Thomas Keller is easily my favorite chef. Classically trained in French cuisine, and with a toe in both the 3-Michelin-star and family-style-meal worlds, he is everything I could ever imagine a chef to be. Even if my experience at Bouchon was less than I expected it to be.
One of my only regrets in my, admittedly short, life is that while living only three hours away from the French Laundry for nearly two years I never took the opportunity to go. Granted, it starts at $250 per person, but for a once in a lifetime experience I think that's a small price to pay.
Sadly it wasn't until just after I left that I remembered Ad Hoc, Keller's casual, family style restaurant just down the street from his subtle, French juggernaut. Ad Hoc is so casual, in fact, that it doesn't even have a menu. This article from NPR describes it a little more in depth.
I wasn't able to get my paws on any U7 size scallops, but I did get some U12s, I adjusted the brining time to about 45 -60 minutes.
I really can't tell you enough how delicious these scallops were. They are so quintessentially, Keller - simple, fresh ingredients combined with skillful technique resulting in an uncomplicated, fresh perspective that showcases the inherent qualities of the scallop. They're sweet, salty and, cooked properly, have the most amazing texture.
Caramelized Sea Scallops
excerpted from Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller
I always buy big scallops, graded U7, meaning there are 7 of this size in a pound, and for this dish, we brine them to season them all the way through.
2 cups kosher salt, plus more to taste
2 cups hot water
8 cups cold water
12 U7 sea scallops (about 1 3/4 pounds; see headnote), preferably dry-packed, tough side muscle removed from each one
About 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) Clarified Butter
1/2 lemon (optional)
Line a small baking sheet with paper towels. Combine the 2 cups salt with the hot water in a large bowl, stirring to dissolve the salt. Add the cold water.
Add the scallops to the brine and let stand for 10 minutes (no longer, or the scallops may become too salty). Drain the scallops, rinse under cold water, and arrange in a single layer on the paper towels.
Heat the clarified butter in a large stainless steel frying pan over medium-high heat until it ripples and begins to smoke. (Although you may be tempted to use a nonstick pan, a stainless steel pan will produce a more beautiful caramelized exterior.) Sprinkle the scallops lightly with salt and add them to the pan, without crowding. (If necessary, cook the scallops in two pans or in 2 batches; if they touch, they will steam rather than caramelize.) Cook, without moving the scallops, until the bottoms are a rich golden brown, 3 to 3 1/2 minutes. Turn the scallops and caramelize the second side.
Transfer the scallops to a serving platter and serve with a squeeze of lemon juice on top, if desired.
This is a nutritional estimate, regard it as such.
1 serving = 3 scallops
1 g carbohydrate
4 g fat
8 g protein