The “Kobe Beef of Snails” Enlivens French Escargot Recipe

Mention French cuisine and it automatically conjures up many dishes, including the classic Escargot bourguignon, the escargot recipe which is included in Le Cordon Bleu® Recipes from MasterCook. But there’s much more to snails than just the classics, as we learned from talking with Doug Dussault, a.k.a “the Snailman.”

Dussault is an alumni of Le Cordon Bleu® Paris who discovered Wild Burgundy Snails while working in a Paris restaurant. He is now the owner of the Potironne Company, which imports Wild Burgundy Snails, providing them to restaurants, gourmet shops and the public. MasterCook was excited to talk with Dussault about his experience with this special ingredient.

French recipe for snails
Douglas Dussault, also known as the Snail Man

MasterCook: Can you tell us about what makes the Wild Burgundy Snail so desirable compared to farmed snails or other types of snails?

Doug Dussault: Also known as the Roman Snail—a reference to its place in the Roman diet millennia ago—or Vineyard Snail, the Helix Pomatia is the most prized of the 116 edible varieties of Helix snail. Sustainably harvested for hundreds of years, and a protected species throughout Europe (Least Concern), it is also quite temperamental and delicate.

It does not take well to farming, and I am not aware of any successful commercial farming operations. Besides, true among most foods, limited human intervention yields better results. Free range, cage-free, and wild proteins particularly display a certain terroir; nuances of their environment. This is true of the Wild Burgundy Snail, too.

In nature, the Helix Pomatia observes seasonality in its diet, and will stroll right past, say, wild asparagus in September. Commercial farming—the Helix Aspersa, also known as the Brown or Garden Snail, the invasive species now found through much of California, is the most commonly farmed—on the other hand, relies highly on processed cereals for feed.

Beyond an adulterated diet, farmed snails are also affected behaviorally. Inherent breeding cycles and even hibernation are affected. So many stresses, of course, negatively affect the taste.

escargot recipe
French Snail in the Wild

MasterCook: Do you think the American palette has become more adventurous and open to dishes like snails since you began your business?

Chef Dussault: I am thrilled with the evolution of the American palette! Across all sectors, there is a profound acceptance of the unique and “bizarre” in food and beverage. It’s really an exciting time. Credit the creativity of Chefs—it always starts in the kitchen. Nationwide, Chefs have pushed for greater availability of high quality, heirloom, organic ingredients and have created market demand. On menus, those same ingredients created interest among diners, then retail markets, and so on. It’s really a wonderful evolution in the U.S. that continues to move forward and is forcing real change at the agricultural level, too.

MasterCook: Can you give us a pro tip on preparing or serving snails?

Doug Dussault: As any Chef will tell you, sourcing the highest quality ingredients is a big part of what we do. Starting with the finest components reflects on the plate. The Wild Burgundy Snail exemplifies this high standard. The perfect protein, it is also the most versatile. So, have fun! Sure, they are delightful draped in the classic compound butter à la bourguignonne, but try them in ravioli, skewered on the grill, in paella, tempura, in sausages, with shellfish, atop flatbread or bone marrow, and the like. Over 16 years I have seen no boundaries.

MasterCook users can start experimenting with snails using the recipe for Wild Burgundy Snail & King Salmon Vol au Vent, with Wild Mushroom Velouté below, provided exclusively to us by Doug Dussault. If you have 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.

To aid in your culinary discovery, we have also made special arrangements to have the Potironne Company’s Wild Burgundy Snails made available to MasterCook users directly through the MasterCook store. Experience the best for yourself!

Wild Burgandy Snails in a can


New Classic Escargot Recipe: Wild Burgundy Snail King Salmon Vol au Vent, with Wild Mushroom Velouté

Serves Four, Appetizer

4 Puff Pastry Shells or Vol au Vents, packaged or made from a separate recipe [Note A]
4oz Fresh King Salmon, skin-on, deboned

Optional Accompaniments
Rosemary and aged goat cheese
Pesto [B], or Beurre Rouge [C]

Poaching Liquid for Salmon
1 quart of water
Bay leaf
Green peppercorns
Fennel fronds
1 Cup white wine
Orange & lemon peels
1 tsp. of sea salt

