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Thursday, July 29, 2004

Choo-chee Scallops, scallops in curry sauce

choocheescallops2I cooked again last night. It's such a rare occurrence now it warrants blogging about. Just so people don't forget I still know my way around a kitchen--even in someone else's.

Last night was in Sylvia's kitchen, sort of an impromptu dinner with whatever we had around. It was Pierre's idea to stop at Bryan's for some beautiful scallops before we went to Sylvia's house. We also brought a bunch of this and that left in his fridge from the dinner I made last weekend—a few spoonfuls of red curry paste, a can of coconut milk, a stalk of lemongrass, a bunch of Thai basil, kaffir lime leaves, and some snow peas. There were also some cherry tomatoes I bought last weekend at the farmer's market on a reflex—I see pretty tomatoes, I buy pretty tomatoes.

I laid the ingredients down on the counter and let them speak to me. They whispered "scallops with curry sauce with jasmine rice and stir-fried snow peas on the side", so that's what for dinner.

Actually, you should have seen Pierre's face when I suggested that we make curry sauce for the scallops. Being ever-so-French, he was horrified that I would drown those beautiful scallops in pungent curry sauce until they no longer tasted like what they were supposed to. Huh, he had so little faith in me. Though the sauce I used was based on the rather strong red curry paste, I added some citrus notes from lime leaves and lemongrass to compliment the seafood taste of the scallops. It was made intentionally mild, and tempered even further with some sweet cherry tomatoes. It turned out beautifully, if I dare say so myself. So much so that the same guy who was rolling his eyes at me when I suggested the menu insisted on calling the dish Scallop Curry à la Pierre!

Choo-chee scallops
Scallops with curry sauce
St.Jacques au curry à la Pierre

(serves 4)

For the choo-chee sauce
3 tbsp red curry paste
1 can of coconut milk (about 14 fl oz or 400 g.)
1 tbsp oil
bottom half of a stalk of lemongrass, outer leaves taken out, smashed a bit to release the oil
three kaffir lime leaves
some cherry tomatoes

For the plate
16 large scallops
a handful of Thai basil leaves
julienned kaffir lime leaves

choocheesauceFor the sauce, heat up a small pan until hot, add the oil, a few spoonful of the cream part of the coconut milk, then the curry paste. Cook this, stirring vigorously, for a few minutes until oil begins to separate from the sauce. Throw in the stalk of lemongrass and a few bruised lime leaves. Then add the rest of the coconut milk in three batches, taking care to let it cook until separated each time. Season with a pinch of sugar and some fish sauce. Let the curry sauce reduce until it coats the back of a spoon. Add the cherry tomatoes about a couple minutes before your sauce is at the right consistency. You want the sauce to be creamy rather than watery, and the tomatoes to just barely break the skin. Disgard the lemongrass and lime leaves in the sauce, set aside.

In a large sautéed pan with some hot oil, sear the scallops quickly until brown on both sides. I like my scallops on the rare side, but you can cook them more if you'd like.

Line a large plate with a big handful of Thai basil leaves, on go the scallops over the leaves, spoon some sauce over the whole thing, top with julienned lime leaves. Serve with warm jasmine rice, with the rest of the sauce on the side for those who want a bit more kick.

The snow peas were simply stir-fried with some oil, garlic, a few drops of oyster sauce and fish sauce. They provided a lovely crunch and a sweetness to the somewhat spicy scallops.

It was such a simple and satisfying dinner. In fact, it was so easy that I really didn't do the cooking, just some chopping and supervising, while Pierre insisted on doing all the actual cooking so he could learn.

P.S. The photos were taken on my Treo, not a real digital camera, so they are not very nice. Sorry.

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