Beet Season: Caramelized Scallops With Red Beet and Caper Beurre Meunière

On Friday, my partner surprised me with some plump sea scallops. I love scallops but rarely cook them. Farmed scallops are not too bad a choice from a sustainability standpoint, but it is hard to find "dry-packed" ones that have not been soaked in salt solution to increase their weight. That's a consumer rip-off and prevents a good sear.

Scallops are very easy to do well, if you know how. The instructions for this recipe from the Washington Post work perfectly.

I'm a bit confused by the recipe's terminology, as I think of the sauce as a beurre noisette. Beurre noisette is just a broken butter sauce which involves cooking the butter until it browns and the fat and solids separate, at which point you add some lemon juice. When you add a little parsley and put the sauce on, say, fish that has been dredged in flour and sauteed, then the fish is à la meunière ("in the method of the miller's wife"). At least that's what it says in my marvelous reference Sauces, by James Peterson.

But perhaps I'm being too dogmatic, and "meunière sauce" is an actual thing now, just as it says in wikipedia. I think that's imprecise, though.

The dish is delicious no matter what you call it.

Seared sea scallops with red beet and caper beurre meunière. Notice how difficult it is to get appealing photos of food, especially when one has 20 seconds for the dish to get to the table. I needed a bright light at an angle--I see that now.

The following recipe was adapted from Jonathan Krinn, chef and owner of 2941 restaurant in Falls Church, VA, and tested by Marcia Kramer for The Washington Post.

I cut the recipe in half.

For the scallops

16 (2 pounds) sea scallops, preferably dry-packed
Freshly ground white pepper
8 tablespoons grapeseed oil, or as much as needed
1/3 cup white wine
For the beet and caper beurre meuniere

1/2 stick (2 ounces) unsalted butter
1/4 cup roasted red beets *, diced
1 tablespoon minced shallots
1 1/2 teaspoons minced capers
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Freshly ground white pepper

For the scallops: Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Put a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet and place the baking sheet in the warm oven.
Pat dry the scallops and season both sides with salt and pepper to taste.
In a medium pan over medium heat, heat 3 tablespoons of the grapeseed oil. Carefully place 6 of the scallops so that they do not touch one another and are evenly spaced apart. Cook without turning them or moving the pan for about 2 minutes until they have browned, then turn and cook until browned on the second side, about 2 minutes. Transfer the scallops from the pan to the wire rack in the oven.
Deglaze the pan used to cook the first batch of scallops with 3 tablespoons of the white wine, and, using a small bowl, reserve all the cooking juices for the final beurre meuniere sauce.
Clean the pan and return to medium heat. For the next batch of 6 scallops, repeat the process of cooking them, reserving the juices and warming the scallops in the oven.
Cook the last 4 scallops in the remaining 2 tablespoons of the grapeseed oil. After the last batch, the cooking juices can remain in the pan.
For the beet and caper beurre meuniere: In the same pan on medium heat, add the butter to the cooking juices from the last batch of scallops and cook until the butter turns light brown, about 30 seconds. Then add the rest of the reserved cooking juices as well as any drippings from the pan under the wire rack, about 1/4 cup. Add the roasted beets, shallot, capers and garlic and cook for 20 seconds. Add the lemon juice, parsley, salt and white pepper to taste.
To serve, transfer 4 scallops each to individual plates and spoon the beet caper beurre meuniere on top. Serve immediately.

To roast a beet:
*Note: To roast a beet: Lightly coat 1 red beet in olive oil, season with salt and pepper to taste, wrap it in aluminum foil and roast in a 400-degree oven until it is soft, about 40 minutes. Peel the beet and dice.

The watercolor at the top of this post is by Sally Jacobs.

More Beet Season: Chocolate beet cake

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