Scallops are a sweet tasting mild fleshy bivalve that allow for endless recipe variations. They work equally well with both bright citrus flavors and smokey bacon. And somehow their unique flavor doesn't get lost in either one. I personally get lost in bacon quite easily.
A word on scallops... in France they come fresh, popped straight from the shell, without any additives. In the States, they are mostly frozen and then thawed. When buying previously frozen scallops make sure to ask if they have additives. Many frozen scallops have a saline solution (or some weird chemical) added that is supposed to keep them tasting juicy.
However, it often ends up steaming the scallops during the cooking process making them difficult to properly sear. The best previously frozen scallops are "dry packed". They sear nicely and taste fresh without any strange milky liquid.
And a word on sweet potatoes...
They are not yams! They are a distant relative but, were domesticated in the Americas as early as 5000 years ago. They are also not kissing cousins with potatoes either, although probably closer in relation. They come in many different colors: white, orange, and purple. And, they are extremely high in nutritional value.
I came up with the idea for saffron sweet potatoes purée by mistake. I was actually trying to figure out the ingredients to a soup I had at a Spanish restaurant in Paris. But, after tasting the purée, I decided to leave it – super yummy! The purée has no butter or cream and it is amazingly velvety in texture and rich tasting.
The dandelion greens are a nice bitter contrast for the sweet potatoes and the smokiness of the prosciutto goes along with everything. I also made little white sweet potato croutons to scatter around the plate for fun and to add some crispiness. 1 potato, 2 potato, sweet potato, more!
Serves 2 people and can be doubled no prob
6 huge sea scallops
1 package prosciutto
1 bunch dandelion greens
1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped
1 small white sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 medium shallot diced
2 medium sweet onions, sliced
Chicken stock (enough to cover your sweet potato)
10 saffron threads (more or less depending on how strong they are)
1 bay leaf olive oil dried thyme salt and freshly ground pepper toothpicks
Wrap 1/2 prosciutto slice around sides of each scallop and stick a toothpick through to hold. Refrigerate. Slice sweet onions on a madonline 1/4-inch thick. Heat a medium sized pot on medium heat with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and add all the onions. Don't stir them until they start to brown on the bottom.
Turn down the heat to low and allow them to caramelize slowly. If they start to get too brown, or they don't have enough juice add chicken stock a little at a time. (can be made 1 day in advance and reheated). Season with a pinch of dried thyme, salt, and pepper.
Peel and chop the sweet potato. Heat 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in a medium pot on medium heat. Sweat (cook slowly, don't brown) one medium shallot and add sweet potato. Cover with just enough chicken stock to immerse the potato and add saffron and bay leaf. Simmer until are soft. Remove sweet potatoes with a slotted spoon to a Cuisinart or blender and purée, adding the saffron cooking liquid little by little until the all is smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Keep warm. (Can be made 1 day before and reheated).
Peel and dice small (about 1/2" inch) one white sweet potato. Cook briefly in a pot of simmering water or olive oil (to confit, but it's not absolutely necessary) until al dente, about 1-2 minutes. Remove and drain on paper towel. Refrigerate until ready to crisp up. Heat a small non-stick skillet on medium high heat and add a little splash of olive oil – not a lot because the proscuitto has fat in it too! When skillet is hot, sear the scallops on all sides, top and bottom included. If the toothpicks get in the way remove them after most of the sides are browned. Scallops cook quickly, the large scallops I used for this took about 3 1/2 minutes total. Remove to a plate and keep in a warm area.
Crisp up the white sweet potato in the same skillet using remaining proscuitto fat from the pan. While cooking the scallops heat a small pot on medium high heat and add 1 Tablespoon olive oil. When oil is hot add the leaves (not the stems) from the dandelion greens and cook stirring often until wilted, about 1-2 minutes. Drizzle a little balsamic vinegar over and season with salt and pepper.
To plate: spoon sweet potato purée on a plate and place a dollop of caramelized onions in the center. Place scallops on top with another dollop of onions and the dandelion greens on either side. Sprinkle sweet potato croutons around plate.
Note: if desiring more acidity in this dish, drizzle some reduced balsamic vinegar around plate in tiny drops.