I am very fortunate to have summered on Nantucket since high school. One of the things the island is known for is Nantucket Bay scallops, and the beaches along the sound are covered with their beautiful shells. Those shells—and their myriad natural shades of yellow, orange, and red—were the inspiration for this hors d’oeuvre.
Although we use a bay scallop shell as the platform (see the serving tip, opposite, to learn how we made this work), there’s a sea scallop nestled inside; we cut them down to the proper size for a single bite. At home, you should simply use bay scallops; it’s easier and you’ll avoid the waste. It is seared, then topped with a dollop of flavorful sauce ravigote and garnished with finely diced cucumbers. Guests can lift the scallop right out of the shell and pop it in their mouth.
For the Ravigote:
1 shallot, minced
1½ teaspoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon plus 1½ teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon
1 cup sour cream
1½ teaspoons finely chopped fresh flat- leaf parsley
1½ teaspoons finely chopped, drained capers
1½ teaspoons finely chopped fresh chives
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the Garnish:
½ medium cucumber
For the Scallops:
12 fresh bay scallops
1 tablespoon grapeseed or other mild vegetable oil
12 whole sea scallop shells, glued two- thirds open at the hinge, for serving
In a small saucepan over medium heat, cook the shallot, vinegar, and the 1 tablespoon tarragon until the shallot is soft but not browned, about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool for about 10 minutes. Add the sour cream, parsley, capers, and chives and mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste. You will have 1 cup of sauce; set aside or cover and refrigerate up to one day ahead until ready to use.
Peel the cucumber, keeping a small amount of the flesh with the skin. Finely chop the cucumber peels into precise 1 ⁄16-inch squares (see Notes). Set aside. Reserve the peeled cucumber for another use.
If necessary, trim the scallops to 1¼-inches wide with a cookie cutter. Heat the oil in a sauté pan over high heat. Lightly salt the scallops and sear on one side until deep golden brown, about 1 minute. Place the scallops, seared side up, on a baking sheet. You can wrap the scallops in plastic and refrigerate them for up to 8 hours before continuing.
When ready to finish the dish, preheat the oven to 350°F.
Warm the scallops for 3 to 5 minutes before assembling the dish.
Set the 12 scallop shells on a serving platter. Place a warm scallop in the base of the open shell, top with a small dot of sauce ravigote, and garnish with the cucumber. Serve immediately.
If you can’t find bay scallops still in the shell at your local fishmonger, you can get the shells online. We use Noble Pectin scallop shells that are 2 to 2½ inches wide.
We used molecular cucumber pearls, but for the home chef, diced cucumber is a good substitute. The easiest way to achieve a small, uniform cut is to stack a few strips of peel and trim them to uniform rectangles. Slice each piece into 1⁄16-inch-wide sticks; then chop the sticks into 1⁄16-inch squares.
Excerpted from Peter Callahan’s Party Food. Copyright © 2017 by Peter Callahan. Photographs copyright © 2017 by Con Poulos. Published in the United States by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.
This original recipe article first appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of City Style and Living Magazine