Sometimes in the kitchen, it’s all about time-tested combinations. Dill and cucumbers. Basil and tomato. Lamb and mint. When deciding what to cook, I use this guideline and frequently refer back to some of the most classic pairings in French cooking. Not only does this take the guesswork out of my process, but it ensures I’ll be making something that people have been enjoying for a long time.
Take potatoes and leeks, for example. In French cooking, they form the building blocks of a hearty leek and potato soup served hot — or, in summer, cold, when it’s puréed and known as vichyssoise. There’s not a lot of skill involved with making these soups, but they repay you so well, just for the fact that you had enough good sense to put the potatoes and leeks together in the first place. In this recipe, I marry potatoes and leeks in a ragout — a sort of stew — which forms a perfect bed for seared Shinnecock sea scallops.
As we all wait with great anticipation and patience for the arrival of the first locally grown vegetables of the season, this recipe offers hearty sustenance from the potatoes and a little taste of spring from the leeks. Try making this instead of risotto or polenta to go alongside any number of things, like roast chicken, sautéed pork chops or a seared piece of fish.
Seared Sea Scallops with Potato and Leek Ragout
1 pound sea scallops
4 russet potatoes, peeled
1 pound leeks, trimmed and washed (Use only white and light green parts)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter plus one additional teaspoon
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
½ cup all-purpose seasoned flour
1 teaspoon white or black pepper plus additional pinch for flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt or more to taste, plus additional pinch for flour
½ cup low-sodium or no-sodium chicken stock
½ white wine or vermouth
Peel potatoes and place in a bowl of water to prevent oxidation. Chop leeks and set aside. Cut potatoes into ¼ inch cubes. Add 1 tablespoon butter to skillet and add potatoes when foam subsides. Cook potatoes over low-medium heat until slightly brown, about 10 minutes. Remove to a plate and add another tablespoon of butter to skillet.
Add leeks, 1 teaspoon pepper and 1 teaspoon salt and cook until leeks are soft, about 10 minutes. Add potatoes, white wine and chicken stock. Cook until liquids are absorbed, about 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning, cover and set aside.
Place flour on a plate and add pinch of salt and pepper. Stir to combine. In a separate nonstick skillet, heat oil and 1 teaspoon of butter over high heat until foam subsides. Dredge each scallop in the seasoned flour (shaking off excess) and place in skillet. Plan on cooking the scallops in two batches as to not crowd the pan. Cook each scallop for 4 minutes on each side, lowering heat if necessary. Spoon ragout in the center each plate and place four to five scallops on the ragout.
Chef’s Note: The ragout is excellent served cold as well during summer months.