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Cooking the Book: Baked Scallops with Leek and Saffron

2012 May 23

The Kitchenette consensus on this recipe was largely kind of “meh,” but that may have had more to do with the scallops than the sauce/recipe. The truth is, the scallops were gi-GAN-tic! and we both actually got kind of tired of eating them before our plates were clean. The sauce was good, but not so good we wanted to keep eating the scallops just to eat the sauce. If you choose huge scallops, I trust it is because you are a huge scallop fan (see what I did there, haha?).

For me, the best part of this recipe (besides the delicate orange color and subtle floral flavor of the saffron) was the description of how it was developed. A lot of trial and error went into the method of getting the sauce kind of thick and gloppy before pouring it over the scallops to bake. So don’t be alarmed when your sauce is gloppy going into the oven — that’s the point. Because the scallops release so much liquid when cooked it has to be gloppy at first and will thin to the proper consistency as it all bakes together.

The Good

Normally, “light” and “creamy sauce” don’t really come to mind at the same time. But in this case it works. This recipe comes from the “On the Lighter Side” section of the cookbook and it actually is a nice, light, not-too-filling dinner. Using 1% or skim milk probably keeps it from being too calorie laden, too, without sacrificing the velvety decadence of

The sauce is very good. I would serve it with other seafood, actually. Or just smaller scallops. I think it would also make a solid four-person dinner-party appetizer, with two scallops on each plate.

The Bad

It’s just okay. Not bad, but not a show stopper, either. The creaminess runs the risk of drowning out the delicate saffron flavor. Just kind of meh.

The Leftovers

Don’t be a slave to the times listed in the recipe. I usually cook flour for at least 1 minute when I’m making a sauce or gravy, just to make sure I get all the raw flour flavor out of the mixture. And while I didn’t note how long they were actually in there, our scallops spent more than 10 minutes in the oven, mostly because of their hugeness. It might be better to tell your fishmonger “12 ounces” rather than “8 scallops” and just divide them as evenly as possible between two plates (another one for the “do as I say and not as I do” files, there).

Baked Scallops with Leek and Saffron

from Cooking for Two, 2011

Serves 2

Ingredients

1 very small leek, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise, slices 1/4 inch thick and rinsed thoroughly (about 1/2 cup)

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

salt and pepper

1 garlic clove, minced

1/8 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled

1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme or 1/8 teaspoon dried

2 teaspoons unbleached all-purpose flour

2 Tablespoons dry white wine

1 cup 1 percent low-fat milk

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

12 ounces large sea scallops (about 8 scallops), muscle removed

1 teaspoon minced fresh parsley

Method

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 405 degrees. Combine leek. oil and pinch salt in medium saucepan. Cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 8 to 10 minutes.

Stir in garlic, saffron and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in four and cook for 30 seconds. Slowly whisk in wine, then milk. Bring to simmer and cook until sauce is thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Off heat, season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pat scallops dry with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper. Arrange scallops in single later in 8-inch square baking dish and pour sauce over top. Bake until scallops are cooked through and their sides feel firm, about 10 minutes.

Carefully transfer scallops to platter, leaving sauce behind in dish. Whisk lemon juice and parsley into sauce, pour sauce over scallops and serve.

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