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Date Night Recipe: Diver Scallops

Adapted from THE NORTHERN CALIFORNIA BEST PLACES COOKBOOK by Cynthia Nims & Carolyn Dille. Recipe contributed by Bradly Ogden of the Lark Creek Inn and created by Sous-chef Jeremy Sewell on the occasion of his proposal to his girlfriend.

This is a truly delicious preparation and perfect for any date night in! Our final dish includes a side of risotto because, well, we just like a perfect side with a perfect dish.

Alexander's usually has the large dry scallops you need for this recipe and, from time to time, even has the much more rare "Diver" Scallops.

Howie's will have the fresh OJ and may, from time to time even have blood oranges.

Pan Roasted Scallops with Curried Leeks and (Blood) Orange Sauce

2 large leeks

2 1/2 cups freshly squeezed blood orange juice

or regular orange juice + 1 TB sugar

or regular orange juice + 2 to 3 TB (for color and a hint of flavor) grenadine syrup

3 springs thyme

4 TB unsalted butter at room temperature

1 TB curry powder

Kosher Salt

Freshly Ground Black Pepper

2-3 TB olive oil

1 lb large, "Dry" sea scallops or dry "Diver" scallops

Trim the root ends of the leeks. Split each in half and run under cold water, lifting up the 'leaves' to wash away any dirt. Leeks are notorious for retaining dirt so pay close attention.

You will be using both the white and green parts. Allow to dry or pat dry with paper towels. Cut into 3/4 inch slices and set aside.

In a small heavy saucepan combine the citrus juice (and sugar or grenadine if using) and thyme and slow boil until reduced to about 1/2 cup. Strain the juice and reserve.

Heat 2 TB of the butter over medium head and add the sliced leeks. Cook gently, stirring often, for 3 minutes. Add the curry powder and salt to taste and continue cooking until the leeks are tender, about 5 minutes longer.

Meanwhile, place scallops on a layer of paper towels and season with salt on all sides. Top with more towels and thoroughly pat dry. Let rest in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes. Remove and pat dry again. Season lightly with more salt and with pepper.

TIP: Getting the scallops VERY dry aids in creating that brown sear that is so desirable.

Heat vegetable oil in a large stainless steel or cast iron skillet over high heat until lightly smoking. .

Meanwhile (though you could do the leeks in advance), season the scallops with salt and pepper.

Reheat your sauce so that it will be (almost) ready when the scallops are done

CAREFULLY heat a large heavy skillet, preferably cast iron or carbon steel. If you have a thermometer, about 450 degrees over high heat. Add the oil which is likely to smoke. If you aren't comfortable with heating the pan as described, add the oil to a cold pan and heat over high heat until it begins to smoke. When the pan is ready add the scallops, leaving space between each one to prevent excess steaming. Cook scallops without moving them until well browned on first side, about 1 minute. Carefully flip scallops and cook until second side is browned, about 1 minute longer. Transfer scallops to a paper towel–lined plate to drain. You will want to time all steps in the your meal so that this becomes the last step as you will want to serve them immediately. Your goal is the have a good sear but the center to be somewhat translucent. You don't want to overcook them and they will continue to cook a bit after being removed from the pan. Having the hot pan lets you get a good sear and also allows for the center to be less cooked.

TIP: Placing the scallops into the pan in a circular and perhaps spiral fashion allows you to both flip and remove the scallops with relatively equal cooking times if you start and end in the same place at each stage.

Whisk the remaining 2 TB butter into the sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Place your prepared risotto on one side of a warm plate. On the other side place the prepared leeks. Place the scallops on top of the leeks. Spoon the sauce all around. Serve immediately

Risotto is one of the great Italian recipes. There are a vast number of variations where various additions (such as mushrooms or seafood) are added in. However, a basic risotto recipe is the perfect side to these scallops.

Here's one that should work beautifully: Creamy Parmesan Risotto from PBS Food. They finish their risotto with optional parsley and or zest (not mentioned in the ingredients). We suggest ignoring those ingredients and instead use a 'garnish' of a few leaves of fresh sage. We've put garnish in quotes because the sage should be mixed in by the diner into the rice. The hint of sage is a beautiful accompaniment to this dish.

WINE SUGGESTION: Chardonnay; one with a hint of oak is what we paired with the dish!

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