Monday, October 18, 2010

Mer e Terra

This weekend's fall dinner party menu mixed French and Italian. A fine combo -- we'll hang out near the French/Italian border anytime, especially the environs of Roquebrune or Cap Martin.

The raw materials:

Scallops from McCalls in Los Feliz and Butternut Squash from a local farmer's market.

The result:

Baby Romaine Salad with Hazelnut Vinaigrette and Salt & Pepper Seared Sea Scallop (U8)

Fresh Pappardelle with Melted Leeks, Roasted Butternut Squash in a Brown Butter Sage Sauce

Recipes follow.

Salade //

Baby Romaine Salad with Hazelnut Vinaigrette and Salt & Pepper Seared Sea Scallop

Toast 1/3 c. whole hazelnuts (in toaster oven or iron skillet on stove top or in oven) until fragrant, browned, but not burnt. Let cool slightly.

Place hazelnuts in plastic bag and pound with mallet until coarsely chopped. Put in bowl, add 1/2 tsp finely diced shallot, then add 2 tsp Sherry Vinegar. Let sit for 5 minutes so the flavors combine. Add about 1/2 cup olive oil (to taste really) & then mix with a fork. The vinaigrette should appear broken and loose, not emulsified. Put aside until ready to compose salad.

Wash/soak baby romaine or any other mild market lettuce with ice cubes in water to crisp (1-3 mins), then remove cubes and spin dry. Pat dry gently with paper towel or tea towel to remove any moisture. Put dried lettuce in bowl and toss with spoonfuls hazelnut vinaigrette until salad is nicely dressed, but not drenched. Plate the salad on individual plates, as you want each serving ready to be crowned with a seared scallop.

Put iron skillet on high heat. Add olive oil. Rinse scallops and pat completely dry. Season each side w/ kosher salt & freshly ground pepper. When oil is smoking, add scallops to the pan, but space them far apart as possible. You may need to cook them in two batches if you have more than 4 or 5 scallops. Cook for 2-3 minutes on first side to get a nice caramelized, crusty sear, then flip with thongs to the other side. Cook for 2 minutes or less. Immediately transfer each scallop to the awaiting salad plate and place on top at an appealing angle.

Primi //

Fresh Pappardelle with Melted Leeks, Roasted Butternut Squash in a Brown Butter Sage Sauce

Heat oven to 450 degrees F. Peel and cut butternut squash into bite-sized cubes. Put cubes in a bowl and toss with olive oil, salt & pepper, and fresh grated nutmeg. Place butternut squash cubes on baking sheet and roast about 30 minutes.

While the butternut squash cooks, begin the leeks. Cut the white part of 2-3 leeks into 1/8-inch thick discs. Rinse in a bowl of water to remove any dirt between layers. Melt 3-4 Tbsp unsalted butter in a saute pan over medium heat. Add leeks to melted butter & season with salt & pepper, fresh thyme leaves if you have them. Cook until they begin to wilt, 5-10 minutes, then add 3 Tbsp water. Once liquid boils, lower heat and cook until liquid is almost evaporated and leeks are very soft, another 10 minutes. Remove from heat, place leeks in a bowl and set aside until later.

Begin cooking water for pasta, lightly salted.

Cut sheets of fresh pasta (I had 8 sheets) into wide pappardelle ribbons. Set aside.

Check butternut squash after 20-25 minutes to see how done it is and turn with spatula. Remove from oven when soft & slightly caramelized, but not burnt. Save for later.

Clean 6-8 large sage leaves with a damp paper towel and then pat completely dry.

Next, cook the fresh pasta. Throw it in the boiling water for between 2-3 minutes -- but no more than 3 minutes! Drain & immediately put in large pasta serving bowl.

In a small saute pan or sauce pan, throw healthful caution to the wind and melt 2 sticks of unsalted butter. Watch the butter closely, once it start to slightly caramelize and turn brown, toss in the sage leaves (they will crackle and spatter in a lively manner), then quickly remove the pan from heat so the brown butter doesn't burn.
Remove the sage leaves with thongs and set aside on a small plate.

Pour the brown butter sauce over the pasta and toss gently until it is thoroughly coated. Add the melted leeks and butternut squash and toss again gently until evenly distributed. Crumble sage leaves over the top.

Enjoy. Start with a Chablis, end with a Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and envision the Med.