If you’ve never tried truffle oil, you’re in for a treat. It has a completely unique and decadent flavor and is the ingredient that adds that certain ‘I don’t know what’ to this dish. It’s a finishing oil, not an oil you cook with – you put it on a finished dish, not in it. So, although the title of the recipe eludes to the fact that the truffle is actually in the creamed leeks – it isn’t. I just felt the word ‘truffle’ merited a place in there somewhere.
I find black truffle oil more flavorful than the white and is my preference when making all things ‘truffle’. It’s a little harder to find and a little more expensive, but well worth it. Because it’s more flavorful, you’ll use less of it – you don’t want to have to drown your dish in truffle oil just to get the flavor punch you’re looking for. You can find fantastic black truffle oil in Victoria at Charelli’s on Foul Bay Road (as well as a lot of other amazing stuff…and endless smiles and helpfulness from Carmen and the gang!) If you want to one-stop-shop, you can usually find a bottle of white truffle infused olive oil at most grocery stores these days, so you can pick one up while you’re shopping for the rest of the ingredients in the recipe. The internet is also an option – having a bottle delivered is always nice!
Scallops are a fantastic pairing with the leeks – neither one overwhelms the other, just simply supports each others’ subtleties. For those of you already scheming to add bacon as you read this, allow yourself to think outside the pan and do something completely nutty – don’t! At least try this recipe as written the first time, then make adjustments to your personal tastes the next time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge believer in a free hand in the kitchen – be creative, play with ingredients, have fun. But those little exceptions to the rule crop up now and then and for me, this is one of them. It’s too easy to overwhelm this dish, in my opinion. I find there’s a wonderful synergy created by the few ingredients in this recipe and truly believe this is a situation where less is more. Having said that, a light skiff of grated parmigiano reggiano at the end, some fresh ground pepper or even a little chopped bacon just might be the tweaking that makes this recipe yours.
Aside from the preparation of the leeks, this is an extremely easy dish to make. I like to get the hard part over with first, though, and usually chop them ahead of time so they’re ready to go before I start cooking. So, I set myself up with everything that makes me happy when I’m about to perform a tedious culinary task – a clean kitchen with uncluttered counters, my favorite tunes and a glass of wine. The happy coincidence here is that this recipe calls for wine. Obviously I’m on to something.
So let’s start with the leeks – 2 medium ones work well for 4 people as an appetizer (if you wanted to make this a main course, play with the amounts – you’ll want a few more scallops, another leek or two and maybe some mesclun greens to balance the richness).
You’ll be using the julienne technique for the leeks, but first you’ll need to consider how you want to clean them. Leeks have dirt on the inside, so you’ll need to soak them in water to help release it. In the past, I’ve cut the green part off, quartered them and let them sit in a jug of water. This time I followed the YouTube instructions for the ‘julienne technique’ (see the video at end of the post) – I julienned them first and then put them in a bowl of water – seemed much more effective, as more of the leek is exposed.
Once your leeks are done and are soaking in water, you can prep your scallops. Hopefully you’ve got East Coast scallops, the biggest you could find! You’ll need to check for the muscle that is usually attached (you may notice some don’t have one) and remove it. It’s the rectangular piece on the side of the scallop and feels more rubbery than the rest of it.
Now you’ll want to rinse them and pat them dry – really dry. An important step, as this is how the nice golden crust is achieved when searing them. Put them back in the fridge while you sauté the leeks.
Drain the leeks, add the olive oil and butter to a stainless steel pan and set to a high heat. Once the pan is hot, add your leeks and let them sizzle for a little bit. I turn the heat down after a few minutes, as I don’t want them to get color – and, you’ll be sautéing for about 20 minutes so a lower heat is perfect to get them nice and soft without browning them. Add a little salt and pepper. Once they’re looking good, you’ll turn the heat up to high – let it get hot, then add the wine. You want the wine to bubble and reduce and get absorbed by the leeks, it doesn’t take long. Once that’s done, turn the heat down again and add the whipping cream. You want a nice gentle bubble here, not a rolling boil – just a simmer to reduce the cream into a nice sauce-like consistency. Now’s a good time to adjust salt and pepper to your liking.
It’s a good idea to leave the sauce a little thinner than you’d like, as it will thicken up a bit as it sits while you’re searing the scallops. So, leave them on low to keep them warm and get your scallops out of the fridge. Give them another quick pat dry with a paper towel and then sprinkle one side with salt and pepper. Using a stainless steel pan once again, set to a high heat and add a fair bit of olive oil and butter – you want enough so it will travel up the sides of the scallop. Once the pan is nice and hot, turn the heat down a tiny bit to med-high. Don’t turn it down too low though, as you still want the pan hot to get good color on your scallop, just not right on high.
Add the scallops to the pan, seasoned side down, making sure to leave space between each one. Now sprinkle the unseasoned side with salt and pepper. You don’t want to crowd the pan, it will create moisture and you’ll lose your beautiful golden color. For this recipe we’re using 8, so choose a pan that’s big enough to cook them all at once without having to squish them in. Cook them on the first side for 1 minute, no longer. Turn them (tongs work best, as you want to handle them gently) and cook for another 30 seconds. Timing will depend on the size of your scallop, but you DO NOT want to overcook them! So, if you couldn’t find nice jumbo-sized ones, reduce the cooking time on each side. Once done, take them out of the pan right away and put them on a plate or piece of tin foil while you get the creamed leeks ready – the residual heat in the pan will continue to cook them and you don’t want that.
Make sure your creamed leeks are hot (increase the heat for a few seconds if need be) and divide equally amongst 4 appetizer-size plates. Put two scallops on each plate and drizzle with truffle oil. You want enough truffle oil to taste it, but not so much that it becomes all you taste. Start with a little, you can always add more later if you find it needs it. If you can’t live without bacon or cheese, add it now, but make sure they’re good quality – real chopped bacon, and a nice parmigiano reggiano. Serve immediately.
Scallops With Truffle Creamed Leeks
Serves 4 people as an appetizer
- 8 jumbo East Coast scallops
- 2 med-large leeks (white & light green part only)
- 1/2 c white wine (I used a Wolf Blass Yellow Label Chardonnay)
- 1 c whipping cream
- truffle oil
- salt & pepper
- olive oil and butter (for the pan)
- Julienne leeks, soak in water to release dirt.
- While the leeks are soaking, rinse scallops and remove muscle – pat dry and put back in the fridge.
- Once leeks are clean, drain. Heat stainless steel pan to med-high, add olive oil and butter, add leeks. Sauté for a few minutes, turn heat down to low and sauté nice and slow for about 20 minutes until tender. Add a little salt and pepper. Turn heat back up, add wine, reduce until absorbed by the leeks. Turn heat down low again and add whipping cream. Simmer gently until sauce forms. Taste…adjust salt and pepper.
- Remove scallops from fridge, pat dry again and season one side with salt and pepper. Set a stainless steel pan to high heat, add olive oil and butter. Once pan is hot and slightly smoking, turn heat down to med-high, add scallops, seasoned side down. Cook for 1 minute, turn and season with salt and pepper. Cook 30 seconds on second side, remove from pan.
- Heat leeks for a few minutes to get hot, then divide amongst 4 appetizer-size plates. Add 2 scallops per plate, drizzle with truffle oil, serve immediately.
Watch ‘How to Make a Leek Julienne’
All photos by Carol Good – all rights reserved