We’ve arrived at the main event of my 2021 Holiday Menu. After a round of Fried Oyster Sliders, a bowl of Miso Mussel Parsnip Bisque, and a side salad that thinks it’s a whole dang meal, you’ve got this plate of heaven. Yeah, all I can say is don’t wear restrictive pants. So what are you looking at? This beauty of meal features seared scallops and a velvety butternut celeriac mash, topped with crispy kale, and preserved lemon butter. It has all the makings of a fancy meal but luckily it’s quick and easy to pull off. I’ve already asked you to make three courses for this feast, I simply cannot ask anything too taxing of you. There is one potential timing dilemma with this recipe, but it’s also a fantastic opportunity to add a dash of culinary theatrics to your evening. So let’s dive in.
Okay, when searing scallops a little forethought is key. Perfectly seared scallops require ample drying time, just the right amount of fat in a screaming hot pan, and cat-like reflexes. This is a hurry-up-and-wait kind of scenario. The magic begins one hour before mealtime. Simply pat your scallops dry and place them on a plate lined with a paper towel and cover them with another. Leave your scallops to drain while you tackle the rest of the course. Excess moisture is the enemy of every good sear, so let’s eliminate it, shall we?
So while your scallops are drying out, you can tackle the veg. And this is where it could not be easier. We’re going to peel and coarsely chop the celeriac and butternut squash before popping it into the oven to roast. I like to roast veg that’s intended to be mashed. Particularly when the mash in question features vegetables with high water content. Boiling vegetables like butternut squash can waterlog the veg, whereas roasting removes moisture and makes them fluffier and airier. If you would prefer to boil them, be my guest. This is all a matter of opinion after all. The kale on the other hand must see the inside of an oven. So the way I see it is if you’re firing up the oven anyway, you might as well take care of all your veg in one fell swoop.
Once the veg is roasted, all that remains is a quick blitz for the celeriac and butternut and then it’s just a matter of keeping everything warm while you tackle the, um, more challenging aspect of this recipe. It’s time to sear the scallops and this can only be done when you’re inches from serving everything. Seared scallops depreciate very quickly once they leave the pan. So I like to have everything else plated and ready to go once my pan comes up to temperature.
And speaking of your pan, you want it to be screaming hot. Whatever fat you choose to add should be spitting. This is where the theatrics come in. Have your splatter guard at the ready. I went with a neutral canola oil just to keep this recipe pescatarian-friendly. But if you’re feeding people who don’t mind eating meat, bacon, or duck fat is the way to go.
Once your scallops hit the pan, let them cook for 2 minutes or so before flipping them. Don’t disturb them throughout those two minutes, you want a nice crust to form. Once you flip the scallops, don’t cook them for much longer. You want the scallops to be somewhat rare in the center. We’re going to serve them sear-side-up anyway, so there’s no need to build up much of one on the opposite side.
Now, searing scallops can be a bit of an intimidating process, but luckily it’s over in 3 minutes flat. The only advice I can give you is to ask for help. This is where an extra set of hands to help with the plating and serving really comes in handy. And if you can spare the stovetop space, have two frying pans going at once. That way all of your scallops will arrive at the table in their prime simultaneously. Again, if you have two frying pans going at once, ask for an extra set of eyes, it will save you some stress.
The last component of this dish is the preserved lemon butter. This is quite literally butter and ribbons of preserved lemon rind. It could not be simpler. And I will not tell anybody if you use the microwave to get it done. I get it, a full stovetop stresses me out as well. So save your burner and just pop the butter in the microwave. If it’s good enough for the butter you put on your popcorn, it’s good enough for this.
And that’s pretty much everything you need to know about these Seared Scallops with Butternut Celeriac Mash. This is a dish befitting a restaurant but I promise you, you can tackle and conquer this at home.
Seared Scallops with Butternut Celeriac Mash
- 1-2 large skillets
- Food Processor
- 2 large baking sheets
- 1 kg (2.25 lbs) scallops
- 1 butternut squash peeled, seeded, coarsely chopped
- 1 celeriac skin removed, cut into chunks
- 4 tbsp olive oil divided
- 3 shallots halved and thinly sliced
- 454g (1 lb) kale washed, dried, coarsley chopped
- 1 lemon zested
- 1 clove garlic peeled
- ½ cup half and half
- ¼ cup butter
- 1 preserved lemon flesh removed, rind cut into ribbons
- 2 tbsp neutral oil or bacon fat **
- daikon microgreens for sprinkling
- Pat the scallops dry and arrange them in a single layer on a plate lined with a paper towel. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper and cover with another piece of paper towel. Set them aside to drain for a minimum of 1 hour.1 kg (2.25 lbs) scallops
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the butternut squash and celeriac chunks on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with half of the olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Transfer to the oven and roast for 40 minutes or until the vegetables are fall-apart tender.1 butternut squash, 1 celeriac, 4 tbsp olive oil
- When the squash and celeriac have roughly 20 minutes left on their cook time, arrange the kale and shallots in a single layer on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Add the zest and toss the greens to coat them. Spread them back out into a single layer and transfer the baking sheet to the oven and roast for 15 minutes or until the kale is crisp.4 tbsp olive oil, 3 shallots, 454g (1 lb) kale, 1 lemon
- Place the celeriac and butternut squash in a large food processor. Add the garlic and turn the food processor on. Slowly stream in the half and half. Blitz until smooth and silky. Taste and season with salt accordingly. Keep warm until ready to serve.1 clove garlic, ½ cup half and half
- Place the butter and the preserved lemon in a small bowl and microwave in 30-second bursts until the butter melts. Keep warm until ready to serve.¼ cup butter, 1 preserved lemon
- Heat the oil in a large skillet. Place over high heat and heat the oil until nearly smoking. Place the scallops in the pan, seasoned-side-down. Sprinkle the naked side with a little salt and cook the scallops undisturbed for about 2 minutes or until a deep amber crust forms. Flip the scallops and cook them briefly on the opposite side, about a minute. Transfer the scallops to a plate and set them aside.2 tbsp neutral oil or bacon fat **
- Spoon some of the mash onto the plates and place 6-8 scallops on top. Top with the crispy kale and finish with a drizzle of preserved lemon butter and daikon microgreens.daikon microgreens