For this recipe, it's best to use diver or dry-packed scallops, which are dry and firm rather than soft and wet.
Make Ahead: The asparagus, peppers and creamed spinach/sauce can be made several hours or a day in advance, then briefly reheated when you prepare the scallops.
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 18 medium (18 ounces) asparagus spears trimmed and cut in half crosswise, then lengthwise
- 1 medium red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut into very thin strips (julienne)
- Medium-grind sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 12 ounces baby spinach (9 cups; no need to stem)
- 2 medium shallots, finely chopped
- 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, chopped (stemmed if necessary)
- 1 chipotle en adobo, chopped, such as La Morena brand
- 1 cup half-and-half
- 1/2 cup fish stock or clam juice
- 2 pounds large (U-10) dry-packed scallops (see headnote)
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- Chopped chives or parsley, for garnish (optional)
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Line an ovenproof plate with several layers of paper towels.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, until the oil shimmers. Add the asparagus and red bell pepper; cook for about 3 minutes, stirring often, until the vegetables soften and begin to brown. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Transfer the vegetables to the paper-towel-lined plate, then place the plate in the oven while you prepare the rest of the dish.
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the spinach and blanch for about 1 minute or just long enough for the leaves to wilt. Drain the spinach and rinse in cold water. Working in several batches, use your hands to squeeze as much water as possible from the spinach. Transfer the spinach to a cutting board and chop it coarsely.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat, until the oil shimmers. Add the shallots and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until they have softened. Add the chopped mushrooms and chipotle pepper; stir to incorporate, and cook for 1 minute. Add the half-and-half and the fish stock or clam juice, then the drained, chopped spinach; mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to an ovenproof bowl, then place the bowl in the oven (with the vegetables) to keep warm.
Generously season the scallops on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat the canola oil in a large cast-iron or nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, until the oil shimmers. Add the scallops and sear until they are nicely caramelized, which will take about 2 minutes. Turn the scallops over to sear on the second side for 1 to 2 minutes. They should be plump and firm, but not hard, when you press on them. Remove from the heat.
When ready to serve, divide the spinach evenly among individual wide, shallow soup plates. Place 3 or 4 scallops in the center of each portion and surround them with equal amounts of the asparagus and red bell pepper mixture. Garnish with chopped chives or parsley, if desired.
From Real Entertaining columnist David Hagedorn.
Tested by David Hagedorn.
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