Wild Mushroom Velouté
Snail stock, from one can Wild Burgundy Snails, Petit, Four Dozen
2 Cups Chicken Stock
1 Cup Water
Mushroom stems, from below [D]
Fresh herbs: rosemary, tarragon, & thyme
3 oz. Smoked Pancetta, small dice
2 tbsp. Olive Oil
2 medium spring onions (or leeks), large dice
Peeled knob of ginger, maybe 1” square
16 oz. seasonal mushrooms, cleaned, quartered (here, Shitakes & King Trumpets) [E]
½ fennel bulb, thinly sliced
3 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
½ Cup all-purpose flour
Cumin seeds, bay leaf, sea salt, white pepper
Fresh tarragon, chopped
½ Cup all-purpose flour
Wild Burgundy Snails, Petit, Four Dozen
½ Cup Heavy Cream

escargot recipe ingredients
Four dozen snails and other ingredients

Use store-bought puff pastry or make Puff Pastry following the recipe included in MasterCook. You will need to prepare the puff pastry by creating shells or vol au vonts. Choose your desired shape (here, diamonds, rounds, square cups), and bake according to the instructions on the packaging. Set aside.

For the Velouté: In a medium sauce pan, add Snail stock (from one can Wild Burgundy Snails, Petit, Four Dozen), 2 Cups Chicken Stock, 1 Cup Water, Mushroom stems, and bits of fresh rosemary, tarragon and thyme.  Bring to a boil, strain through a fine sieve and refrigerate until cold.

escargot recipe starter
Adding ingredients to the sauce pan

To a dry, large sauce pan over medium-low heat, add the pancetta. Render until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Move the lardons to a paper towel to dry. Add olive oil to the rendered fat. Add onions, ginger, and cumin seeds, and toss to coat. Sweat onions gently, 2 minutes. Add mushrooms, and toss. Add the garlic and fennel. Focus these flavors, stirring occasionally, until the pan is nearly dry.

Sift in the flour and reduce heat to low. Stir. Yes, it’s a hot sticky mess, but we’re making a roux without creating more dishes. Be attentive. Scrape the bottom, stir regularly. No coloration. Cook for 10-15 minutes.

Increase the heat to medium, and immediately whisk in one-half of the chilled broth. Gently whisk until smooth, scraping the bottom until clean. Add the remaining broth in halves until the desired consistency. Adjust heat: do not boil, but a very light simmer is appropriate. Add the snails, bay leaf, and heavy cream. Stir. [F] Remove from heat until ready to plate.

escargot recipe appetizer
Preparing the Veloute

For the poached salmon: in a medium sauce pan, combine the ingredients. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and submerge the salmon. Allow to cook to desired doneness, perhaps 5 minutes. Gently remove salmon to a plate. When cool enough to handle, peel off the skin, and wipe clean the black fat. Gently pull apart the salmon, following the natural contours of the meat. Refrigerate.

When ready to serve: reheat the puff pastry, and bring the velouté back to medium heat. Gently stir in the salmon, pancetta and tarragon. Remove bay leaf and ginger. Salt & pepper. Spoon into, or over vol au vents. Garnish with ribbons of cheese and a rosemary sprig. [G] To the side, add pesto or beurre rouge as desired. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

escargot recipe starter
Wild Burgundy Snail and King Salmon appetizer on the plate


A: Use store bought — or make your own using the recipe for Puff Pastry included in MasterCook.

B:  Use store purchased — or make your own using the recipe for Pesto included in MasterCook.

C:  You can make your own Beurre Rouge by using the recipe for Beurre Blanc included in MasterCook, substituting red wine for white.

D: Don’t be afraid to use a few of those dried mushrooms you’ve got tucked away.

E: The proteins here would work well with Chanterelles.  Also Shitakes & King Trumpets are nice.

F: If you find the velouté too thick at this point, simply add more of remaining broth and then chicken stock until desired consistency is reached.

G: For a little splash of color, I also added a brunoise of fresno pepper.

Learn How to Make these Fabulous-looking Pecan Sandies

MasterCook is pleased to have Chef Emily Novak as our guest blogger. Chef Novak graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in New Zealand, where she received Le Grand Diplôme. She has worked as Pastry Chef at some of Philadelphia’s top restaurants—including the James Beard Award-winning Abe Fisher and Serpico—and currently works at One80.

