In his notes to me, Chef Brian described his butternut squash and pear puree as “delicious baby food.”
Really, though, Week 8, Meal 1: Sauteed scallops over butternut squash and pear puree with arugula, pear and hazelnut in honey cider vinaigrette is more than than just Gerber for grown-ups.
It’s luxurious and velvety, sweet and savory, and best of all, it looks like it took some work to make, but it’s one of the easier dishes we’ve done on the blog.
The Recipe (Yield: 2 servings)
2 T olive oil
10-12 oz. scallops (number will depend on the size of the scallops, could be anywhere from 3-6 per portion; keep the number of scallops even)
1/2 small onion, diced
2 cups diced butternut squash
2 d’anjou pears
1T + 1t honey
1 t vanilla
2 oz. arugula
1 T hazelnuts, preferably skinless, crushed
1 1/2 t cider vinegar
As always, get the prep out of the way first. For this recipe, that means first breaking down the butternut squash. To be fair, you can purchase it pre-cut at most grocery stores (Trader Joe’s usually carries it), but for my first time with butternut squash I wanted to break it down myself (Video: How to cut butternut squash).
I started by chopping off the top and bottom so it could stand on its own. Then I sliced it in half.
Next, use a peeler to trim into the squash, about a 1/2 inch, until you hit the flesh. You’ll be able to tell by looking at where the duller skin mostly disappears and the brighter flesh shows through.
Remove the seeds and stringy stuff around them using a spoon. Then, with a knife, cut the squash into planks, and from there, cut those planks into a medium dice. You’ll need 2 cups of butternut squash for the recipe.
Chop the rest of the squash now too and save in a plastic bag or container because you’ll use it for the rest of the week, if cooking all three meals.
Next, take 1 pear and core it, skin it and dice it.
You’ll slice the other pear later, but save that for right before you make the salad, because you don’t want the cut pear to brown while you’re cooking the rest of the meal.
Also, dice 1/2 onion and crush 2 T of hazelnuts.
In a large sauce pot heat 1 t of olive oil over medium high. Add onion and cook for 1 minute until softened. Add butternut squash and the diced pear.
Cook 1 minute and then add enough water to cover. Bring to a simmer and cook until butternut squash and pears are very tender.
While the squash and pears are cooking, combine 2 t of olive oil, 1 1/2 t of cider vinegar and 1 t of honey in a small bowl or plastic container. Whisk well (or shake well if there’s a lid on it) to make the vinaigrette. Reserve.
When the squash and pear are tender, transfer to a blender. Combine with a couple of spoons of the cooking liquid and 1 T of honey, 1 t of vanilla, salt and pepper (to taste). Puree until it has the consistency of baby food and reserve on the side, making sure to keep it warm.
This would be the time to slice the other pear. I cut mine in semi-thin slices, and then cut those slices in half to have bite-size pieces.
Heat a medium saute pan over medium-high heat and coat the pan with 1 t of olive oil. While the pan is heating, salt and pepper both sides of 10-12 oz. of scallops. Make sure the store you purchased them from removed the grit. You can usually ask at the seafood counter, or do it yourself.
Add scallops flat side down and sear until nicely golden brown on top about 2 minutes. Don’t be a jackass like me and overcrowd the pan or else you won’t get a good sear. COOK IN TWO BATCHES IF YOU RUN THIS RISK!!!
Chef Brian said sometimes they don’t brown depending on their natural sugar content, but in this case I did overcrowd and I knew it. But … to be fair … I was freakin’ hungry.
Flip scallops over to the other side and turn off the heat. Scallops should finish cooking in about another 2 minutes nice and slowly to a medium rare – medium perfection.
In a large bowl, toss together 2 oz. arugula, the sliced pear and crushed hazelnuts. When ready to plate, dress with the honey cider vinaigrette.
To plate: Lay 3/4 cup butternut squash puree down on the plate in a line about 2 inches wide and 4 inches long. Lay down scallops in a row on the plate over the puree. Mix together arugula mixture with the vinaigrette and put it over the scallops.
My puree didn’t keep in that line shape Brian wanted, but who cares, this was one delicious dish. The undertones of vanilla in the puree balance with the raw nuttiness of the hazelnut and the sweetness of the butternut squash finds the perfect counterpart in the tender scallops.
This is the kind of dish that costs a pretty penny at nice restaurants, but you’ll save money by making this fancy feast at home.