WEEK FOUR CHALLENGE: PAN FRYING

You voted for it and you’ve got it – not only is it pan-frying week but it’s also DOUBLE POINTS WEEK and I hope you’re as excited as we are.

There are almost as many ways to put heat to food as there are weeks in this challenge, but pan-frying is one of the ones that you’ll use almost every time you’re in the kitchen.  Pan frying uses the process of conduction and plenty of contact  with the surface area of the food to encouragesbrowning, caramelization and flavor production (the Maillard reaction – for you chemistry nerds); which makes it a must-have skill for any cook.

One of the tricky parts of pan frying is that it can be difficult to control the temperature of your oil when you’re using such a small amount; so be careful, this isn’t one of those times to set the stovetop to HIGH and let it rip.  Keep an eye (and a nose) on what’s in the pan at all times.  This week features some great dishes that push the difficulty to a level that we haven’t seen yet in the challenge and leaves us guessing which is going to be your favorite: the Scallops with Gnocchi, Brussels Sprouts, and Apple-Bacon Gastrique or the Pistachio-Panko Crusted Halibut with Orange Béarnaise Sauce?

Before you move onto the food, don’t forget to vote for the February DOUBLE POINTS WEEK on the poll to your right.

Scallops with Gnocchi, Brussels Sprouts, and Apple-Bacon Gastrique

This recipe is certainly a little more work than normal, but it’s DOUBLE POINTS WEEK, so you had to expect we would bring the heat.  Broken down into the three stages presented here, this elegant meal can be made manageable and still be a (relatively) quick midweek meal. Gastriques are like the French version of a sweet and sour sauce – vinegar and sugar come together to bring a sweet and tart taste to a savory dish.  Here the sweetness of the apple cider and the smokiness of the bacon pair perfectly with the caramelized flavors of the scallops and brussels sprouts.  When cooking down your gastrique you want to look to hit the consistency that the French call nappé –  which roughly translates to “thick enough to coat the back of a spoon”.  This gastrique can be made a few days ahead of time and quickly rewarmed in the microwave before serving.

Gnocchi is a good starter pasta if you have never made one before.  You can always buy pre-made gnocchi in the grocery store but you’ll miss out on the satisfaction of making your own and bragging about it to your friends later.  Epicurious has a great recipethat will have you wanting to move on to making even more of your own pastas at home.  PLEASE note that for this recipe you will not be cooking your pasta in boiling water before cooking it in the pan – we’re aiming for some nice browning in the pan to add flavor.  Uncooked gnocchi can be frozen on a sheet pan, stored in freezer bags,  and defrosted for fifteen minutes before cooking.

For the scallops in this dish, I’m thinking that the simpler the better.  A quick pan fry in clarified butter will allow scallops to brown quickly and be perfectly cooked.  Why clarified butter you ask?  Because when the milk solids are removed from the butter, it can be heated to a higher temperature without burning and imparting off flavors to your delicate seafood.  For a fast clarified butter primer, check out David Lebovitz’s awesome website.  You don’t NEED to use clarified butter – I’m sure you could use olive oil – I’ll just be disappointed in you.

Scallops and Gnocchi with Apple-Bacon Gastrique (Serves 4)

Apple-Bacon Gastrique

  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 slices of bacon, cooked and chopped roughly
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1 ½ cups chicken stock
  1. In a small pot over medium heat, combine brown sugar and cider vinegar.  Stir allowing sugar to dissolve.  After sugar has dissolved, add crumbled bacon and allow to keep cooking for another 2-3 minutes until bubble start climbing up on each other.
  2. Add apple cider and chicken stock, increase heat to high and bring to a boil.  Allow to boil for 15-20 minutes or until liquid had reduced to ½ cup and bubble are again, climbing up on eachother.
  3. Strain out bacon pieces and keep warm over low heat while preparing the rest of the meal.

Gnocchi and Brussels Sprouts

  • 15-20 brussels sprouts, quartered on long axis
  • 1 batch of gnocchi or approximately 1.5 lbs if purchasing
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • Half of a lemon
  1.  Place larger sauté pan over medium heat and add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Add brussels sprouts, ensuring that cut sides are down, and cook for 2 minutes on each cut side until nicely browned.
  2. Remove brussels sprouts from sauté pan, replace any lost oil, and cook gnocchi in a similar manner, flipping after about 2 minutes to brown both sides.
  3. Put Brussels sprouts back in sauté pan.  Add ¼ cup of white wine and scrape bottom of pan to get up any of the brown bits left over from the cooking.  Allow wine to cook down to syrupy consistency and season with salt and pepper and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

Scallops

  • 1lb scallops (8-12 per pound)
  • ¼ cup clarified butter
  1.  Place sauté pan over medium high heat and add 3 tablespoons of clarified butter.
  2. Season scallops with salt and add to pan (in batches if necessary) and allow to cook for 2 minutes per side for proper browning.
  3. Remove from pan, serve with scallops and gnocchi with a drizzle of the apple bacon gastrique.

