Monday, September 03, 2007

Super scallops!

I am originally from Louisville, KY, and recently have been making frequent trips back on family business. My sister lives in Knoxville, so we try to plan our trips home so that at least one evening we can go out to dinner and catch up with each other.

Louisville is a fabulous restaurant town, and we’ve had our favorite restaurants that we sort of rotate among.

It took Memphis friends Kelly Robinson and Michael Hughes to turn me on to L & N Wine Bar and Bistro. A few weeks ago, my sister and I tracked it down and went for dinner.

We had a wonderful meal, composed of several “small plates.” We accompanied it with wines well chosen by our server from their list of over 100 wines by the glass.

My favorite dish was the scallops. The menu description was “seared diver scallops, basil gnocchi, tomato butter sauce, balsamic reduction.” I liked it so much that I went back alone a few days later to have it again.

You probably know the next part of the story: I had to try to do it myself. My first effort was quite felicitous. I made a sort of beurre rouge sauce with red wine, shallots and diced fresh tomatoes, made the gnocchi myself, and put it all together. It was delicious. But it was a whole lot of cooking time.

I knew that if I wanted to share it with you, I was going to have to make some revisions. So I gave it another shot, and this time it was still quite tasty, with a lot less work. And most of it can be done ahead.

I used purchased plain gnocchi and added a drizzle of basil oil to compensate. I used canned tomatoes, but there is no reason you couldn’t use really good, red ripe tomatoes from the farmers’ market this time of year. Peeled, seeded and diced, they would only take a few minutes of extra cooking for the sauce.

If you remember from earlier scallop recipes I’ve shared, “dry” (unprocessed) scallops are essential to any recipe that calls for browning them. I used U-10 sized (under 10 to a pound).
With a green salad, this has everything you need for a wonderful, but quick and easy, dinner for friends.


2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup onion, diced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 can (16 ounces) diced tomatoes

Basil Oil:
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves

Balsamic reduction:
1 cup balsamic vinegar, simmered to reduce by half

To finish:
1 1/2 lbs U-10 dry scallops
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 package (16 ounces) potato gnocchi
Fresh basil or parsley, for garnish

Make the sauce: In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic, stir a couple of times, then add the onion. Cook until soft and translucent, stirring occasionally. Dissolve the tomato paste in the red wine and add to the onion. Add the tomatoes and their juices, bring to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring a few times. Salt to taste. Set aside.

For the oil: In a blender or food processor, puree the basil in the oil. Set aside.

When ready to serve, bring a big pot of well-salted water to a brisk boil. Drop in the gnocchi. Cook for about 1 minute after they rise to the top of the water, usually about 3 to 4 minutes in all.

Pat the scallops dry. In a heavy skillet heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the scallops and brown well, 2 to 3 minutes per side, turning once.

Divide the gnocchi among 6 plates. Ladle on most of the sauce (reheated if made ahead). Place the scallops on top and add the rest of the sauce. Drizzle the balsamic reduction over the top. Drizzle the basil oil around the edges and serve immediately. Serves 6.

NOTE: The picture is from the L&N Wine Bar and Bistro website. They topped theirs with crispy threads of deep-fried leek. Pretty , isn't it?

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