For the previous two seasons, I’d known at least one contestant on Hell’s Kitchen. Two seasons ago, it was Andy Husbands, the chef/owner from Tremont 647. We met as volunteers for Operation Frontline (now Cooking Matters), and then I worked for him when he first opened his restaurant. Last season, Jason Santos reached the final-two. He also worked for Andy at the same time I did. Two days after each episode, Andy would post on his blog a behind the scenes perspective of the show. And Jason posted amusing status updates on his Facebook page… teasing us with things to come. (I also know Ben Knack tangentially - we're practically related - but that's another story)
With no friends on the show, the appeal was gone.
Instead, I went to kitchen and cooked scallops for myself. I had no worries of anyone throwing scallops at me screaming “They’re raw, you donkey!!” Without the pressure of cut-throat competition, I achieved a beautiful sear on both sides, cooked to my preferred medium doneness. (Would Chef Ramsey have approved??)
Honestly, I don’t understand how the contestants struggled with undercooking the scallops, whichon on the show had been sliced in half, so they would cook even more quickly. Even with whole scallops, by the time the deep brown caramelization envelops the scallop; they are well on their way to medium. With an additional 30 seconds in the pan, letting residual heat do its thang, they’re perfect.
Scallops are so sweet and delicious; they require little adornment beyond salt and pepper. But to keep things interesting, I served them with curried French green lentils. Fresh arugula provides a fresh, bright balance to the scallops and coaxes out the spice in the curry.
From the garden: celery, leeks, scallions
Seared Sea Scallops with Curried French Lentils
2 tbs. butter
1 shallot, small dice
1/2 carrot, small dice
1/4 celery rib, small dice
1/2 leek, small dice
2/3 cup French green lentils
1 1/2 tsp. curry powder
2 scallions, cut into rounds
1 pound sea scallops
1 tbs. plain oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Over medium heat sweat shallots, celery, carrots and leeks in 1 tbs. of butter. Add curry powder and lentils. Add salt and pepper and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 40 minutes, or until lentils are tender. You may need to add up to 1 cup more of water. When lentils are cooked, stir in scallions and remaining butter.
Season scallops on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat a large sauté pan over high heat. When the pan is hot, add the oil. Add the scallops and cook for approx. 3 minutes or until golden brown. Turn scallop and cook for 1 minute more.