What theme would you choose for creating a meal? I always liked the idea of using coffee, chocolate, or cherries (or other items which might not start with “c”) in every course for a fun dinner party.
Returning on the Saturday morning ferry from Vancouver, I had been “off-island”, as they say here, for about 11 days. I had not expected to see the Fishery Afloat. This seafood boat docks right near the ferry terminal on Saturdays from late May through September. The Fishery Afloat is based on the much bigger, Salt Spring Island, and it features – almost exclusively – local seafood from the Pacific. After a long and difficult trip, I was happy to see the boat for the first time, buy some halibut, and discover they had the large Qualicum Beach sea scallops (many of which are larger than a golf ball). They are quite a treat.
So our proximity to Qualicum Beach, across the Strait along Vancouver Island, made me think of creating a sort of 100-mile-diet dish. Having made scallops in butter with hazelnut, I thought it would be good to add the twist of brown butter. The title I gave the dish is is also a bit of a play-on-words or jeux de mots, in French, “Coquilles St. Jacques au beurre noisette et aux noisettes.” Just to clear up confusion wrought by a Canadian celebrity chef, who once stated incorrectly that brown butter originally was related to hazelnuts as an ingredient in making the butter. It decidedly is not. The colour is nut-brown and the flavour may be nutty, but beurre noisette has nothing to do with hazelnuts per se. Just in case you were wondering….
For the dish and the recipe…
With butter churned over on big Vancouver Island, garlic from a neighbour, hazelnuts from “up island”, and parsley right from our plant on the deck, this dish was very local. However, I added a bit of olive oil (top turn it into healthful dish!) and served the scallops on jasmine rice from Thailand, so it was not strictly a local dish. I think the scallops would be equally good on quinoa, pasta, or couscous, tiny or Israeli, you can choose. But it could have been easily a 50-kilometre or so meal. The scallops in brown butter with hazelnuts were rich, satisfying, toothsome, crunchy, buttery, and nutty – a great quick and impressive dish for an early summer weekend meal.
Qualicum Sea Scallops in Brown Butter and Hazelnuts, or
Coquilles St. Jacques au beurre noisette et aux noisettes
Serves two, as a main course (use three scallops per person as a first course)
- 10 large sea scallops
- 3 ounces unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/3 cup hazelnuts, whole or chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- Sea salt, to taste
- Fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
- Lemon slices, for serving
- Parsley, minced for serving
- Heat butter in medium frying pan, stainless steel or light coloured preferably (to watch browning progress) over medium-high heat. Watch until the colour changes to nut brown and develops brown bits and gives a nutty aroma.
- Reduce heat to medium. Add minced garlic and sauté for a minute or so.
- Add hazelnuts to pan and sauté another minute or so, moving nuts around.
- Place scallops in pan and turn after about four minutes, per side. Check after turning over the first time to ensure the consistency is right (like a medium rare steak, slightly soft, with some give, rather than hard and rubbery).
- Add olive oil to pan, stir, and season with sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste.
- Serve immediately over rice (pasta, quinoa, couscous, or ??). Sprinkle chopped parsley over scallops and serve with lemon slices.