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Pan Seared Scallops with Cauliflower Puree

By Chef John Ash

This recipe depends on sourcing the best scallops available. Diver scallops (which are also known as dry pack) are harvested daily and never put into a brine solution. This recipe makes more cauliflower puree than you’ll need but that’s a good thing! Cover and refrigerate for another use. The 2016 Russian River Ranches Chardonnay pairs beautifully with this delicate dish.

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    Serves 4

    Total Time

    Prep Time

    Difficulty Level Medium


    Canola oil as needed

    1/4 Cup drained capers, patted dry

    1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

    1-1/4 pounds diver scallops, side muscle removed

    1 tablespoon unsalted butter; more as needed

    2 teaspoons finely chopped tarragon

    Cauliflower Puree |

    2 tablespoons unsalted butter

    1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced

    4 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced

    1 2 pound head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets

    2 cups heavy cream or chicken stock (or combination of the two)

    1 sprig thyme

    Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste

    Drops of lemon juice and cayenne to taste


    1. In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes; lower heat as necessary to prevent browning.

    2. Add cauliflower, cream and/or stock, and thyme. Cover, bring to a simmer, and cook, adjusting heat to maintain simmer, until cauliflower is tender, about 20 minutes. Uncover and continue to simmer for another 3 or 4 minutes to thicken the liquid. Discard thyme sprig.

    3. Using a blender or immersion blender, blend cauliflower and liquid to form a very smooth purée. Season to your taste with salt, white pepper, drops of lemon juice and a little cayenne. You can adjust purée consistency as needed: Thicken by cooking down further while stirring often over low heat or thin by whisking in liquid, such as stock, cream, or water. Serve warm.

    4. Heat 1/4 inch of the oil in a medium deep sided saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the capers and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon thyme and cook until the capers are golden and crisp, about 2 minutes. Add the lemon zest, cook for just a few seconds, and then, using a slotted spoon, transfer the capers, thyme, and zest to a paper-towel-lined plate.

    5. Pat the scallops dry. Heat a large heavy duty non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add a tablespoon or so of oil and the butter. Season the scallops with salt. Working in batches if necessary to keep from crowding, cook the scallops, undisturbed, until very well browned on one side, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and cook until just barely cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes more, depending on size. Transfer

    6. Spoon some of the cauliflower purée among serving plates, and top with the scallops. Garnish with the fried capers and tarragon, and serve.

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