Recently, I was sent Anita Lo’s new cookbook “Cooking without Borders”.
Anita Lo is the owner and chef of the Michelin starred Annisa. She has been featured on Chopped All Stars, Top Chef Masters, Iron Chef America, the Martha Stewart show and more. This is her first cookbook. In Cooking without Borders, she offers more than 100 recipes celebrating the best flavors from around the globe, including chapters on appetizers, soups, salads, main courses, and desserts. These recipes show home cooks everywhere how easy it is to think globally and prepare creative and delicious food.
What intrigues me and draws me to this cookbook is the combinations of flavorings, tastes and textures. This book does not reflect the cooking that I have done in the past. This book was fun, although taking me out of my comfort zone in the fact that so many of the ingredients in this book I have been foreign to and have never tried. I will continue to use this book to broaden my tastes and experience some of the flavors from around the world.
For my recipe, I have to admit that I did stick to some of the comforts that I know; nevertheless, this dish was intriguing in its ingredients, tastes and textures. Somethings I subbed. The recipe calls for sea urchin, and at $55.00 a pound where I live, this ingredient was left out. I swapped the Chinese Mustard greens for baby broccoli, first because I couldn’t find Chinese Mustard greens, and second, I love baby broccoli. (Broccoli Rabe was a listed acceptable substitution.) This recipe was used in the Elimination Round in Top Chef.
Pan Roasted Sea Scallops with Uni, Bacon, and Mustard Greens
From: Cooking Without Borders by: Anita Lo
For our elimination challenge in the first Champions Round of Top Chef Masters, we were each asked to present our fellow competitors with a signature dish – subsequently, one of our opponents would have to reinvent and make the dish his or her own. As none of my signature dishes could have been done in the two hours allotted, I chose this rich scallop entrée because it’s indicative of my cooking. The seared golden mollusk sits on a white potato puree, surrounded by a ragout of orange sea urchin, dark mustard greens, and burgundy-hued bacon. Although the shellfish is the star, the salty meat is the lynchpin; with the bitter greens, the bacon recalls the Southern collards -and – pork pairing; with the same leaves mustardy notes, it draws on that condiment’s ability to enhance pig parts; with the briny sea urchin, it calls a chowder to mind; and, with the sweet scallop, it references a staple of New American cuisine. My Potato puree is based on David Bouley’s . His is composed of fingerlings and butter in equal amounts, plus a bit of heavy cream I apply less butter and combine fingerlings with Idaho potatoes, which maintain fluffiness and make for a more foolproof outcome. When Hubert Keller reinterpreted my dish on that television show, I don’t remember his straying that much from the original, but I believe he substituted peas for the mustard greens. Home cooks have a chance to put their own twist on things; for example, caviar could be used in place of sea urchin, or that component could be left out entirely. – Anita Lo
For the potato puree:
1/2 cup peeled & roughly chopped fingerlings potatoes
1 small Idaho potato, peeled & roughly chopped
3 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
A few grinds black pepper
For the scallops:
1 tablespoon neutral flavored vegetable oil
1 1/2 pounds extra-large sea scallops, connector muscle removed (3 or 4 scallops per person)
1 teaspoon salt
Black Pepper to taste
For the Sauce:
1 tablespoon Cognac
1/4 cup Lobster stock or clam juice
2 tablespoons bacon lardons, cooked to render fat
1/4 cup wide stem Chinese mustard greens, cut (on bias) into bite size pieces
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives
Pinch of chopped fresh tarragon
20 pieces sea urchin
1 teaspoon lemon juice, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Black pepper, to taste
Make the potato puree: Put the potatoes in a pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Add 1 teaspoon of the salt and cook until the potatoes are tender. Drain well and pass through a food mill. In a small saucepan, heat the cream and the butter over medium high heat until the butter is melted and the cream is steaming, then whisk the mixture into the potatoes until well blended and smooth, do not over whisk, which will make the potatoes gluey. Season with the remaining salt and pepper. Cover and set aside in a warm place.
Make the scallops: Heat a pan large enough to hold all the scallops in one well spaced layer. Add the oil, and when it’s smoking, add the scallops and season with the salt and pepper. Lower the heat to medium high and cook until golden brown. Turn and cook to desired doneness. (I like them medium-rare, about 2 minutes per side.)
Meanwhile, make the sauce: Heat a small saute pan over medium high heat. Add the cognac, bring to a boil, and cook for 30 seconds to cook off some of the alcohol. Add the stock and lardons and bring to a boil. Add the mustard greens and butter and stir to emulisfy. Add the chives and tarragon, then add the sea urchin and a little lemon juice to taste. Taste and adjust the seasonings, adding the salt and pepper.
To Serve: Place the potato puree in the center of each of 4 large serving plates. Circle the puree with the sauce and try to distribute the lardons and mustard greens evenly. Top the puree with the scallops and serve.
Note: There are endless different kinds of mustard greens and any of them will work in this recipe. You have, to name a few, the red frilly variety, the green frilly type, and the Chinese type called gai choy that are either small, or as I prefer for this preparation, wide stemmed. Those stems are often, pickled, or as here, braised. The cooking process tames the sharpness. They retain their mustardy bite but won’t overpower the other ingredients. Although quite strong, broccoli rabe, a cousin of these greens, is a viable alternative, if you use it here, a little bit will be enough. ~ Anita Lo
This is a high quality, beautifully photographed cookbook. If you’d like to learn some recipes from around the world, or if you’d like to expand your repertoire, this is the book for you. Now that we have even greater access than ever before to ingredients from all corners of the world, there’s no better time to enjoy these flavors at every meal, presented by one of our country’s most innovative chefs.
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