Even though I’ve never had a chance to eat at his restaurant, Eric Ripert is one of my favoritest chefs ever. Ok, so what I know of him is only from his television appearances – as Anthony Bourdain’s buddy on “No Reservations”, as a judge on various “Top Chef” episodes, and as a curious chef touring the world on his own show on PBS – but doesn’t he just seem like such a nice and easy-going guy who oh look, also happens to be one of the top chefs in the country??! Let’s hang out, Eric! (Before you mock me too much, let me point out that I even know of a few men who have what can only be described as “man crushes” on Eric Ripert. So there!)

Alright fine, so maybe I won’t actually get to hang out with Eric Ripert any time soon. But I got a copy of his book (thanks to the contests over at Serious Eats – yay!) so it’s almost as good, right?? Given the reputation of Le Bernardin though, I was pretty skeptical about whether any of the dishes in the book would be doable at home. I was imagining recipes asking for seafood I’ve never even heard of, so fresh that they’re still wiggling around, and exotic, crazy ingredients you have to mail-order from France. Thankfully, flipping through the book, we did manage to find a few that are totally doable at home, especially if you’re willing to make some substitutions. This scallops dish is one of them – we opted to use sea salt instead of ‘smoked viking salt’.

Say no to smoking vikings, I say!

Adapted from “On the Line” by Eric Ripert.

8 Nicoise olives
8 large sea scallops, very fresh
coarse sea salt or other fancy salt
freshly ground pepper
extra virgin olive oil

Prepare the olives: Preheat oven to 180F. Remove the pits from the olives by splitting the olives in half – note that this is a bit difficult since Nicoise olives are small. Don’t worry about ripping the olives or anything, since you’ll be chopping them up later. Spread the olives on a baking sheet and bake until dry, about 1 to 1.5 hours. Remove from oven and let cool. Then roughly chop the olives and set aside.

Cooking the scallops: Rub each scallop with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Heat a cast-iron skillet or griddle over medium-high heat – make sure the pan is hot before you proceed or you won’t get a nice sear. Put the scallops on their sides on the pan and rotate them to sear just the edges. The scallops will still be quite rare on the inside (which is why you want very fresh scallops to start with).

Serving: Slice each scallop in half (so they’re still circles but skinnier ones). Place the halves on a plate, cut side up. Sprinkle the dried olives, fancy salt, and some freshly ground black pepper on each. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Serve immediately.

(Serves 4 as tiny appetizers)

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