While the calendar may tell us that spring is here, the blustery cold winds that continue to whip around the city of Philadelphia make it feel otherwise. These chilly mornings make the blankets feel a little warmer, and the slippered shuffle to the coffee pot a little further away. Yet nothing warms up the house quite like the smell of toasting pecans and robust maple syrup.

Chef Emily Novak

One of my favorite cold weather recipes is Maple Pecan Sandie Stacks. These little stacks not only look elegant and inviting, but are also the perfect balance of rich, comforting butter cookies and light fluffy maple diplomat cream. It is easy to dress them up with extra pieces of dark chocolate or maple sugar candies, but they can also pair well with zesty gingersnap ice cream or an after-dinner coffee.

The Pecan Sandie cookie recipe is easy to make, and incredibly forgiving. It readily takes on different shapes, and while I choose to cut them into thin rectangular cookies for stacking, this dough also makes an excellent tart shell or thumbprint cookie if you are looking to change the appearance of the dessert.
Pecan Sandies ready to eat

After the dough has been mixed, it works best if it is allowed to chill for half an hour to an hour, but can also be made in advance and kept overnight in the refrigerator. When preparing to roll out the dough, work directly on top of a pre-measured portion of parchment paper (or silicon mat).

It is important for stacking that the cookies are quite thin, so using parchment paper or a mat avoids the headache of trying to transfer the ultra-thin dough to a new location. Additionally, the small processed pieces of pecan within the dough can make it fragile and prone to tearing when rolling down to a few millimeters thick. If this happens, pressing small pieces of dough into the gaps as filler works perfectly fine.

To achieve uniform cookies with a clean definitive shape, parbake the sheet of cookie dough before cutting it. When the sheet begins to look dry and the edges are just starting to barely turn golden brown, remove the tray from the oven.

You can now use a cookie cutter or slide the sheet carefully onto a large cutting board to trim the desired shapes with a knife. At this point, the cookies are already set in their shape and should retain a nice clean edge once you have finished baking them off.

The maple diplomat cream that is piped in between the cookies may sound foreign, but is closely related to a whole family of dessert creams which includes anglaise and standard pastry/patisserie cream. The reason I like using a diplomat cream is because it offers a middle ground in consistency between runny, sauce-like anglaise and thick and dense pastry cream.

A diplomat is a pastry cream which is fortified with gelatin for structure, but cut with whipped cream for lightness. It maintains a pipe-able firmness and hold, but doesn’t overwhelm the other delicate pieces of the dessert.

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

Pecan Sandies

250 grams chopped pecans or pecan pieces
225 grams butter, softened
110 grams cream cheese
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
100 grams brown sugar
125 grams white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
315 grams all-purpose flour

      1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Lightly toast pecans on a cookie sheet until they are fragrant and golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Reserve a small portion for garnish, and blitz the remaining nuts in a food processor until they are in very small pieces. Be careful to not over process the nuts or they will start to look wet and clumpy when too much of the natural oil is released.

3. Blend softened butter and cream cheese together in a mixing bowl with the paddle attachment. Scrape down the bowl and continue to beat until there are no lumps. Add in vanilla extract.

4. Add the sugars, salt, and flour to the bowl and slowly mix until the dough looks sandy and there are no large clumps of fat remaining. Add in your finely processed pecans and continue to mix until the dough just begins to come together in a single ball and pull away from the sides of the bowl.

5. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for ½ hour-1 hour.

6. Lightly flour and roll out the dough to 2mm thick.

7. Bake for 6-8 minutes until parbaked, cut out cookie shapes, and return to the oven as described above for another 3-4 minutes.

Maple Diplomat

2.5 sheets gelatin
75 grams egg yolks
115 grams brown sugar
35 grams cornstarch
300 grams milk
20 grams softened butter
130 grams maple syrup
300 grams heavy whipping cream

1. Bloom gelatin in ice cold water.

2. Whisk together yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and a small quantity of milk in a large bowl. Use just enough milk to help incorporate the dry ingredients into the yolks so the mixture is not too thick and paste-like.

3. Heat the remaining milk until it comes to boil. Temper the hot milk into the yolk mixture, and then return all of the liquid to the pot on the stove. Whisk continuously over a medium-low heat until the mixture is thick and begins to boil. Continue to whisk while boiling for 1 minute.

4. Remove from heat, and immediately transfer the hot mixture into a clean container. Whisk in bloomed gelatin, then butter and maple syrup.

