternut squash and that is mostly hands off roasting time. Read on!
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?
How to roast the butternut squash:
Searing the scallops is easy and takes less than five minutes! But we've got to get the butternut squash puree made and the tarragon cream sauce. 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 the stem end off first, then cut it in half lengthwise. Don't worry about peeling the skin because it will come off much easier after it is roasted.
Scoop out the seeds with a sturdy spoon. It's much like scooping out the seeds from a pumpkin before carving a Jack O'Lantern. You'll have to scrape the flesh a bit to loosen all the fibers.
Put the halves of butternut squash in a baking dish, brush them with oil, and salt them generously.
Turn them over, cut side down, and put them in a 400-degree 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. (If you have a pressure cooker - digital or stovetop - you can cook it in there. There's plenty of instructions on the internet. Be aware that you'll forfeit the roasted flavor.)
When is the butternut squash done?
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. It has thicker flesh and will take longer to cook through.
You can see in the photo above that I tested it where the seeds are. It was really soft, but when I turned the halves over, I could tell just by the difference of color between the neck part and the lower part that it wasn't quite done yet. And sure enough, a little prick of that part showed that it was still too crunchy.
How to make the butternut squash puree:
Once the squash is 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 is 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.
Make the tarragon cream while the squash roasts
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.
And the last thing is to sear those beautiful scallops!
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.
Tips for buying and preparing scallops
- When buying scallops, look for "dry" ones. Scallops that are dry have not been packed in a preservative liquid. Nobody needs that!
- 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.
- Just because you buy them "dry" doesn't mean they don't have moisture. Always lay them on paper towels and pat them as dry as possible. Any moisture left on them will cause the oil in the skillet to splatter unnecessarily.
- Examine each scallop to be sure that all of the extra side muscle has been removed. It's easy to peel it away. You can see in the photo below that some remains on the one I'm holding. It is the part of the muscle that the scallop used to move through the water so it is tough, therefore, undesirable.
What kind of skillet should I use?
I use cast iron to sear the scallops, but stainless steel would work beautifully as well. I advise against non-stick because not only am I in the "no-teflon" camp, those pans can't get hot enough to get the proper sear.
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, then top it lightly or surround it generously with microgreens. You can see that I opt for the latter option!
Whichever way you serve it, enjoy these Scallops with Butternut Squash Puree and Tarragon Cream Sauce to the fullest!
Other recipes you might enjoy:
Scallops with Butternut Squash Puree and Tarragon Cream Sauce
- 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
- ¾ cup dry white wine
- 3 sprigs of tarragon
- ¼ cup cream
- salt to season
BUTTERNUT 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.
- Bon Appétit!
Tomorrow night! Here on Bainbridge Island.. why not.
Bon Appetit! I hope you enjoy!