Mary Ellen’s Test Kitchen

Scallops & fennel-The Duo Dishes

We bring you July’s Guest Test Kitchen!  Meet Mary Ellen Giess.  Not only is Mary Ellen a fellow Tar Heel, she’s also a close friend and fervent fan of the site (lucky for us).  Mary Ellen now resides in Chicago, IL and, like us, loves everything food and cooking.  We are constantly sharing recipes, great food sites, and tips in the kitchen.  So much so, we thought we’d introduce Ms. Giess with the rest of our audience.  We hope you enjoy this month’s installment.  This dish looks so scrumptious and delicious, we were sad it was made in her kitchen in the Midwest and far away from our California forks and mouths.  She said it was, and we quote, “off the chain!”  Mary Ellen, preach!

I’m not ashamed to admit it:  I am totally obsessed with Top Chef.  Not only because I love to laugh at the crazy drama, but also because I love getting recipe ideas.  This recipe is adapted from a dish that Jamie Lauren made last season (I love you, Jamie!  You were robbed!).  Maybe it’s a bit presumptuous to think that I can tweak a recipe written by a Top Chef, but as your loyal Duo Dishes writers can tell you, I can’t look at a recipe without thinking of ways to improve it.   This recipe incorporates so many things I love when I cook: fennel, scallops, using my food processor, and using my mandoline.

Pan-seared Scallops with Fennel Two Ways – Serves 4  (Adapted from Jamie (!!) on Top Chef)

Fennel cream
2 large fennel bulbs, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
5 garlic cloves
1/2 cup crème fraîche
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Fennel salad salad
3 large fennel bulbs, sliced thinly on a mandoline
1 medium orange, diced
1 medium orange, juiced
1 lemon, juiced
10 large green olives, cut into slivers
Lemon flavored oil (preferably olive or grapeseed)
Salt & pepper

2 tablespoons butter
8-12 fresh scallops (U10 scallops are preferable; if you can get these, you probably only need 2 a person.  If you can’t find U10 scallops and you need to buy smaller, you will probably want at least 3 a person.  Try to get the firmest scallops you can find!)

For the fennel cream:
1.    Toss the chopped fennel, onion, and garlic cloves with the olive oil and salt and pepper in a large roasting pan.  Roast in the oven at 400 degrees F for just under an hour.  Stir frequently and add oil if necessary, the vegetables should get very soft but not at all crispy.

2.    Puree the softened vegetables with the crème fraîche in a food processor.  Add salt and pepper if necessary.  Puree should be relatively thick.  Reserve warm.  (Word to the wise: The first time I made this, I made the whole cream first and then it just proceeded to get cold while I made the other elements of the dish.  You may want to make the salad and scallops while you are roasting the vegetables, then make the cream at the very last minute).

For the salad:
1.    Slice the fennel bulbs very thinly on your mandoline.  Put the fennel slices into a bowl of ice water while you prepare the rest of the salad (I am usually a very lazy cook and would generally skip this step, but it crisps the fennel up really nicely, so don’t skip this!)

2.    Whisk the orange juice, lemon juice, and lemon oil to taste into an emulsion.  Flavor with salt and pepper.

3.    Toss the sliced fennel, olive slices, orange slices, and dressing together until mixed evenly.

For the scallops:
1.    Melt the butter in a large skillet until very hot but not smoking (test to see if a drop of water sizzles when you drop it in).

2.    Place the scallops gently into the butter.  Use a spoon to drizzle the melted butter over each scallop as it cooks.  Cook the scallops for 2-3 minutes per side or until they are caramelized on each side, solid through and the flesh is opaque.

To plate:
Spoon a circle of fennel cream onto each plate.  Place the cooked scallops on top of the cream, and top with a serving of the fennel salad.  Sprinkle some fennel fronds on top for garnish.

Click HERE for the printable recipe.


32 thoughts on “Mary Ellen’s Test Kitchen

  1. Mmmm, I’ve made this dish before and it was so amazing! The fennel and orange are a great combination and went so well with the scallops. It was my first dish with fennel and I was so excited when I posted it. Looks great!

  2. Sounds like a very fancy meal – seared scallops and fennel – nice! And btw, you’re not the only one obsessed with Top Chef – I have many friends who are… hehe.

  3. you know what? i have never had fennel with scallops before. it sounds perfect for summer. (my family doesn’t like fennel, so i always do something simple when i’m cooking scallops.)

    maybe i can invite my fennel friends over and send the fam out for pizza one night. yum. thanks for hosting such a delicious guest, duo!

  4. I agree with Sarah, someone needs to contact Top Chef and tell them to have a ‘couples’ contest! You two would get my vote for sure…and that leek salad is just making me spin right now!

  5. I liked Jamie too, she was my favourite. I liked her personality and her cool, non-fussy recipes.
    This is a great example of her magic, delicious scallops!!!!

  6. I wished I loved fennel!!! I’ve tried several times, but turns out, they taste like black jelly beans to me – yuk! 😀

  7. I don’t want to be stupid, but what’s a tar heel? It does not sound very nice. Reminds me of all those years I lived in Santa Barbara, you could not even walk on the beach with out coming home with black gook on your feet. Butter would remove it just fine…but I seem to have digressed. GREG

  8. This is such an impressive recipe. Really! Mary Ellen, sounds like you deserve to be tweakin Top Chef recipes, because this one sounds like a winner!

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