New Year's Resolution Recipe for Healthy Eating by Wolfgang Puck
Even though fish and shellfish are protein choices many people think about as part of their New Year's resolutions to eat more healthfully, many of us regard seafood as something to eat mostly during warmer weather.
Rain, snow, and cold make us crave more robust red meats and poultry, while the bounty of the oceans, lakes, and rivers is so light and fresh-tasting that it seems to be suited best to when the sun shines brightly.
To me, however, seafood is wonderful year round. The secret to enjoying it in winter often comes in combining it with other seasonal ingredients.
One of the best examples I know is a dish I dreamed up more than 30 years ago when I was chef of Ma Maison restaurant in Hollywood, before I opened Spago: Bay Scallops with Sauteed Apples.
Apples, of course, are a fruit you can rely on to brighten any winter menu. They're easy to find, so cool, crisp, sweet, and tangy. Of course, we don't normally think of them as an enhancement for seafood, but in fact their natural acidity suits them very well to main-dish ingredients, while the natural sweetness of many shellfish, especially scallops, goes very well with the taste of the fruit.
Bay scallops, meanwhile, are at their peak of season in winter. Hardly bigger than a thumbnail, these tender morsels are incredibly plump and sweet-tasting. (If you can't find them, don't worry; you can also use an equal weight of larger sea scallops, simply slicing them horizontally in half so they will cook in the same amount of time.)
Cooking time, in fact, is the most important factor in cooking scallops successfully.
They're so small, tender, delicate, and juicy that they require hardly any cooking time at all. The trick is to use a good saute pan with a heavy bottom that retains heat well, to heat the pan over the highest heat possible, and then bring oil to a point at which it is almost smoking hot before you add the scallops. They'll be ready to eat in under a minute; any longer, and you run the risk of turning them rubbery.
That's the risk many cooks take when they try to prepare even the quickest of sauces in the pan along with the scallops, only to wind up overcooking the seafood. So there you have another reason why this particular recipe works so well: The warm, lightly browned, still crunchy apples provide on their own all the sauce you need to complement the scallops.
Back at Ma Maison, I served this simple dish as an appetizer. You can, too. Or add a little rice or angel hair and you'll have a light yet very satisfying seafood main dish perfect for winter.
Bay Scallops with Sauteed Apples Seafood Recipe
Serves 8 as an appetizer, 4 as a main course
3 Pippin or Granny Smith apples
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1-1/2 pounds fresh baby sea scallops
Freshly ground white pepper
1-1/2 tablespoons safflower oil or canola oil
1-1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley or cilantro leaves, plus sprigs of parsley or cilantro for garnish
Steamed white rice or al dente angel hair pasta (if serving as a main course), lightly tossed with a little butter, salt, and white pepper
With a small, sharp knife, peel, halve, and core the apples. Cut them into thin slices.
Heat a large saute pan over moderate heat. Add the butter and, as soon as it has melted and begins to foam, add the apples and saute until they have browned slightly but are still crispy, 2 to 3 minutes.
Heat another large saute pan over high heat. Meanwhile, season the scallops with salt and white pepper. Add the oil to the pan and, as soon as it is hot enough to swirl freely, add the scallops and saute them, stirring continuously, until they turn white and are just springy to the touch, 30 seconds to 1 minute depending on their size. Remove them immediately from the heat. Stir in the parsley or cilantro and adjust the seasoning to taste, if necessary, with a little more salt and white pepper.
To serve the recipe as an appetizer, simply arrange the warm apple slices in an attractive ring around the perimeter of 8 warmed appetizer plates and spoon the scallops in the center. Garnish with parsley or cilantro sprigs.
To serve the dish as a main course, arrange the apples in rings on each plate, mound a little rice or angel hair in the center of each plate, and spoon the scallops on top. Garnish with parsley or cilantro sprigs.
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