- 4 Diver scallops
- ½ cup Hazelnuts, crushed into consistency of bread crumbs, and a few whole
- 1 cup Don Pilar Anejo Tequila
- Agave Nectar
- ½ an orange
- Polenta cake (basic polenta recipe, cooled then pan fried in butter)
In this first edition of cooking with tequila, the concept for this dish came out of the initial lunch with Juan from Don Pilar. We were bouncing ideas off of each other and getting into a groove of what ingredients would pair well with the Anejo tequila. Juan had mentioned that there was a hint of hazelnut and butterscotch that hit your palate when tasting the anejo. My mind was directly aimed at seafood when we started the discussion, and when talking about the hazelnut flavor, this dish was already visualized in my head. A hazelnut crust on a scallop is something I haven’t heard a lot about nor seen on any menu to date. The flavors would go very well together… almost mimicking a macadamia crust that you see from time to time on pan-asian menus.
With a solid base and the dish essentially conceptualized, I went shopping to gather necessary ingredients and look for a little more inspiration for additions to the scallop. I knew the dish needed a starch and risotto in my mind was a little over done. There was mention of a couple things but one stood out to me as a bit different and also held some of the same flavors I was going for, polenta. With the starch requirement checked off, the last piece of the puzzle was a sauce. Juan and I had discussed using the tequila in some dishes. I thought this would be a great place for a reduction or even deglazing the pan the scallops were cooked in to create a sauce.
The dish came together pretty simply. Starting with the reduction of Anejo Tequila, a little fresh squeezed orange, agave nectar and some whole hazelnuts, this sat on the stove for about 20 minutes until the consistency was just enough to coat the back of a spoon. Once it was there, I added in a pad or 2 of butter to give it some nice richness and salt to balance the sweet. The scallop was crusted on one side with the crushed hazelnuts and put top down into a hot skillet with melted butter. Cooked evenly on both sides, pulled and then let to rest for a minute or two. The polenta was cooked in traditional method ahead of time, cooled and then cut with a ring mold. Lightly pan seared with some butter to mimic the top of the scallop and also to give it a nice crunch. Assembled with the sauce on the bottom, polenta then scallop, garnished with micro greens, this dish was spectacular. The tequila was noticeable but not over powering, and the hazelnuts added a wonderful flavor and compliment to the sweetness of the scallop.
In the first edition of tequila cooking, I’d say it went very well. Special thanks to John of Stocklin Photography for producing such gorgeous pics! Can’t wait to try some more dishes for Don Pilar!