The delicate, sweet flavor of scallops is perfectly matched with this fennel cream, itself loaded with sweet fennel flavor and very pure in texture from the fine straining (eating the cream with a spoon, as commenters have fantasized about below, would not be out of the question). The lentils are richly flavored with fennel and hints of Dijon throughout, with occasional thrilling bites of lardon. Don’t neglect to season them at early stages and to taste at the end. Note: I used a mix of 1 tablespoon each butter and olive oil to sear the scallops, which worked nicely without smoking so long as I kept the heat below full-blast.
For the Lentils
- 3/4cup Lentils du Puy, or French green lentils
- 1carrot, cut in small dice
- 1/2bulb of fennel, cut in small dice (completely dice a full bulb of fennel, 1/2 will be used here for the lentils, the other half will be used for the fennel cream)?
- 1shallot, finely minced?
- 1clove of garlic, finely minced?
- 1/4pound of slab bacon, cut into lardons?
- 1bay leaf
- 1-2teaspoons dijon mustard (to taste)
- 2tablespoons butter
- 3cups water
- Kosher salt and fresh black pepper to taste
- 12Large Sea Scallops (technically these aren’t part of the lentils recipe, but I wanted to make sure they got onto the ingredient list, this recipe calls for 3 large per person, use more or less as desired
For the Fennel Cream
- 1/2bulb of fennel, cut in small dice
- 1tablespoon shallot, chopped
- 1clove garlic, chopped
- 1/8teaspoon crushed fennel seed
- 1/4cup dry white wine
- 1/2cup chicken stock
- 1cup heavy cream
- Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
- Reserved fennel fronds for garnish
- Zest of 1 lemon, micro-planed
Rinse the lentils with cold water, check for pebbles or other debris and set aside. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of pan, then add the chopped shallot, garlic, fennel, and carrot. Turn heat to medium low and cook gently until softened and just starting to take color. Add the lentils, water and bay leaf, turn flame to high and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and gently cook for 25-30 minutes, until most (if not all) of the water has evaporated and the lentils are cooked just to al dente.
While the lentils are cooking, cook the lardons over medium heat until nicely browned and slightly crisp, but don’t render all their fat, you want them with a little chew. Drain on paper towels and reserve.
You can also make the fennel cream while the lentils are cooking. In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, cook garlic, fennel, fennel seed, and shallot in a little olive oil until translucent. Add the wine, turn up the heat and reduce until almost all the liquid is gone. Add the stock and reduce in the same manner. Add the cream and reduce by half, remove from heat and let cool slightly. Pour the cream into a blender and mix on high until very smooth. Pour through a fine mesh strainer into a small pan, season to taste with salt and pepper and cover to keep warm.
When the lentils have finished cooking, strain away any excess water and return the lentils to the saucepan, removing the bay leaf at this time. Add the lardons to the lentils, along with the mustard and butter, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and keep warm by the stove.
Season scallops with salt and pepper. Working in 2 batches if needed, melt 1 tablespoon butter per batch with oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add scallops and cook until brown, about 2 minutes per side.
Divide lentils among 4 plates. Arrange 3 scallops atop lentils on each plate. Spoon fennel cream around lentils and scallops and serve decorated with a fresh fennel fond, and micro-planed lemon zest.
This is my spin on a restaurant dish I had a few years back that paired scallops with lentils, an apple cider reduction, and a mascarpone cream.