Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Scallops My Way - With Beurre Monté.

This meal is basic and simple.  Scallops.  Rice.  Spinach and mushrooms.  Parmesan crisps.  Some pineapple was thrown in.  There was some orange zest involved.  Some toasted sesame seeds.  A splash of sherry.  Parsley and cilantro from the garden.  And a new sauce I found out about.  The sauce is called beurre monté and it’s an emulsified butter sauce.  I’ll show you the technique, then you can build upon it, tweaking it here and there, customizing it, making it sweet or savory, and go on your own merry little way.  And this sauce would be lovely on any type of fish, shrimp, oysters, pasta, chicken, pork,  filet mignon, or even potatoes. Or you can go in a sweet direction and use it on a dessert.  Beurre monté is nothing if not versatile.

 When I’m putting a meal together, I have three things I want to incorporate – foremost is taste, then color, and texture, and I have the trio showcased with this entrée.  Seared scallops with pineapple-enhanced pan juices are the stars of this meal.  My sides are a fruity rice dish which has been soaking up orange juice, a sautéed mushroom and spinach dish with an Asian accent to provide some delicious color, and Parmesan crisps which lend the perfect texture. 

 I’ve added a twist to my scallops in the form of beurre monté.  Beurre monté is a French term for “mounted butter,” meaning “to mount” the dish, or top it off, or finish it, with butter.  But not just any butter. It’s melted butter that’s emulsified.

 Think about it this way - anything you’d dip in melted butter would be better with beurre monté.  Melted butter is wonderful, but it slips right off your food.  Beurre monté, however, caresses your food.  Because of the emulsification factor, it luxuriously clings to and coats your food.  Bottom line:  it adds richness, polish, elegance, and flavor to your dish.

 Now, let’s get started.  Instructions are in order of preparation.

 For the rice:

 (2 servings)
½ cup rice
1 ¼ cups fresh orange juice

I used jasmine rice.  Basmati is another option.  Both are aromatic, long-grained rices.  Jasmine is typically more floral and sweet, while basmati tends to have a nutty flavor and aroma.

Cook according to directions, except not.  Generally, rice instructions will tell you to bring your water to a boil and then stir in the rice.  Like I said before, I’m always thinking about taste, and water has no taste.  Sometimes, I use beef broth or chicken broth for my cooking liquid for rice, but today I wanted to complement those scallops, so I went with fresh orange juice for my liquid.  I squeezed a few oranges until I had a heaping cup of liquid, then added in about a ½ tsp of kosher salt and ½ cup of the jasmine rice.  Cooked it low and slow until the rice was just done, then I added in a heaping tablespoon of unsalted butter, tasted it (It was perfect.), then covered it, and set it aside.

 For the Parmesan Crisps:

Use a good quality Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.  I look for the DOP label, meaning Denominazione di Origine Protetta, translated as “protected designation of origin.”  DOP is a legal designation which guarantees the cheese comes from the correct region of Italy (Emilia Romagna) and has been produced by trained artisans using centuries-old techniques with only local ingredients and traditional methods which are mandated and monitored by the European Union.

 Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and finely grate circles of cheese, 2-3 inches in diameter and between ⅛ and ¼ inch thick.  Bake at 400° 4-5 minutes, until cheese is golden, rotating pan halfway through.  Let cool before removing from baking sheet.   

 While the oven is still hot, now’s a good time to toast the sesame seeds for the spinach dish.  Just spread them thinly on a baking sheet and toast until lightly brown.








 For the spinach dish:

 ½ tsp sesame oil
2 TB unsalted butter
12 mushrooms, sliced
Fresh spinach, stemmed - approximately 2 yepsens.  In case you didn’t know, a yepsen is a unit of measurement.  It’s the amount that can be held in 2 hands cupped together.
1 TB Soy sauce
1 TB Mirin (Mirin is a sweet Japanese cooking wine made from rice, similar to sake, but with a higher sugar content and lower alcoholic content.)
1-2 TB sesame seeds

Pour sesame oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat, swirl it around and add a tablespoon of butter, heating until melted.  Add in the sliced mushrooms and sauté until nicely browned.  Add  another tablespoon butter and drop in the spinach, stirring until it just barely starts to wilt.  Sprinkle in a tablespoon each of soy sauce and mirin. Toss, cover, and remove from heat.

 Now for the beurre monté:
 1 ½ TB lime juice
½ stick unsalted butter, cut into pats
½ tsp sugar
Sriracha sauce
Gochugaru (Korean chili flakes)

Whenever I can, I like to offer a new technique for you to try out.  Today, it’s beurre monté.

 First, a little chemistry. A stick of butter in its solid state is a semi-solid emulsion made of approximately 82% butter fat, 16% water, and 2% milk solids.  It’s fat with tiny droplets of water suspended throughout.  When we heat butter, the butter melts and the components separate.  Beurre monté is a method of heating, and melting, butter, while maintaining the emulsification. It’s water, with tiny droplets of fat suspended throughout.