Pistachio-Panko Crusted Halibut with Orange Béarnaise Sauce


The basic Béarnaise sauce is a classical French sauce made of clarified butter, emulsified in egg yolks and flavored with herbs. Other variations include a reduction of wine, shallots, and herbs. This is how I prepared it with the addition of orange zest and juice to acidify the sauce.

To twist the standard approach on standard mashed potatoes, we will make a lovely cauliflower puree flavored with roasted garlic and a touch of butter and cream. The roasted garlic can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator. It also doubles as a great spread on a toasted baguette to go with your meal. But I digress, the puree is then topped with delicate creamy leeks and a mixture of oyster and shitake mushrooms. Finally, the plate is topped with a beautifully pan fried pistachio-panko crusted halibut filet, garnished with asparagus and drizzled with the delicate creamy orange béarnaise sauce. The halibut will be crispy on the outside and juicy and tender and flaky on the inside. That along with the citrus of the sauce and the subtle notes of roasted garlic and the creaminess of the melted leeks, lends to an amazing bite of food! Bon Appétit !

Roasted garlic

  • 1 whole head of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Pre-heat oven to 400°F.
  2. Slice off the top 1/4” of the head of garlic to expose all of the cloves.
  3. Place bulb on some tin foil and drizzle the oilive oil onto the exposed cloves so that it gets in all of the nooks and crevices.
  4. Sprinkle with a touch of salt and pepper and wrap foil tightly.
  5. Place garlic in the oven and let roast for 35-40 mins.

Orange Béarnaise Sauce

  • 1/2  shallot, minced
  • Zest of ½ an orange
  • Juice of half and orange
  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 stick of unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1/2 glass of white wine (just pour yourself a full glass, use half for cooking and drink the rest!)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon parsley
  • 1 tablespoon tarragon
  1. Heat a saucepan on medium lo heat.
  2. Melt the butter and add the shallots. Allow them to cook and soften being carful not to brown them. Roughly 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add the white wine
  4. Add the zest and orange juice (when zesting the orange, be careful that you only zest of the outer, colorful layer of the orange peel. The white pith will be bitter and unappetizing.)
  5. Increase heat to medium hi and simmer mixture until it reduces by half.
  6. On low heat, whisk in the butter continuously and slowly making sure butter is incorporated fully.
  7. Transfer sauce mixture to a double boiler over simmering (not boiling water), and add the egg yolks. Whisk continuously and vigorously until sauce is thick and creamy.
  8. Fold in herbs and remove from heat and set aside in a warm place.

Cauliflower Purée

  • 1/2 lb cauliflower florets, chopped (2 2/3 cups)
  • 4-5 cloves roasted garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
  1. Boil cauliflower florets until tender. Roughly 8-10 mins. Stain and place in food processor with the rest of the ingredients and purée until smooth.

Leeks and Mushrooms

  • 2 large leeks, white part of the stalk only (this is the tender part, the green tops are too fibirous)
  • 1/2 carton Oyster Mushrooms
  • 1/2 carton Oyster Mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 smaller cloves garlic smashed and finely minced
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Slice white part of leek stalk in half lengthwise and then slice into 1/2” ribbons.
  2. Heat pan over medium low heat and melt half of butter
  3. Add leeks and half of garlic and slowly cook, stirring occasionally, to soften until very tender. Roughly 20 mins.
  4. Heat another pan over medium heat and melt other half of butter
  5. Add mushrooms and rest of garlic and sauté unitl golden brown. Roughly 3-4 mins

Pan Fried pistachio Panko Halibut

  • Flour
  • 2 eggs for egg wash
  • 2-3 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons clarified butter for frying
  • 1/2 bag of pistachios, peeled and smashed
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 filets of halibut
  1. Prepare frying station.
  2. Place flour in a separate plate
  3. Place egg wash in an adjacent bowl
  4. Place panko breadcrumbs and chopped pistachios in another plate.
  5. Season all with salt and pepper
  6. Dredge each piece of Halibut into the flour, and shake off the excess.
  7. Roll each piece of floured Halibut in the egg wash, covering well.
  8. Place each piece of floured, egg washed Halibut on a plate of crumbs/pistachios, and coat all sides
  9. Set the coated Halibut aside, and heat 2 to 3 tablespoons of clarified butter over medium heat
  10. Carefully place the Halibut into the hot butter
  11. Cook about 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Halibut doesn’t take long to cook.

Place cauliflower puree on plate as a base. Top with a bed of succulent, melted leeks, top with a delicious layer or mushrooms. Then adorn the masterpiece with the Pistachio Panko Crusted Halibut and drizzle with the decadent creamy orange béarnaise sauce! Now enjoy the fruits of your labor!

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2 responses

  1. Pingback: The Leftover Diaries: Volume IV | 52 Week Cooking Challenge

  2. Pingback: WEEK NINE CHALLENGE: COFFEE | 52 Week Cooking Challenge

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