Create an Intimate Thanksgiving with a Festive Scallops Recipe

While turkey is the traditional choice for Thanksgiving, scallops offer a change of pace for those looking to shake things up a bit at this time of the year. There are many reasons to choose seafood over turkey for a holiday meal. For one, not everyone has a huge family to feed or else lots of free time available. Seafood can be prepared quickly yet is still exotic enough to qualify as a special occasion dish.

Calling it a “festive and sophisticated” recipe for scallops, Chef Elizabeth Whitt, an honors graduate from Le Cordon Bleu Paris, says she first encountered this recipe while dining at a friend’s Italian restaurant in Hollywood, CA. She was struck by the recipe’s delicious flavors and realized it would be very easy to create at home.

Seared Scallops with Sweet Potato Puree

One of the biggest obstacles for home cooks who want to try their hand at seafood is not knowing what to look for in the supermarket. With scallops, there’s reason to be cautious, because some fisherman soak them in additives to increase their size. Nevertheless, Chef Elizabeth shares her tips on how to choose them in her notes on technique in the recipe below.

“Seared Scallops with Balsamic Mushrooms and Sweet Potato Puree” is a perfect recipe for fall, as it contains in-season ingredients such as scallops, mushrooms, and sweet potato. Chef Elizabeth recommends serving it with a red wine: “The balsamic and the pinch of nutmeg help pair it well with red wine like a Pinot noir, red blend or even a nice California Zinfandel.”

Remember that if you are using the MasterCook desktop app, you can use the Wine List feature to keep track of your wine inventory, wish list, or make notes on wine pairings.

Chef Elizabeth has previously shared recipes with MasterCook users. For more information on Chef Elizabeth, please click on the following link:

MasterCook Wine List

* For those who are using Le Cordon Bleu® Recipes from MasterCook, this recipe has been automatically added to your online recipe collection and is ready to sync with your desktop version of MasterCook, where it will be added to Le Cordon Bleu® Blog Cookbook.

** You can follow Chef Elizabeth’s cooking steps by buying your scallops from Kodiak Fish Market, an online seafood store that sells direct to consumers. Their scallops are harvested in the Shelikof Straits, 40 miles west of Kodiak, Alaska. The scallops are dry and sorted by size and frozen at sea without any additives.

When you purchase $100 worth of seafood through Kodiak Fish Market, you’ll receive a free copy of MasterCook 15.  If you purchase a $150 worth of seafood through Kodiak Fish Market, you’ll receive a free copy of Le Cordon Bleu Recipes® from MasterCook. To take advantage of this offer click here and use the discount code “mcforkodiak.” Offer good through December 31, 2016.

Seared Scallops with Balsamic Mushrooms and Sweet Potato Puree

Seared Scallops with Balsamic Mushrooms
Level: Easy
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Serves: 4

10-12 ounces crimini or button mushrooms, halved if small or quartered if large
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt to taste
3-4 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
12 large sea scallops
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Heat a large skillet until very hot, then add mushrooms and 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil. Cook until they just start to brown (shake pan if they get too hot). Season with salt and continue to cook until tender, about 3-5 minutes.

Deglaze mushrooms with balsamic vinegar. Bring to a boil and reduce until thick, if necessary. Remove mushrooms from pan and set aside.

For scallops, rinse mushroom pan or use a new pan and heat until hot. When hot, add 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil and add scallops (tip: place first scallop at the 12-o’clock position and continue clockwise so you know which one you put in first).

Cook scallops without moving for about 2 minutes or until nicely browned. Using a fish spatula or other flat-bottomed spatula, gently unstick from pan and turn to other side. Cook another 2 minutes on medium high-heat.

Place Sweet Potato Puree on a plate or platter, place scallops and mushrooms on the plate or platter and then drizzle with balsamic from mushrooms.

Ever have problems getting scallops to sear properly? The main issue is probably the type of scallops you are using. There are dry scallops and wet scallops.  Wet scallops will usually not sear as well.

Wet scallops–as their name suggests–are soaked in water, and usually chemically treated to preserve them longer. This means they absorb and retain more water, which will hinder the browning process of the scallops. So when you cook them, the water releases and inhibits the temperature from reaching the point where they will brown.

Dry scallops are the ones you want to get to achieve a nice brown crust. Dry scallops are not chemically treated and are not soaked in water. Their flavor is therefore more pure and concentrated, but their shelf-life is shorter, so eat them fast!

Another important step in cooking scallops and other seafood is to not wash or rinse the scallops. If they are dirty or smell funny and you feel they need to be washed, then you should return them and not eat them. You want to just place them on a plate lined with a paper towel or two and put a paper towel on top. I let them sit for about 30 minutes like this before I cook them.

Finally, it is important to have a really, really, hot pan and to not move your scallops until they have browned–moving them will remove them from the direct contact with the heat and will mean they will be less likely to brown (or will take longer to brown but still be cooking indirectly).

Sweet Potato Puree
Level: Easy
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Serves: 4

2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 stick of butter or 1/3 cup of orange olive oil
Salt to taste
1 pinch cayenne pepper, or more to taste
1 pinch nutmeg, or more to taste

Place sweet potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with water. Add 1 tablespoon salt to water and bring to a boil. Once boiling reduce to a simmer and heat until sweet potatoes are fork tender, about 15-20 minutes.

Drain potatoes and put into an oven-safe bowl. Mash with a potato masher or fork and add butter or oil, salt, a pinch of cayenne pepper and nutmeg. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary.

Serve immediately or let cool. If making ahead, cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate for 1-4 days. When ready to serve, remove from refrigerator, bake in 350 degrees F oven for 25 minutes or until hot.