Yes. It’s a combination made somewhere near heaven.
It came about through serendipity. A friend stopped to visit, and brought with him a large, heavy bag of scallops in the shell. (He’s a fishmonger). I had lightly salted butter in my fridge along with (unusually I admit), the seeds from half a vanilla bean that I hadn’t needed for some ice cream that I’d made.
It stands to reason the combination would be ethereal. Each of the ingredients is richly elegant. Each has a similar “note” of smooth luxury. Normally I cut that in scallops with lemon juice, because I like the contrast. Here, though, I didn’t want contrast I wanted echo. And that’s what this combination is: echoes of richly elegant flavor.
I made the scallops twice in two different ways. The first time I simply baked them in a hot oven with a dollop of butter that melted over them. Total success. The second time I sautéed the scallops in the vanilla butter, and arranged them on shallot-vinaigrette dressed mâche, with slices of very ripe persimmon to set it all off. It was – if anything – even better than the first version.
Here are recipes for both. You decide which is best.
Vanilla Butter Baked Scallops
Note that you will have about half the butter left. This is so you can make recipe number two! If you don’t want to do that, you’ll find plenty of uses for vanilla butter (on breakfast toast, for instance). Serve fresh bread with this dish, to sop up the butter.
16 large scallops, with their shells (you may use small dishes if you don’t have shells)
4 tablespoons (60g) lightly salted butter, at room temperature
The seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean
Flat-leaf parsley or chervil — for garnish
1. Preheat the oven to 400F (200C).
2. Rinse and trim the scallops and refrigerate them.
3. Arrange the cupped part of the scallop shells on two baking sheets (or the small dishes you’ll use).
4. Place the butter in a medium-sized bowl and beat it until it is soft. Mix in the vanilla seeds, and stir until they are completely and evenly incorporated.
5. Place a scallop in each scallop shell. Divide half the butter among the scallops (or as desired), placing it on top of each scallop.
6. Bake in the oven until the butter is melted and the scallops are hot through, about 6 minutes. Remove from the oven, transfer the scallops to a serving platter, garnish with herbs, and serve immediately.
Scallop, Persimmon and Mâche Salad
For the vinaigrette:
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Pinch fine sea salt
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
1/4 cup (60ml) extra-virgin olive oil
For the scallops:
2 tablespoons vanilla butter (see above recipe)
12 large scallops, trimmed and sliced in half, horizontally
For the Salad:
8 cups mâche or other tender lettuce, carefully rinsed and spun dry
2 medium, ripe persimmons, sliced into 8 wedges each
1. Place the vinegar in a large bowl and whisk in the salt. Add the shallots and whisk, then whisk in the olive oil. Add the mâche and toss, toss, toss until it is heavy. Evenly divide the mâche among 4 dinner plates. Arrange the persimmon wedges atop the salad.
2. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. When the butter is frothing, add the scallops and stir and shake the pan, flipping the scallops so they cook evenly, JUST until they are hot through and slightly golden on one side, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and divide the scallops among the 4 plates, arranging them quickly on top of the salad. Drizzle the scallops with any butter left in the pan. Sprinkle with fleur de sel and serve immediately.