Straen Scallops, Cauliflower And Celery With Caper-Raisin Sauce
starter main fish
This was a fantastic dish we ate at as part of our celebratory meal at the fish restaurant below the Taket nightclub (since closed) in Stavanger after winning the (now defunct) North Sea Yacht Race in 2008. The combination of flavours was absolutely exquisite.

Others were less impressed though - funny story - we were recommended the place by a couple of Norwegian sailor friends, whom we took out to dinner there on the expense account of our race sponsor.
Turned out to be rather more upmarket and Nouvelle than might have been suited to the crew, the food was a series of many delightful, but extremely meager courses, the scallop dish I'm writing up here provided each crew member with exactly one-half scallop.
Not to be too delicate, but the more Irish contingent (Aidan - I mean you!) was less than satisfied by the lack of substance, though perhaps compensated by his amusement at my lifelike imitation of Animal from the Muppets, and my convincing rendition of someone grittily battling their allergic reaction to fresh shellfish. Or were they the same thing?

It also turned out to be rather more expensive than our sponsor had any reason to expect - Irish Aidan particularly was outraged at the idea of splashing out £100 per person for a meal that provided neither steak nor sausages.

But I liked it.

The recipe seems similar to that for the restaurant Jean-Georges: Scallops and Cauliflower with Caper-Raisin Sauce (below).
The Cauliflower-Celery puree replaces the fried cauliflower slices.


Ingredients
Scallops
Cauliflower
Celery
1/3 Cup Raisins Fat juicy sultanas might work better?
1/3 Cup Capers
Couple glasses white wine
Clarified butter
Vegetable stock
Nutmeg
Attempt Number One
Simmer the raisins, capers and white wine for 10-15 mins until the raisins are soft. Purée briefly, reserving some for decoration.

Deep(ish)-Fry some celery leaves for decoration in clarified butter until crispy and set them to drain on kitchen roll.

Separate and simmer half a cauliflower and half a chopped head of celery in vegetable stock until soft, then purée them together with a little milk in a blender. Season with salt and pepper. Reserve some smaller florets and small celery pieces and blanche in the stock for decoration.

Flash-fried the scallops in clarified butter, adding the coral afterwards so as not to overcook it.

Make a pool of raisin/caper sauce and scatter over the smaller celery bits, cauliflower florets, reserved raisins and capers and the celery leaves. Make a puddle of cauliflower/celery purée and place a scallop on top. Grate over a dash of nutmeg.

Serve.
Not bad at all. The cauliflower/celery purée was not as good as Straen's - perhaps it needs rather more celery and the cauliflower should provide more of a background.

The raisin/caper sauce was overblended - Straen's was still quite chunky which worked better I think.

The celery leaves were too greasy - I guess they need to be fried in a lighter, more neutral oil. Groundnut?

Not sure about the nutmeg (perhaps I should try it in the raisin/caper sauce or in the cauliflower/celery rather than over the top?).

There was something else missing from the raisin/caper sauce (though it was tasty). Should I try it with added sherry vinegar? Stock? Something green perhaps - celery leaves? Parsley? The waitress at Straen said a wine reduction was used in the sauce hence the method above.
Don't add much more vinegar - it is too overwhelming. Parsley is a nice addition. Try moistening with celery stock. Puree half-way until chunky then perhaps puree half the amount further to give a base for the sauce.
This also goes well with a piece of crispy fried halibut (or sea bass)?

Cauliflower Purée Two
Fry ½ head cauliflower florets in butter (with a little crushed garlic) until browned.
Add ¾ head chopped celery I fried these up too, but perhaps it would be better not to?
Deglaze with white wine, purée with a little stock and single cream. Season.

Juliette or spiralise beetroot (or carrot) and deep-fry until crisp (golden) in peanut (groundnut) oil. You can do this in two stages, which helps with the timing.
Decorate the scallops with the crispy beetroot. They work well together.
The dish still needs something green; might try deep-frying spinach leaves or parsley or celery leaves (there's a fritter batter in Master Chefs pp. 180) or courgette julienne?
I also thought of samphire, though my experiments with lemon juice and butter haven't been too brilliant - too runny. Perhaps lemon oil, or hollandaise sauce?
Also - perhaps make the purée using celeriac not just celery?
What about a touch of vanilla in the puré?

