Every now and then I eat something at a restaurant and I want to go straight home and reproduce it in my own kitchen. Or, better yet, create something new inspired by what I ate. That was the case with these seared scallops with celeriac puree. Does this sound like an odd combination? Too fussy, perhaps? Too full of unknown root vegetables? Let me hasten to assure you: This was one of the easiest, tastiest, most satisfying spring meals I have cooked in a long time.
Celeriac (celery root) and rutabaga.
First, my inspiration. I had an hors d'ouevre of seared scallops on a bed of celery root puree last week at a local restaurant. The restaurant, Alana's, is a quirky local gem with lots of local, seasonal food cooked in brilliant and sometimes offbeat ways, but always with a sure touch for the delicious. It's our local spot, our own neighborhood restaurant, and I'm always inspired when I eat there. The combination of flavors and textures, in this case, were so delicious (warm, silky scallop over rustic yet delicate-tasting celery root) that I could have eaten a whole plate for dinner, and I knew I wanted to try it at home.
But when I was at the store I was struck by a moment of indecision. I really do like celeriac (see more about it here), but I don't altogether love it all by itself. It's delicious in small portions in a rémoulade or a side salad, but would its delicate celery flavor be too much in a dinner portion of puree? I decided to grab a rutabaga as well. I have fallen in love with rutabaga's delicious golden flavor and smooth texture. (Here's a little more about rutabagas.)
The taste of rutabaga is quite different from celeriac, though, and I wondered: would they go together well?
The short answer: Yes. That golden warmth in rutabagas balances the higher, sharper celery-like taste of celeriac, but the celery root also brightens the rutabaga. This puree is perfect for spring, a fresher sort of preparation for root vegetables, before the carrots and garden greens are really ready. Root vegetables like these are still widely available and in season after their winter storage, but this puree really tastes like spring.
You can do as I did and place a few seared scallops on top for some savory, delicious protein, or just go without and enjoy the puree as it is. Either way, I promise it will be delicious.
Rutabaga and Celeriac Puree with Seared Scallops
For the puree:
2 small to medium-sized celery roots, about 3/4 pound
2 small to medium-sized rutabagas, about 3/4 pound
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 cup full-fat sour cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Freshly ground nutmeg
For the scallops:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 pounds sea scallops, patted dry, thoroughly
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Peel the celeriac and rutabagas. (Here are some tips on peeling the knobbly celeriac.) Cut the vegetables into small, 1/2-inch or so, pieces.
In a deep, large (at least 4-quarts) sauté pan or cooking pot, heat a generous drizzle of olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped vegetables and the garlic and cook over medium heat for about 2 minutes, stirring and turning the vegetables so they are coated with the oil. Add a generous amount of salt and black pepper. Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat to low and partially cover the pan. Cook for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the vegetables are quite tender.
The rutabaga and celeriac cooking in the broth, and then as a puree, after the blender.
Turn off the heat and transfer the vegetables and broth (in batches, if necessary) to a blender or food processor. If using a blender, hold the lid down TIGHTLY with a towel! Blend until smooth and creamy. Taste and add salt if necessary (I added an additional 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt). Add the sour cream and blend again. Return to the pan and season to taste with black pepper and nutmeg. Keep warm over a very low flame, stirring occasionally.
To cook the scallops, heat the butter and olive oil in a wide, flat skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat. When the foaming subsides, pat the scallops dry one last time and add the scallops to the skillet. Sprinkle the scallops with salt and pepper and cook for about 1 1/2 minutes. Then flip over and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes on the other side, sprinkling with salt and pepper as they cook.
Remove and place on a bed of the puree and serve immediately.
Related: How to Buy, Clean, and Cook Scallops
(Images: Faith Durand; rutabaga image by Kathryn Hill)