5. Cover the mixture with a piece of cling film directly on the surface to avoid forming a skin. Chill the mixture in the fridge (stirring occasionally) until it is approximately room temperature. You do not want to chill it all the way until it is set.

6. While the mixture is cooling, whip cream to soft peaks. Once the mixture is ready, gently fold in the whipped cream. Return the fresh diplomat cream to the fridge until the gelatin has set. Once firm, the cream can be transferred into a piping bag and used in decoration.

Desserts to Make the Holidays Shine Brighter

Desserts are king during the holiday season, as diets relax and sweet indulgence reigns. Chef Denise Marchessault joins us to talk about her newly published cookbook, British Columbia from Scratch: Recipes for Every Season, authored with photographer Caroline West. She also offers some tips on how to stay on top of holiday cooking and shares with us a few delectable dessert recipes just in time for the holidays.

Chef Marchessault is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu® Ottawa, in Canada, where she achieved Le Grand Diplôme®, a 9 month comprehensive programme combining pastry and cuisine. She teaches cooking classes in Vancouver, Canada, and also penned the Master Class Series for EAT Magazine with photographer Caroline West.

British Columbia from Scratch book cover

MasterCook: Tell us about the “from scratch” part of your book. As a chef, what do you see as the benefits of cooking from scratch rather than using processed foods?

Chef Marchessault: Well, it’s healthier, more economical, and more flavorful than anything you’ll find in a box, packet or cube. Cooking is not a chore to endure, it’s is a pleasure in itself. Fortunately, there’s a new wave of cooks, young and old, who are discovering, or rediscovering, the simple pleasure of cooking from scratch.

MasterCook: Since your cookbook is inspired by the flavors of British Columbia, will readers outside the province be able to find the ingredients to make the recipes in your cookbook?

Chef Marchessault: Absolutely! I wanted a cookbook as practical as it is beautiful so I favored recipes with easily accessible ingredients. Seafood recipes are adaptable to any variety of fish and most ingredients are available at your local market.

MasterCook: As a professional chef with lots going on outside the kitchen–including a new book to promote, teaching, writing, and raising twins–what is your advice to people trying to stay organized as they plan and prepare meals during the holiday season?

Denise Marchessault

Chef Marchessault: My best advice is to get a jump-start on food prep whenever possible. When I come home from the market, for example, I peel and chop several onions and store them in plastic containers, in the fridge. No matter how frazzled, I can always muster the strength to prepare dinner when armed with a fridge full of pre-washed and chopped vegetables.

Dressings and pestos can be made ahead, too, and they liven-up quick and easy meals like frittatas, roasted vegetables, pasta, legumes or fish. Most desserts and pastry doughs freeze well, so when you’re in the mood for baking, fill up your freezer!

Cranberry Meringue

I do as much as possible in advance, and break down recipes into manageable tasks. For example, I’ll make dough one day and roll it out the next.

MasterCook: What are you planning for your main holiday meal this year? Do you have traditional items you always make, or do you change the menu from year to year?

My daughters are Pescetarian, so I’ll prepare salmon in puff pastry, rather than a traditional turkey. I’ll include an assortment of traditional side dishes, such as cranberries and garlic-roasted mashed potatoes.

The last few years I’ve prepared Christmas dinner entirely in advance. Re-heating a meal, rather than cooking all day, means I’m enjoying a relaxing day with my family.

Chocolate Mousse with Pear Chips

Chef Marchessault has kindly provided us with two recipes from her cookbook, “Cranberry Meringue” and “Chocolate Mousse with Pear Chips.”* For more information on Chef Marchessault, please click on the following link: You can view a video preview of her book here, or purchase British Columbia from Scratch at Amazon by clicking here.

* For those who are using Le Cordon Bleu® Recipes from MasterCook, these recipes have 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.

Cranberry Meringue

Makes 10 – 12

¼ cup cranberry purée (recipe below) or strawberry jam
4 large egg whites, with no traces of yolk, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar, preferably superfine or berry sugar
1 ½ teaspoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon white vinegar

You’ll need a baking sheet lined with parchment. A pastry bag is handy for portioning the meringue but not essential.

Preheat oven to 250 °F

To keep meringue uniform, draw circles onto your parchment-lined baking sheet, using a teacup as a template, with 2” space between each circle. Turn the parchment over and use as a guide when spooning or piping the meringue onto your tray.

