The Little Scallop that Could

Six or seven weeks ago I went out to dinner at Gramercy Tavern in NYC and had an amazing dish: scallops served in a rich onion broth and topped with more velvety, caramelized onions.  It was beyond heavenly and I have been thinking about it since.   This dish has rolled around my brain like a clandestine lover.  I find myself thinking of it when I first wake in the morning, when I exercise, drive carpool, make dinner, put my children to bed.  It has invaded my space and my life.  And, always the questions loom: can I duplicate it?  Am I up to the task? 

Well, yesterday the craving and unanswered questions became too strong.  They needed to go.  I just had to try to make this dish.  Like The Little Engine That Could, I would conquer this-I was sure!  (Okay, not really-but, in her own kitchen, a girl’s gotta believe!)  And besides, last night was Oscar night.  We needed a little glamour, if not from our flannel pjs, than from the dinner that had become my obsession. 

So yesterday morning I made the pilgrimage to Whole Foods and bought the biggest, most elegant scallops you have ever seen.  I bought some beautiful sweet onions, shallots, frozen beef stock and I was in business.  Or, at least trying to be! 

I made a fantastic onion soup and strained it for the broth.  I caramelized onions for the topping.  I seared the scallops.  I put it all together and called Tad to dinner (the kids ate earlier-they had hamburgers.)  We sat down, dove in and came up all smiles!  It was fabulous; though I must admit that my broth did not have the complexity of the broth the chefs at Gramercy Tavern had created.   Still, mine was very good.  And remember, I did not make the stock and fundamentally, homemade stock adds so much! 

As Tad and I climbed into bed to watch the Oscars, he turned to me and with a sly smile said: “Dinner was divine.  I like this blogging!  This works for me!”  Me too.

Note: This looks daunting- but it is not.  The broth is best made a day in advance, and just reheated.  Caramelizing the onions is very easy- and the scallops themselves are a cinch.

Sea Scallops with Caramelized Onions in an Onion Broth- serves 2-4 depending on number of scallops you buy

At least 4 hours-and up to 2 days in advance – make the broth

For the broth: (Adapted from the Fog City Diner Cookbook)

3 T unsalted butter

2 T olive oil

2 lbs onions

10 cloves garlic, minced

5 shallots, minced

1 bay leaf

1 T sea salt

2 t pepper 

2 T Cognac

4 T. Madeira

1 c. dry white wine

4 c. beef or veal stock

2 c. chicken stock  

Heat butter and oil in a large pan and add the onions, garlic, shallots and bay leaf.  Cook over medium heat until the onions begin to caramelize.  Add the salt and pepper and continue to brown.  When browned, add the Cognac and Madeira and cook until the liquid is almost gone.  Add the wine, and cook until the liquids are reduced by half.  Adjust seasoning and remove bay leaf.  (At this point you can refrigerate the soup until ready to use.  Reheat before continuing on.)  Strain broth, discarding solids.  Keep warm.

For the Caramelized Onions

2 lbs sweet onions, such as Vidalia, peeled

5 T unsalted butter

Sea salt/pepper

Slice the onions as thinly as possible.  Melt butter in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onions, salt and pepper and cook over very low heat, stirring often, for 40-45 minutes, or until the onions are creamy.  Keep warm

For the Scallops (Adapted from Jonathan Waxman)

Very large sea scallops- about 5-6 per person

Sea salt/pepper

2 T butter

Pat the scallops dry and salt and pepper them.  Melt the butter in a large skillet set over medium heat.  Place the scallops in the pan and cook, without messing with them, for 3 minutes, or until the scallop bottoms brown and release easily.  Turn the scallops with tongs and repeat on the other side.

Place 5-6 scallops in a shallow bowl, pour onion broth around the scallops and top with a healthy dose of caramelized onions. 

Note: I served this with a crispy salad.  HEAVEN! 

Note #2:  I think you could do a fabulous “easy” version of this dish by just making the onion soup and adding baby scallops to it at the last moment.  The taste would be very similar with less last minute work.


One Comment

  1. MDMD
    Posted March 8, 2010 at 7:22 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Love it! I haven’t had it at your house or at the Gramercy, but came up with something quite similar in a panicked moment when I needed dinner made relatively quickly. It’s one of my favorites! Thanks for putting it up!

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