This lovely French scallop recipe actually comes from my friend Veronique at Cuisine Elegante. I first made it during one of her virtual cooking classes and it has become one of my favorites for serving guests (feel free to visit her website if you are interested in organizing a fun French cooking class with her!). I like this recipe served as a light and elegant first course, but you can also serve the leeks with one scallop on mini plates as a tasty hors d’oeuvre.
This recipe is very easy and you can make the leeks and chorizo chips ahead of time and reheat before serving. However, cooking scallops can be tricky because they are chewy when overcooked. Make sure your pan is sizzling hot before putting in the scallops and only cook them for one minute on each side (for medium-sized scallops). The melted leeks are also delicious served under a nice piece of fish or grilled chicken breast. Here is the recipe by itself as a side dish.
Seared Scallops over Melted Saffron Leeks
Servings: 4 (3 scallops each)
Active time: 40 minutes
Cooking time: about 45 minutes total
4 medium leeks
2 (28 g) tablespoons butter
Salt & pepper
2 pinches of saffron threads (you could use a pinch of turmeric instead)
2 tablespoons crème fraiche
4 thin slices of Spanish Chorizo – it is like a dried sausage unlike the Mexican chorizo (if you can’t find Spanish chorizo, use Prosciutto or omit altogether)
12 medium-sized scallops
2 tablespoons Noilly Prat vermouth (you can use dry white wine or champagne instead)
3 tablespoons thick crème fraiche (or full-fat sour cream)
2 tablespoons (28 g) butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon snipped chives
Salt & Pepper
Make the melted leeks. Wash the leeks (do not dry them). Cut them in half lengthwise and then slice them into 1-inch (2.5-cm) half-moon pieces.
Melt the butter in a deep skillet or small Dutch oven (cocotte). Add the leeks and season
with a pinch of salt, pepper and the saffron (or turmeric). Cook on high heat, stirring, so the water evaporates. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and let leeks cook for about 20 minutes until soft. Stir a few times so they do not burn.
If the water has not fully evaporated, turn the heat back to high for a minute or two. If that does not work, carefully pour out the liquid. Stir in the crème fraiche and simmer over low heat for about 5 minutes until the sauce thickens. Set the leeks aside. You can also make this part up to one day ahead.
Make the chorizo ‘chips’. Preheat oven to 355° F (180° C). Place the slices of chorizo (or Prosciutto) on a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Put another piece of parchment paper over and push down a little so it sticks to the chorizo. Bake for about 8-10 minutes for chorizo, 3-5 for Prosciutto. Keep an eye on the oven and take out when cooked and browned, but not burned. Set aside to cool. These can also be made up to one day ahead and kept in an airtight container until served.
Now you’re ready for the scallops and the sauce. Take off and discard the coral (orange part) of the scallops. Rinse the scallops with cold water and dry them delicately on all sides with a paper towel. They must be very dry.
In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil and 2 tablespoons of butter over high heat. Wait
until it is sizzling. Add the scallops (they should sizzle as they hit the pan) and cook for 1 minute on each side. They should be just barely cooked through as overcooking will cause them to be chewy. Place them on a plate or in a separate pan and cover loosely with aluminum foil.
Lower the heat to medium, add the Noilly Prat (or white wine) and stir. Let cook for a minute or two then add the snipped chives and the crème fraiche and stir again. Turn off the heat.
Assemble your plates. Start with a large spoonful of the melted leeks, place the scallops on top and spoon about 1 tablespoon of the sauce over them. Place the chorizo chip on top and serve.
And bon appétit!