Scallops in Phyllo Purses with a Ginger-Infused Saffron Sauce
This is a spectacular first course, and makes a dramatic presentation, the crisp, buttery phyllo contrasting with the succulent surprise scallop inside, suffused with aromatic vegetables. The saffron-ginger sauce heightens the contrast of colors and gives the phyllo a bit of flavor too. To clarify the butter and get ~6 TBS, gently melt 8 TBS (1 stick) unsalted butter in a saucepan over low heat and let the milk solids settle. Remove the frothy scum that floats to the surface, and then decant the clear (clarified) butter essence, leaving the milk solids behind.
The recipe calls for cutting the vegetables into a fine dice. It’s important that the dice be small (~1/8” or less) and all about the same size or the vegetables won’t cook in the short time the purses are in the oven. Of course it’s impossible to make an 1/8 inch square dice with the leek, but don’t just chop or mince the other veggies at random. Take the time to make the carrot and celery root dice as regular as possible by cutting each vegetable into matchsticks, called julienne, about 1/8” x 1/8” x 3” or so. Then stack the julienne and cut them crosswise into 1/8” pieces, so you have tiny cubes 1/8” on a side. That way the purse looks appetizing when it’s broken into.
Don’t omit the celery root (celery is not a substitute). It gives a marvelous, aromatic but delicate flavor to the scallop. You’ll have a lot of celery root left over; use it another day puréed as a vegetable accompaniment
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 TBS fresh ginger, peeled and minced
- 2 TBS dry sherry
- 1 small leek, tough outer leaves removed and discarded
- 4 sea scallops, the small, tough side muscle removed and discarded*
- Salt and freshly ground white pepper
- 4 sheets phyllo pastry dough
- 6 TBS clarified butter
- 1 small carrot, peeled and cut into a very fine dice, less than 1/4 cup
- 1/4 cup celery root, peeled and cut into a very fine dice
- 2 TBS finely minced flat-leaf parsley
- 3 TBS cold, unsalted butter, cubed
- 1/2 tsp saffron
Preparation time 20mins
Cooking time 35mins
In a small uncovered saucepan, combine the ginger and chicken stock and over medium heat, reduce by half. Add the cream and reduce to about 1/2 cup, about 5 minutes. Strain through a small sieve into a bowl, crumble in the saffron, cover and set aside.
Cut 8 thin strips about 1/4" x 8" from the light-green part of one of the leek leaves to use to tie the phyllo bags (You’ll need a few extras in case one or two break). Blanch strips in boiling water for 1 minute, then refresh in ice water. Pat dry and set aside. Cut the root end off the leek and then cut a piece of the white end of the leek about 2-3 inches long. Cut into a very fine dice to equal a scant 1/4 cup. Rinse well and drain on a folded paper towel. Peel a carrot and cut a 3-inch piece the long way into flat, 1/8 inch thick slices. Stack these and cut them into matchsticks, about 1/8 inch wide. Finally cut the matchsticks crosswise into 1/8 inch dice. Do the same with the celery root, cutting off a peeled flat disk about 1/8 inch thick, slicing it into julienne and then cutting the stacked julienne into 1/8 inch dice.
Gently toss together all three vegetables in a bowl to combine.
Season the scallops with salt and white pepper. Using a pastry brush, brush a sheet of phyllo with some of the clarified butter, fold the sheet in half, brush with more butter, fold in half again and brush with more butter. Place a scallop in the middle of the square and sprinkle the scallop with a generous TBS of the vegetable mixture. Sprinkle with salt and a little parsley. Gather up the four corners of the phyllo to form a little bag. Tie the top of the bag firmly into a purse with a leek strip. Brush generously and completely with the clarified butter and place on an unbuttered sheet pan. Repeat with the remaining scallops. The cookie sheet and its purses can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 6 hours before baking.
Bake in a preheated oven until phyllo is crisp and browned, about 10-12 minutes.
Meanwhile, reheat the sauce to a simmer, remove from heat and whisk in the cold butter one pat at a time until the sauce thickens. Season to taste with salt and white pepper. Pool the sauce on each of 4 serving plates and top with a scallop bag right out of the oven.