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Scallops with Parsnip Puree, Candied Grapefruit and Crispy Prosciutto

Emma Hearst and Sarah Krathen, authors of the cookbook Sorella, had set aside a full day in Italy for sampling prosciutto di Parma. Unfortunately, it happened to be the one day of the week when every restaurant in Parma is closed. They’re eternally making up for that day and try to incorporate the prosciutto of both Parma and San Daniele in as many dishes as they can. The black pepper oil is also great on cheeses like stracciatella, in salad dressings, and drizzled on vegetables and meats.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup (1 oz./30 g) freshly ground pepper
  • 8 paper-thin slices prosciutto

For the candied grapefruit zest:

  • 1 grapefruit, preferably organic
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz./125 g) sugar

For the parsnip puree:

  • 4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) (2 oz./60 g) unsalted butter
  • 2 or 3 shallots, minced
  • 1 1/2 lb. (750 g) parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm)
      pieces
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 2 cups (16 fl. oz./500 ml) heavy cream

  • Extra-virgin olive oil as needed
  • 3 or 4 medium sea scallops per person
  • Kosher salt, to taste

Directions:

In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, warm the olive oil until it is gently rippling and just barely simmering, or registers 180°F (82°C) on an instant-read or deep-frying thermometer. Be careful not to let it boil. Add the pepper, stir to mix well and keep the oil at 180°F for about 5 minutes more. Remove from the heat and let the oil cool for at least 30 minutes or up to overnight. Strain. (The pepper oil will keep indefinitely in an airtight container at room temperature.)

Preheat an oven to its lowest setting, preferably 150°F (65°C).

Trim the excess fat from the prosciutto slices. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange the slices on the paper. Place in the oven and bake slowly until very dry and crispy, about 30 minutes. Alternatively, dry in a dehydrator until crispy. Break the prosciutto into 2-inch (5-cm) shards. Set aside.

To make the candied grapefruit zest, remove the zest from the grapefruit with a vegetable peeler, being careful to remove only the bright pink part and not the white pith underneath. Cut the zest into julienne. In a small saucepan, combine the grapefruit zest, sugar and 1/3 cup (3 fl. oz./80 ml) water. Cook over medium heat until most of the water evaporates and the liquid is syrupy, 7 to 10 minutes. The zest should become tender and a bit translucent. Remove from the heat and let cool. Set the zest aside in its syrup.  (The leftover candied zest will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.)

To make the parsnip puree, in a sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the parsnips and cook until softened, just a few minutes; do not allow them to brown. Season with salt. Add the cream, reduce the heat to low and simmer until the parsnips are extremely tender, about 30 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor and process to a silky smooth puree. Cover the blender to keep the puree warm.

When all of the components are prepared and you are ready to cook the scallops, pour olive oil into a large sauté pan to cover the bottom. (Work in batches or use 2 pans if necessary; you do not want to crowd the scallops or they will steam instead of sear.) Eyeball the depth of the oil and add more if needed; you want it to come about one-fourth of the way up the sides of the scallops when they are added. Set the pan(s) over high heat. Pat the scallops completely dry and season liberally with salt. When the oil almost begins to smoke, place the scallops in the pan. Cook until seared to a golden brown on the first side, 1 to 2 minutes. Carefully flip and sear on the second side for 1 to 2 minutes more, depending on the thickness and size of the scallops. Transfer to a plate to drain. If you have any scallops that are especially small, just flip them, let them sit for a second and immediately remove them from the pan.

To assemble: Make a swoosh of the parsnip puree on each dinner plate. Place the scallops in a row on top. Nestle the prosciutto slices between the scallops. Top each scallop with a bit of the candied grapefruit zest and drizzle the pepper oil around the plate. Serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6.

Adapted from Sorella, by Emma Hearst & Sarah Krathen (Olive Press, 2013).