Twice-cooked scallops and twice-learned lessons
Another take-home lesson from the Ideas in Food classes was the importance of brining seafood. I’ve long known that it was important to brine some fish, especially salmon and arctic char, when cooking it sous vide, to prevent protein from coagulating on the surface in unsightly white puddles of goo, but I’d never really considered extending it to all forms of seafood and all cooking methods.
In the Intro to Activa class, Alex mentioned that they brine all their seafood in a 5% brine, to firm up the texture and coagulate exterior proteins, as well as help extend shelf life. Sure enough, the technique is mentioned in their book as well, which gives the example of twice-cooked scallops: scallops are brined for 10 minutes (the brining time for other seafood depends on its thickness), then cooked sous vide for half an hour at 50°C, chilled, and seared right before serving.
It’s not uncommon to see “Scallops two ways” on restaurant menus, but this recipe was the first time I’d heard of “Scallops cooked twice.” Naturally, I had to give it a try, but once again I got burned by the poor quality of grocery-store seafood. The sous vide portion seemed to go fine, but when it came time to sear them, I just couldn’t get any colour on them. The end result was… OK, but to celebrate. I’m hoping to have better luck once I can source some better quality scallops. As always, ingredient quality is a better determinant of success than technique is. In any case, I served them in a cream of asparagus soup, and
Another salting lesson from the classes: when seasoning pretty much any food, 0.5% salt (by weight) is a good starting point. A few days after doing the twice-cooked scallops, I cooked some halibut for dinner, and remembered this lesson. Unfortunately, I remembered it – and applied it – before remembering to brine the fish. Clearly some lessons still need to sink in.
How do you use brines and seasoning?