This dish is the perfect transition from Summer to Autumn. I did not intend it to be, but this is the kind of food magic that ends up happening when you buy local during september. Earthy root vegetable sweet potatoes sharpened by goat cheese and softened by caramelized onions paired with fresh shrimp and sea scallops from Larsen's Fish Market on Martha's Vineyard. The shrimps paired with a sake-sauce to enhance the flavor, while leaving the scallops plain, focusing on getting that perfect sear and playing with salt proportions.
I made this dinner for friends and discovered how easy it is to make for dinner parties. The sweet potatoes can be prepared ahead and re-heated in a microwave, and the shrimp and scallops cook in 2 minutes and can be prepped quickly in between courses so you don't have to be forever trapped behind the stove while your guests are waiting at the table. As long as you put together the mise-en-place: the before meal prep taught in classic French cuisine entailing preparing, measuring and separating ingredients, and the step that many chef's consider the most important.
Sweet Potato Purée Recipe
Sautée onions (in olive, coconut, grapeseed, etc.), meanwhile boil potatoes peeled and evenly cubed sweet potatoes in salted water. When both are soft and tender, combine the two vegetables, add some herbs like thyme, a dash or two of white balsamic vinegar, and stir in goat cheese and chicken broth (or milk) and fluff it up with an immersion blender or food processor. Add salt+pepper, dash more vinegar and even agave to offset the acidity and play around with the taste.
How to tell when onions are sautéed?
To cook onions faster and bring out more flavor, add little splashes of water after they initially absorb the pan oil and dry up. This deglazes the pan, brings out the natural sugars in onions, creating a caramelization, and cooks onions faster because moisture cooking cooks faster (adding water to vegetables is great, but never add water (or a lid) to cooking meats or fish as it will make them tough and chewy). Onions are done once they are translucent and tender. Add S+P while cooking.
Sake Shrimp Recipe
Glaze sautée pan with coconut oil. Heat to high without burning, once searing hot, toss in salt and peppered shrimp. Working quickly, toss shrimps in pan, then add a splash or two (depending on portion size) of sweetened sake sauce (mirin) but enough to give a nice drizzle over each shrimp.
Squeeze half lime (or lemon) over shrimp just before removing from pan. The whole cooking process should take around 2 minutes, so plan accordingly.
How to perfectly cook shrimp?
Shrimp's are one of the most overly cooked sea meats, almost everyone, even top restaurants, overcook these delicate fleshy sea creatures. They cook even shorter than scallops. The moment the grey colouring of the shrimp turns to pink in all spots, remove from heat and plate so they do not keep cooking in the pan.
Seared Scallops Recipe
Unless you have an allergy, I would strongly suggest using a little butter for this recipe. The flavour of good (organic if possible as hormones are stored in fat of cow products) cannot be replaced. The trick is to get the pan searing hot, that's how you get golden outer sear. To achieve this heat, add a neutral oil like grape seed to the butter. Oils have a high burning temperature so they prevent the butter from going black with the high heat you need.
Salt+Pepper the scallops prior. Once heat is reached, place them in pan, but do not move them, they'll stick to the pan initially, but will lift off once cooked. Once the scallops turn slightly opaque and seared on side, flip them over and sear other side. First side should cook for about one-two minutes, other side cooks slightly shorter. Squeeze a little lemon, salt and pepper again and serve immediately. Scallops are one of those ingredients that are best cooked simply.
How to get that perfect scallop sear?
Fat (butter+oil blend), high heat, do not move scallops in the pan while each side sears: they will stick at first and then lift off the pan once cooked. First side cooks slightly longer than the other. Remember, always better to undercook than have them turn to rubber, and note that these delicate shellfish will still cook slightly once removed from the pan.