Thanksgiving is all about the best family recipes--the ones that use the most butter and cream and are handwritten on ancient recipe cards. Like my grandmother's corn pudding recipe—at the bottom she wrote, "Serve, eat & slap yo' mama!"
So don't make this recipe today. Enjoy your favorite family dishes with those you love, and log this one away for later. Because you have to admit, this recipe from Ruhlman's Twenty sure does look good!
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
The main critical points are to cook and shock the asparagus properly and to get a good colorful crust on the scallops. The hardest part is finding good scallops. Try to find a good fishmonger who can offer large dry-packed scallops in the fall and winter when they are primarily harvested. The larger they are, the better the dish will be, and the easier it will be to prepare.
Remove the scallops from the refrigerator 1 hour before cooking and place them on a plate lined with paper towels. They usually have a little nib of connective tissue on their side; remove and discard this.
Just before cooking the scallops, put the puréed asparagus in a saucepan over low heat. Put the asparagus tips and 1 piece of the butter in a sauté pan over low heat.
Season the scallops on both sides with fine sea salt. Heat a large sauté pan over high heat. It needs to be large enough that the scallops aren’t crowded, or you won’t get a good sear, one of the pleasures of this dish. Add enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. A depth of 3/16 inch/5 mm is ideal, but gauge the depth by eye. It is better to err on the side of too much oil. You’re not eating the oil, just cooking in it. When it’s very hot, just before it smokes, add the scallops and cook until they are beautifully seared, about 2 minutes. Turn and continue cooking just until the scallops are warm in the middle and medium-rare, about 2 minutes more. With scallops, it’s better to err by undercooking them; raw scallops are delicious, but overcooked scallops are rubbery. Remove the scallops to paper towels to drain.
While the scallops are cooking, raise the heat on both pans with asparagus to medium. Warm the tips in the butter. Bring the puréed asparagus to a simmer and season with kosher salt, then whisk in the remaining butter.
Immediately before serving, add the lemon juice to the asparagus sauce. Divide the sauce among plates or large bowls. Place the scallops on the sauce and garnish with the warmed asparagus tips and lemon zest.
Ruhlman's Twenty is one of those cookbooks that should be in every kitchen. Michael Ruhlman distills the art of cooking down to 20 fundamental techniques that "all cooks, regardless of their skill or station, need and use." Whether you're making a multi-course meal or some mac'n'cheese, this book will take you from cook to chef.
In this recipe, the grits are cooked with bacon and onion, and the shrimp is gently poached in butter, which then enriches the grits.
If you haven’t had grits in a while, make these, and you’ll ask yourself why they aren’t part of your pantry and cooking routine. They require at least the 30 minutes of cooking called for in this recipe, but can be cooked longer; in fact, they’re best cooked over very, very low heat for hours and hours so that they fully hydrate. The grits can also be cooked all day in a slow cooker, if you have one.
Add the grits and stir. If using milk or stock, add it along with 2 cups/480 milliliters water. If not using milk, add 4 cups/960 ml water. Raise the heat and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and cook the grits, stirring, for about 30 minutes. Give the grits several grinds of black pepper. Add more milk or water as needed (about 2 cups/480 milliliters) to keep the mixture fluid. You should use enough water so that the grits don’t stick to the pan and they can absorb the moisture they need. You can cook off additional moisture, so err on the side of using too much liquid. Keep the pan covered on low heat over a heat diffuser for up to 12 hours; monitor the moisture level, adding milk or water as needed. (You can also put the grits in a slow cooker on low or in a covered pan in a low oven, 150° to 200°F/65° to 95°C, for up to 12 hours.)
When the grits are ready, put 2 tablespoons water in a saucepan that is just large enough to hold the butter and shrimp/prawns. Bring the water just to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add a chunk of butter and whisk continuously as the butter melts. When the butter has begun to melt and emulsify into the water, add three more chunks and continue to whisk. (Or you can swirl the butter in the pan; it needs to keep moving—how you do it is up to you.) When all the butter is incorporated, add the shellfish and stir. Keep the pan on medium-high heat until the butter gets hot again. Use an instant-read thermometer to maintain a temperature just below a simmer, 170° to 180°F/77° to 82°C. Don’t let the butter to boil. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove a shrimp, cut it open, and check that it’s just cooked through. It should be white at the center, not translucent gray, and tender and juicy.
Put the grits over medium-high heat to get them up to temperature. They should be loose but thick. Taste and add more salt if needed. Stir about a third of the poaching butter into the grits.
Spoon the grits onto plates, and arrange the shellfish on or beside the grits as desired. Garnish with more butter, freshly ground pepper, and a squeeze of lemon.