Whisk the egg whites in a meticulously clean bowl, at medium speed for about one minute or until a network of tiny bubbles have formed. Gradually add the sugar and increase the speed to high and whip until the whites have expanded and formed billowy, firm glossy peaks. Be mindful not to over-whip otherwise the whites will turn grainy and lose their shape. Reduce the speed to low and add the cornstarch and vinegar until just blended.

If using a pastry bag, spoon the meringue into a pastry bag fitted with a ¾” tip. Pipe or spoon the meringue onto your prepared tray, using the template as a guide. Dip a butter knife into a bit of cranberry purée or jam and gently drag the purée around the unbaked meringues to create a marbled effect.

Bake for about an hour on a rack in the lower third of your oven or until the meringues are dry. Turn the heat off and leave the meringues in the oven until they cool. The meringues will crack slightly. Store in an airtight container in a cool dry place.

Cranberry Purée

6 ounces, fresh or frozen and thawed cranberries, ½ standard package
6 tablespoons granulated sugar

Purée the cranberries in a blender or food processor until smooth. Pour the puree through a fine-mesh strainer into a small saucepan, using the back of a ladle or a large spoon to press the solids against the strainer, extracting as much liquid as possible.  Heat the purée over medium heat with the sugar and reduce until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Set aside ¼ cup for the meringue and use any leftover purée as a topping for ice cream or swirled into puddings, muffins, loaves, pancakes or cookies.

Chocolate Mousse With Pear Chips

Serves 4–6

The key to this rich, melt-in-your-mouth mousse is to have your tools close at hand. With only two ingredients, chocolate and cream, the recipe is more about preparation than culinary finesse.

Once the cream and melted chocolate collide, the mousse firms quickly, so have your containers nearby. A piping bag is useful for distributing the mousse into narrow glasses but a small spoon works too.

If you’d like your mousse to peer above the rim of the containers, as pictured, wrap parchment paper around the containers first.

The mousse is rich and best served in small sherry or shot glasses.

If you’d like to garnish your mousse with pear chips and chocolate leaves, plan to make these in advance.

8 oz (230 g) good quality dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
2 cups (500 mL) whipping cream, chilled
Pear Chips (optional; recipe follows)
Chocolate Leaves (optional; recipe follows)

You’ll need a wire whisk and a spatula.

Place the chocolate and 1/4 cup (60 mL) whipping cream in a heat-resistant bowl placed over a saucepan filled with 1 inch (2.5 cm) of simmering water. Stir until the chocolate is just melted then remove from the heat.

Pour the remaining whipping cream into a large bowl or the bowl of a standup mixer fitted with a wire whisk. Whisk the cream until just thick enough to form soft peaks.

Working quickly, pour the melted chocolate into the whipped cream, using a spatula to scrape any remaining melted chocolate left clinging to the bowl. Whisk the chocolate into the cream until the mixture is uniform in colour and has thickened.

Spoon or pipe the mousse into glasses and refrigerate until set.

Take the mousse out of the refrigerator about 20 minutes before serving. Remove the parchment collar, if using, and garnish with a pear chip and chocolate leaf, if desired.

Pear Chips

1 firm, slightly underripe pear, washed
1 cup (250 mL) sugar
1 cup (250 mL) water
Zest of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 200°F (95°C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine the sugar, water and lemon zest in a small saucepan over low heat until the sugar is completely dissolved.

Slice the pear paper-thin, using a mandoline or vegetable slicer.

Coat both sides of each pear slice with the sugar water mixture and place on a prepared baking sheet without overlapping any slices.

Dry the pear slices in the oven for 2–3 hours, carefully turning them over once. Allow the pears to cool for 10 minutes then gently peel the slices from the parchment. If the pears are not firm and crisp once cooled, continue to dry them in the oven.

The pear chips can be made a few days ahead of time and kept in a covered container.

Chocolate Leaves

6 oz (175 g) good quality chocolate, chopped into small pieces
8–12 small, firm non-toxic leaves such as holly or rose, washed and completely dried

Place the chocolate in a heat-resistant bowl over a saucepan filled with 1 inch (2.5 cm) simmering water. When the chocolate has melted, dip one side of each leaf into the chocolate and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Once the chocolate has firmed, carefully peel the leaves from the chocolate.

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.