Coincidentally the 2 main components to this 3rd course of the Valentine’s Day menu – and served to the guests during our free food promotion – are inspired by 2 World class Chefs and both came from my days at Le Cirque. The lobster risotto was out of Daniel Boulud’s repetoire, and the scallop rosace was passed along by the legendary Nouvelle Cuisine pioneer, Roger Verge of Moulin de Mougins fame. The rosace was his course in the summer of 1998 when we had a $2500/plate dinner which featured nothing but 3 star Michelin Chefs… Paul Bocuse, Gerard Boyer, Alain Ducasse, and Roger Verge each presented a course along with our chef Sylvain Portay and pastry chef Jacques Torres.
There was a tremdous amount of electricity in the air that evening and the cooks were divvied up between the Chefs. I was placed with Verge and got to assist with the scallops. Being in the shape of a rose (hence rosace), it seemed natural to bring this out for Valentine’s Day.
The quality of the scallops in the preparation are key. In all our scallop preparations, we only use sushi grade, dry pack scallops of U-10 (under 10/pound) size. These are inspected to be sure they are free of any tears, and then sliced as thin as possible using a sushi knife, and overlapped onto a squared off piece of buttered, aluminum foil. They are formed into the shape of a rose, working from the outside in.
Cooking it is challenging. Because it is so thin, it is very susceptible to overcooking and becoming rubbery.
To cook it, it is lightly seasoned with kosher salt and flipped upside down into a smoking hot saute pan with a small amount of clarified butter. A small pat of butter is added to assist in the coloring and prevent sticking. After a few seconds, gently lift the top piece of aluminum foil to see that the outside of the scallop begins to brown. At this point, the rosace should be able to move freely and not be stuck to the bottom of the pan. If it is stuck, add some more whole butter and gently shake the pan to free it. Next, remove any excess grease by pouring it out while stabilizing the rosace with a perforated spatula. Next, in a very quick and deliberate motion, flip the pan upside down onto a pan fitted with a wire rack. The natural albumin (as in egg whites) that is found in scallops will have stuck the slices of scallop together. By the way… this whole process takes about the time it would take an average reader to finish this paragraph. Also, as this is the last step in the preparation, it has to be done at the last possible second for optimum results.
The lobster risotto contains no actual lobster, but a lobster roe butter I picked up in Daniel’s kitchen just before he left to open his first restaurant. This is made with 1 part of green lobster roe processed with 3 parts softened butter. The result when added to the rice is that it will turn red as photographed in this link and inherit the distinct lobster flavor of the roe.
For the remaining components and inspiration I turned with the risotto towards Italy. Cauliflower has a deceptively delicate and when paired correctly can even be seductive despite all of its detractors who must have had too much of it boiled as a kid like I did. Both lobster and scallops love it however. The next ingredient is a gremolata which helps to bridge the flavors and is made by finely chopping parsley and combining it with lemon zest, garlic and extra virgin olive oil. To present it, I placed a puree of the cauliflower in the base of the mini glass and topped that with softly sauteed lobster and finished that with the gremolate. Tiny fleurettes of the cauliflower went into the lobster roe risotto which was filled into a scallop shell. The scallop rosace slid off of the aluminum foil directly atop the risotto and the gremolata was lightly brushed on the top. A bowl was placed at the table for the guest to place the shell and unveil the goodies in the glass.