Fish Three
Fry ½ head of celeriac chopped into 1cm cubes in butter until browned.
Fry ½ head cauliflower florets in butter (with a little crushed garlic?) until browned.
Bring to the boil a pot of single cream containing a vanilla pod and turn off the heat.
Blend together the celeriac, cauliflower and cream (remove the pod).
This was a delicious purée with the fish, though a tiny bit thick and heavy. Perhaps thin with (a celery?) stock or deglaze with some white wine?

Carefully descale (by rubbing with a very sharp knife) Sea Bass fillets. Check them thoroughly for small bones, pulling any out with tweezers or by scraping with a knife along the bones.
Slice them diagonally into lozenge shaped pieces and rub Maldon salt into their skin just before frying.

Wash and destalk a handful of selected spinach leaves, and pat dry thoroughly. Deep fry in oil (I used relatively shallow amount of sunflower oil, but I'd like to try groundnut oil) in small batches. Fry them until they just become translucent. Drain well on kitchen paper, changing twice.
These beautiful jewel-like leaves seem to stay crispy for about 10 minutes.

While the spinach cooks and drains, fry the Sea Bass in enough clarified butter to just coat the base of a very hot, very heavy skillet. Fry the skin side first until the pieces are almost cooked through and the skin is crispy and golden, then turn over and fry for a few seconds on the fleshy side until cooked.

Serve a puddle of purée on each plate, top with a few Sea Bass lozenges and scatter over the spinach leaves and any cauliflower florets or tiny celery bits.
Absolutely gorgeous combination of flavours. Though the purée isn't too pleasant on its own being rather thick and custardy, it beautifully complements the fish, and particularly the crispy salty skin.
What about some celery and Ricard, beetroot and balsamic jellies?


Scallops And Cauliflower With Caper-raisin Sauce
starter main fish
This unique combination of flavors has been on the menu at Restaurant Jean Georges since its opening, and it continues to draw raves. The form of the layered scallops and cauliflower is basic but lovely, and the dark green sauce has a mysterious, mustardy flavor; few people could guess what is in it, and almost no one could imagine how simple it is.

Servings: Makes 4 servings.

Ingredients
1/3 cup capers, drained of all but 1 tablespoon of their liquid
1/3 cup golden raisins
8 to 12 cauliflower florets
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
4 tablespoons canola, grapeseed, or other neutral-flavored oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons minced parsley leaves
12 large sea scallops (at least 1 pound) cut in half through their equators
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, plus a little more
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
Preparation
Preheat the oven to 250°F. Combine the capers and raisins in a small saucepan and add 3/4 cup water; simmer gently until the raisins are plump, about 10 minutes. Do not cook rapidly; you don't want to reduce the liquid. Let the mixture cool for a couple of minutes, then purée it in a blender. Return it to the saucepan.

Meanwhile, use a sharp knife or mandoline to cut the cauliflower florets into 1/4-inch-thick slices; you will need a total of 24 slices. Place 1 tablespoon each butter and oil in a large skillet and sauté the cauliflower over medium-high heat; do this in 2 or more batches to avoid crowding (add another tablespoon of butter or oil when necessary.) Season it with salt and pepper as it cooks. Don't turn it too often; you want it to brown nicely. Total cooking time will be about 10 minutes, after which the cauliflower should be brown and crisp-tender. Remove and keep warm in a bowl in the oven.

Deglaze the pan by heating 1/4 cup water in it and stirring and scraping the bottom over high heat for a minute or two. Add the parsley and pour this juice over the cauliflower; gently stir and return the cauliflower to the oven while you cook the scallops.

Place 1 tablespoon each butter and oil in another large ovenproof skillet and turn the heat to medium-high. When the butter foams, add the scallops and cook on one side only until nicely browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Again, do this in batches to avoid crowding (adding another tablespoon of butter or oil when necessary). Remove the scallops from the pan as they brown and season with salt and pepper; keep them warm in the oven.

Reheat the sauce, then add the nutmeg, vinegar, and pepper and salt, if needed. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Spoon a little of the sauce onto each of 4 serving plates. Place 6 scallop pieces, browned side up, on each plate; top each scallop with a piece of cauliflower. Finish with a tiny grating of nutmeg.