 Beurre monté  is simply butter gradually whisked into water until the mixture thickens, or emulsifies. What you end up with is a silky, creamy workhorse of a sauce. This technique is a valuable tool to have in your culinary belt.  Once you get the basic method down, you’ll find that this sauce is quite versatile.  Experiment!  Additional ingredients, sweet or savory, can be incorporated to add aromatic flavorings. 

 The basic ratio is 3 parts water to 8 parts butter.  Since I’m into a fruity component with this meal, what with orange juice in the rice and pineapple in the pan juices of the scallops, I decided to use lime juice instead of water.

 In a small sauce pan, heat 1 ½ tablespoons lime juice to a gentle simmer.  Have ½ stick of chilled, unsalted butter cut into 6-8 pats.  Over low heat, whisk butter into lime juice, one pat at a time, until it melts.  Add the butter slowly and whisk vigorously for 20-30 seconds after each addition, incorporating the butter and establishing the emulsion. You want your temperature between 180° and 190°.  Don’t let the mixture boil; the emulsion will break.

  Once you’ve created your basic emulsion, you can then season it to complement whatever you’re serving.  I added ½ teaspoon sugar for a hint of sweetness along with a few squirts of sriracha sauce and a couple shakes of gochugaru for a little heat.  Keep warm while you prepare the scallops.


 For the scallops:

 Cooking oil and butter
12 large sea scallops
Lawry’s seasoned pepper
1 small can of pineapple chunks and juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
Dry sherry
Parsley, and optional cilantro chopped
Orange zest, minced

 To prepare the scallops, first remove that tough, chewy little muscle, called the "foot," on the side. It pulls off easily with your fingers.  Rinse scallops and pat them completely dry with paper towels.  Give them a light shake of Lawry’s seasoned pepper.  Heat a heavy bottomed skillet with a thin film of peanut oil to 375°.  Add in a tablespoon of butter and swirl to melt. Using a fine mesh sieve, very lightly dust the scallops with cornstarch right before searing.   Place scallops in one at a time, not crowding the pan.  Cook for about 1 ½ minutes on the first side and a minute on the second side.  Remove from pan to warm platter.  Reduce heat, add in minced garlic, and sauté for about 20 seconds.  Don’t burn garlic.  It gets very bitter.  Pour in the can of pineapple chunks with juice and a splash of sherry, stirring and scraping up all the goodie bits in the bottom of the pan.  That’s where the flavor is.  Let the juices reduce a bit, intensifying those flavors, then remove from heat.


To serve:

Spoon rice onto your dish and enhance with pineapple pan juices.  Nestle the spinach and mushrooms and sprinkle on toasted sesame seeds.  Plate the scallops and cascade that silky beurre monté over top.  Speckle with the orange zest and parsley.  And have a delightful meal.


Now, some step-by-steps, in case you need/like the visuals:


Little rounds of grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

Bake until golden.
Toast the 
sesame seeds.

of spinach.

A little sesame oil and butter in medium hot skillet.
Sauté the mushrooms.

Add another plunk of butter.  Add in spinach.
Soy sauce and mirin.  A few tosses.

Just let it barely wilt, then cover and set aside.


the scallops.
See that
little muscle?

Just pull it off.

Then rinse
and pat 
completely dry.


While the scallops were drying, I made the beurre monté.

Beurre monté:








Bring lime juice just to a simmer.
Lower heat.
Whisk in one pat of butter at a time.

Keep whisking until butter is melted and incorporated and forms  an emulsion.

Then add in
the next pat.

And there you have
an emulsion
of melted butter.
Ready for seasoning.

Sriracha sauce.











Now, the scallops:

Use a heavy-bottomed skillet. Pour in a thin film of oil, then a tablespoon of butter.  Medium high heat.

I like to season with Lawry's seasoned pepper.
Give the scallops a light dusting of cornstarch right before searing.

 Place in scallops one at a time.

Turn at  1 1/2 minutes.  
Cook about 1 more minute.
Remove from pan.
Reduce heat.

Add in garlic.

Pineapple chunks.

Pineapple juice.

Sherry or white wine.

Let those juices reduce a bit and concentrate the flavors.

 And plate:

Spoon that
silky goodness
over top
the scallops.

More on beurre monté:

  Once you get your basic emulsion established, then you can season the base to complement whatever you’re cooking.  For these particular scallops, I gave it sugar for a hint of sweetness along with sriracha sauce and gochugaru (chili flakes) for a little heat.  Depending on your what you’re cooking, use your imagination here and consider a range of seasonings.  You could add savoriness by using a stock instead of water.  You could experiment with different herbs.  Think about asparagus with a Dijon mustard flavored beurre monté.  You could use wine or sherry instead of water.  You could  accent with jams, jellies, or preserves or even some type of booze - liqueurs come to mind here - peach schnapps, amaretto, Kahlua.  Think about dessert - crèpes, pound cake, or angel food cake with fresh fruit, whipped cream, and a customized beurre monté.  Be creative.  The possibilities are endless.
I there's any leftover beurre monté  (unlikely, but possible), put itin a small container, refrigerate, then use later as you would a stick of butter.  It won't be in that creamy emulsified state, (It will melt when you heat it.) but it's still good eatin's!

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