This week’s selection for French Fridays with Dorie was Winter Ceviche, a quick appetizer that brought a little tropical tease to my kitchen located in the deep freeze of New England.
Ceviche is a preparation for raw fish or seafood which is then “cooked” for a few hours in an acidic marinade. This version started with bay scallops, which are much smaller than the more familiar sea scallops. Bay scallops are seasonal, and I hadn’t seen them around in a while, but I got lucky and found them at my first stop (Whole Foods). They were half the price of sea scallops and because I only needed 6 to make a half recipe, they only set me back $2.25. Miraculous!
The marinade is made from fresh lemon and lime juice plus the lemon and lime zest, some mango nectar and a touch of brown sugar. The scallops are refrigerated in this acidic fruit bath for a few hours to “cook”. In the meantime, thinly sliced shallots are lightly doused in vinegar for a pickled garnish.
At serving time, all that’s left to do is toss some tarragon leaves with oil and divide them amongst the plates. Then using a slotted spoon, transfer the scallops to the bed of leaves. Dip some halved grapes into the remaining marinade and add to the plate, then top it all with the pickled shallots. As they say in France, “Voilà!”
This ceviche provides a good basic formula. I think it would be equally delicious with another white fish or shrimp, raw or cooked. Or I might try substituting different herbs like parsley, cilantro, or even arugula in place of the tarragon. Some thinly sliced chili would be at home too.
I hope I remember this recipe next time I have a seated dinner party where I want to serve a plated first course. (By the way, don’t overestimate my entertaining skills. A plated first course would put me in much fancier territory than my usual dinner parties which begin at the kitchen island with a help-yourself assortment of cheese and crackers and dips, chosen so I can socialize with the guests while I finish up dinner.)
This week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie is an elegant and substantial starter. Disks of puff pastry are topped with a mixture of caramelized onions and bacon, then adorned with barely cooked sea scallops.
Let’s start with the puff pastry. For whatever reason, I always have the hardest time rolling out thawed puff pastry. The thawed slab never seems to get much bigger. That means that every time I’m faced with a recipe that calls for puff pastry, I get a pit of dread in my stomach.
Last month, I came across a recipe for Quick and Easy Puff Pastry on Chocolate & Zucchini. I’ve been looking for an opportunity to try it out since then. Clotllde said this recipe changed her life. Now that I’ve made it myself, I can see why. It was truly easy. The technique wasn’t the laminated style of a true puff pastry, where the butter is rolled into a slab that gets rolled inside the pastry dough. This is more of a rough puff pastry where butter is cut into the flour, staying in relatively large pieces. After that, the fold and roll steps to form layers is similar.
No food processor required either. This is a purely manual operation. I cut the butter in with a pastry blender. Then ice water is incorporated with a dough scraper. Finally, a few roll and fold repetitions, one full rotation and then some (I lost count, so did some extras), and that’s all that was needed. I splurged on Plugra, though I’ll have to make it again with my usual butter to compare. The dough remained supple and was very easy to roll out, but in the making, and later when I rolled out for the disks. I’m thinking I’ll never buy puff pastry again.
My favorite part of this recipe was the onion and bacon mixture. I sliced my onions thin, though you can also choose to chop them finely. My new trick when caramelizing onions is to cover the pan for the first 10 minutes or so to accelerate the softening of the onions. Then, the uncovered onions continue to cook, and brown, and finally caramelize. This combo would be great to fill a full-sized savory tart too.
Finally, the scallops. I’ve never seen them as expensive as they were this week. I nearly fell over when I saw them priced at $28.99 a pound. I was only making half the recipe, so I asked for three scallops (they were huge), which ended up weighing just under half a pound for $11. Even though I trust the freshness of Whole Foods seafood counter, I seldom keep uncooked fish in my refrigerator overnight. I’m a “eat it the same day I buy it” seafood shopper. I mixed up some dates this week, so ended up buying the scallops two days before I actually needed them. This made me squeamish about eating them raw (OK, barely cooked). Instead, I seared the scallops the way we have before, then sliced them into disks to top the mini-onion tarts.
The final word? We both liked them. We agreed that the onion and bacon topping was so satisfying that we would have liked them just as well without the scallops. Also, Clotilde’s rough puff pastry is a keeper. It tasted fantastic! Even with the expensive European butter, it is still more economical commercial puff pastry. And no dread involved.