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Saturday, May 4, 2013

Think LIke A Chef - Seared Scallops with Pan Roasted Mushrooms

The first mushroom dish in the studies section of Think Like A Chef is Seared Scallops with Pan Roasted Mushrooms.   But first, a few words about mushrooms.

One of the things Colicchio points out is that young cooks often cook mushrooms the wrong way.  They put the mushrooms in too hot of a pan, and they tend to crowd the pan, which results in the mushrooms releasing their water.  When that happens, the temperature of the pan drops, resulting in the mushrooms stewing.  He says to make sure to cook the mushrooms in small batches.  That way, the mushrooms will still release their water, but the water will turn into steam, allowing the mushrooms to caramelize.

Also, in regards to cleaning, he recommends not rinsing them, but taking off the end part of the stem with a paring knife, and then scraping the mushroom clean, with either a knife or a damp paper towel, or even a toothbrush.  He notes if you insist on using water (I do), not to rinse them but let them soak, and them blotting them with a paper towel.  He also recommends not buying them cut, but to cut them yourself.

Step number one is to make the pan roasted mushrooms.  I had three types of mushrooms available to me: white button, crimini, and oyster.  After cleaning them, I peeled and finely chopped a shallot and a clove of garlic.  I also had a tablespoon of thyme leaves (fresh) a little butter (product) and a tablespoon of fresh tarragon leaves chopped.

A quick word about tarragon leaves.  I had never used fresh tarragon leaves before.  When I chopped them, they gave off a very fragrant smell of licorice.  I told this to someone who minored in the culinary arts in school, and she said the smell was lemony.  Confused I looked it up in the Internet.  We were both right.  Apparently, the smell differs depending on the variety.

Now the cooking technique is as follows:  Add a tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil to the pan, let it get hot, then add some mushrooms to the pan, with some Kosher salt and pepper.  You should be able to see the bottom of the pan in between the mushrooms.  After a couple of minutes, turn over the mushrooms.  Then add some of the shallot, garlic, butter, thyme and tarragon.  Cook for about two more minutes and then remove to a paper towel.  Wipe out the pan, and start on the next batch.  I had a pound of mushrooms, and I cooked them in five batches.

Next came the scallops.  Again, I needed thyme leaves, chopped tarragon leaves, some butter (product), the scallops, obviously, and oil.  Now, Colicchio uses peanut oil most of the time.  I chose to use grape seed oil based on a recommendation from Robert Irvine, when I was lucky enough to meet him.

First, I seasoned the scallops on both sides with Kosher salt and pepper.  I heated up the pan and grape seed oil over a medium high heat.  Once the oil shimmered, I added the scallops.

Now, I have to say that I love scallops, but man, I just cannot sear them correctly.  I think it may be due to the fact I just don’t let the oil get hot enough.  First I blotted them dry, and then added them to the pan.  After two minutes, I could see that they had definitely seared, but when I tried to turn them, they stuck a bit to the pan.  So now I had to make a decision.  I could let them cook more, but then I took the chance of over cooking them, or I could turn them, cook them so the inside is done correctly, but not have a perfect crust.  I chose to cook them so the inside was done correctly.  So, as gingerly as I could, I turned them over, added the butter and let them cook for another minute while basting them.  Then I took them off the heat and plated them.

The next step was to finish the mushrooms, so I added some more of the butter to the pan.  After it melted, I added the herbs and the mushrooms, until they were heated through.  The pan seemed a bit dry to me, so I added a tiny bit more Extra-Virgin Olive Oil.  Then I spooned the mushrooms around the scallops.  Then I finished the dish with a bit of parsley.

It looked better in person...hmmm...

The scallops were perfectly cooked on the inside.  Warm but still a bit opaque, sweet and juicy.


The mushrooms were well caramelized and had a kind of a combination earthy, nutty flavor.  Overall, a success.


  1. Sounds like an excellent dish, and I'm glad you recognize one of the issues with the searing (the oil not being hot enough). I think the other issue is that you didn't use enough oil---thus the sticking to the pan. If you're not using a non-stick pan (*I have said in the past that YES, you can get a good sear in a non-stick pan), then you will absolutely need to become friends with the oil and not worry about the fat content. In fact, if the heat is high enough, you wont need to worry about the oil soaking your scallops.
    I've been a stickler on plating and use of herbs in your past posts. I'm glad to see that you used both tarragon and thyme why would you garnish with parsley? Think like a Chef: make the flavors of the dish and the garnish/plating make sense. Next time you cook with an herb, use it in it's "raw" form to garnish. You could have either snipped small bits of tarragon or thyme over the dish, OR, more creatively, put a small sprig along side the plated food as a decoration. Remember: You don't need to necessarily eat the's often there to visually frame and compliment the food. If you ever start making radishes into roses, I'll never read your blogs again! :) Hey, I'm just being critical on the garnish because EVERY part of your plate should taste, smell, and LOOK like it was done by someone thinking like a Keep on cooking!

  2. I don't mind you being critical at all. I've learned alot from you! Keep it coming!