29 August 2007

Ginger-Crusted Scallops, Take 1

It's hard to choose a favorite culinary experience from my recent Hawaii trip. There's just too much goodness there, and all of it comes with a side of rice, so bonus points for that. But if you were to hold a gun to my head and make me choose, I'd have to go with the Ginger-Crusted Onaga I had at Alan Wong's. I don't think I've ever had a better cooked piece of fish: flaky, juicy, tender, and with the ginger crust and miso sauce base that complemented but didn't overpower the meat.

Now I'm back on the mainland, wearing socks and shoes again and seriously jonesing for some good lau lau. The idea of getting fish that good here is almost laughable. I mean, the Costco's in Hawaii had the freshest albacore and ahi tuna I've ever laid eyes upon... the Costco's! My local Ralph's rarely has decent tilapia. What's a poor haole to do?

Whole Foods is a good start. During a recent stroll through my temple of organic goodness, while drooling over the sea bass and grouper selection, inspiration suddenly hit me (as it's prone to do when staring at fish priced at $18/lb or more). Why not try to mimic the ginger crust, but do it on something I'm a little more confident cooking... scallops.

Thank Google there's a recipe online for Alan Wong's masterful dish, so I used that as my basis. I had some mini bell peppers from my local Costco in the fridge (they only have farm-raised salmon in Canoga Park. Pssssh...), so I decided to go for Ginger-crusted seared scallops and broiled mini bell peppers on a miso reduction.

The crust recipe calls for minced ginger and scallions, but I didn't have scallions at home, so I substituted it with sesame seeds. Per the recipe, I heated 1/4 cup oil until smoking and poured it over the crust mix. It boils over like lava -- very cool -- and cools off to the side.

I started to chop the mini bell peppers, but as they were barely a few inches in length, I just tossed them whole onto an oven pan, drizzled with sesame oil and sea salt, and broiled on high until it just starts to char, them removed. I dusted with a little dashi soup powder for more seasoning. Done.

With oven pre-heated to 350-degrees and a hot pan with smoking sesame oil inside, I seared the scallops for about 30-45 seconds on each side, then topped with the ginger/sesame crust, and threw them into the oven for about six minutes to get them medium-rare. Meanwhile, I had a couple teaspoons of miso paste in about a cup or so of water that was reducing down to a thick paste.

Plating. I dropped a circle of the miso reduction on the center of a plate, arranged four scallops per plate on top, then fanned out the mini bell peppers around the scallops. If I had scallions I'd
use them to garnish, but then again, if I had scallions, they'd be in the ginger crust.

The results? The cooking time for the scallops is perfect for medium rare, though the baking causes juices to run and muck up the lovely sear that was created. They were juicy with the muscle strands just starting to show. Sadly, the ginger wasn't minced fine enough, and it really overpowers the sesame seeds. Maybe next time, the sesame seeds should be toasted and used as a garnish. The peppers were almost perfect. They basically cook in their own juices, and biting into them causes a burst of sweet flavor to drizzle down all over yourself. Okay, not the cleanest thing, but damn tasty. I didn't put enough dashi powder, but so what, these were a success. Next time, I might nix the ginger crust altogether and drizzle the miso reduction over the scallops, instead.

I'd give myself a solid B for my efforts.

1 comment:

Juan Roman said...

Ummm...you're not a 'haole' unless your going by the strict definition (per Wikipedia).