Guest Chef Roy HendricksonBy Dennis Linden
This month's featured dish is an intricate and tasty appetizer that is almost as fun to prepare as it is to savor the results
Chef Roy Hendrickson, executive chef at Zimzala Restaurant in the Shorebreak Hotel, Huntington Beach, California, uses the delectable Pixie Tangerine four ways in his succulent Diver Scallops with Pixie Tangerine & Pickled Fennel Salad. While this delicious app has a visual design that is very much in keeping with Zimzala’s stylish yet comfortable beach town setting, the home chef will find this a perfect special occasion first course for a small group in any setting.
Pixies from the famed Ojai Valley of California are just coming into full production and will be available until supplies run out sometime in June. If you have not tried a Pixie Tangerine then you have not experienced what many mandarin aficionados consider the pinnacle of tangerine essence. There is really no flavor quite like a juicy-sweet Pixie; the fruit’s surprising taste seems to explode with every bite. Chef Roy uses whole tangerine segments in his salad mix, the Pixie juice and zest are key in the making of a wonderful reduction sauce; the peel flavors a butter sauté for the scallops and is also turned into a fine pixie dust garnish.
The other interesting fresh ingredient in Chef Roy’s creation is fennel. Licorice and tangerine may seem like an odd combination, yet it works deliciously. The pickling process takes the strong licorice of the fennel down several notches as it settles into a flavorful balance with the sweet tangerine. A very tasty pairing, indeed!
Actually, the chef uses three very different “fennel” or “fennel-like” components that continue to cause confusion in the marketplace because of their similar licorice flavors. True fennel is a plant that has a large, bulbous base of thick, fibrous layers from which shoot several long, wispy fronds. The whole plant is edible and is sometimes marketed incorrectly as Sweet Anise by retail grocers. The real anise plant is only harvested for its seed, which is marketed as a spice; it is not consumed as a fresh vegetable. However, both plants do belong to the same botanical family.
To further complicate things in the spice pantry, the Star Anise called for in Chef Roy’s dish is not related to the Anise plant or seed at all. The eight-pointed star, about the size of a twenty-five cent piece, is actually the dried fruit of an evergreen tree that grows throughout Asia. The plot thickens with the recipe’s fennel seeds, which are also not produced by the edible Fennel plant described earlier, but rather a hybrid variety that is only harvested for its seed value. So there you have it: Fennel is not Anise but is sometimes called Anise; Star Anise is not Anise either; Fennel seed does not come from Fennel. Sometimes there is such a thing as too much information!
Chef Roy’s recipe includes a wonderfully rich and flavorful gastrique with a Pixie juice base. A little taste of this sauce gets onto every forkful and matches perfectly with the diverse components on the plate. That diversity includes pickled licorice, sweet tangerine segments as well as a tender scallop basted in a sauté of butter, lemon thyme and tangerine peel! That is quite a gamut of flavors to play up against successfully but, again, the gastrique just works. In fact, this sauce really deserves its own file in your recipe collection; this reduction could be served successfully with chicken or pork.
The title of this amazing dish specifies one ingredient that the chef asked be underscored. Diver scallops are just that – harvested by individual divers, as opposed to the environmentally devastating practice of dredging (scraping) the sea floor, which tears up the entire ecosystem in the process. Diver scallops also tend to be less gritty and are transported to the marketplace much quicker so are much fresher. A better quality scallop while preserving the environment makes the Diver a win-win for all!
Chef Roy’s sustainable approach to fresh ingredients, especially seafood, is one that is a growing as more and more environmentally conscious foodservice professionals demand that the seafood they purchase has been harvested in a manner that does no harm to the species or the planet. A good reference for home and professional chefs alike is the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood WATCH Guide.
While this appetizer has several preparations within it, I found it an easy recipe to serve to a group of dinner guests. Everything, except those diver scallops, can be prepared in advance. Actually, the pickled fennel just gets better with a little age, so definitely make this component of the dish at least the day before serving.
When you are ready to cook the scallops, push all your guests out of the kitchen to focus or you’ll be serving miniature white hockey pucks. Scallops can be a challenge and have recently become infamous in the demise of more than one Top Chef on the culinary television program of the same name. Before getting started on the fish, plate the salads in assembly line fashion, have the gastrique, pixie dust and frond readied. Following Chef Roy’s concise directions in the art of scallop preparation should provide some culinary fun and keep you from being eliminated in your own kitchen! Enjoy the process as well as the taste of this wonderful appetizer. Happy forks!
Diver Scallops with Pickled Fennel & Tangerine Salad
Created by Chef Roy Hendrickson
Serves 6 (appetizer plates)
6 each diver scallops (dry packed preferred)
3 lbs. Ojai Pixie Tangerines
(approx. 1 lb. of segments)
2 each fennel
4 oz. fresh chervil leaves
, stems removed
4 oz. fresh sorrel
, rough chopped
2 cups sugar
1 each star anise
1 each cinnamon stick
1 tbsp. fennel seed
4 cups distilled white vinegar or cider vinegar
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. grape seed oil
1 tbsp. champagne vinegar
2 cups water
1 sprig of lemon thyme
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 each tangerine rind
¾ cup dry sherryPreparations
For the tangerine gastrique; Juice four of the tangerines and combine with ¼ cup of water, 1 cup of sugar, ¾ cup of dry sherry, and 1 tablespoon of champagne vinegar. Then zest all four of the tangerines and reserve. Bring the juice mixture to a simmer in a stainless steel sauce pan. Poach the reserved zest in the mixture for one minute, strain the zest out and return to a simmer. Continue to reduce, brushing the inside of the pan with water to inhibit crystals from forming while the liquid thickens to a syrup. Chill in the refrigerator until plating, but serve at room temperature.
For the pickled fennel; Remove the fennel fronds and reserve for garnish. Julienne the fennel bulbs and place in a non-reactive container i.e. ceramic, glass, stoneware, food-grade plastic. Combine the remaining water and sugar with the star anise, cinnamon stick, white vinegar and fennel seed in a stainless steel pot and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Once the mixture has reached a simmer, pour over the fennel. Cool to room temperature, then place in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Bring to room temperature before plating.
For the pixie dust; Micro-plane remaining tangerines, place on a parchment lined sheet tray, dry in a preheated oven at 200° for 10-15 minutes. Let cool then buzz in a coffee grinder into a fine grain and reserve.
For the scallops; Bring a heavy sauté pan to medium high heat, add grape-seed oil. Season the scallops on the presentation side, then sear until golden brown. Salt the back side of the scallop in the pan and add the thyme, butter and tangerine rind. Then turn the scallops over and baste using a large spoon. Transfer onto a paper towel lined plate and keep warm.
To plate; In a mixing bowl combine the pickled fennel, tangerine segments, sorrel and chervil in a mixing bowl. Toss with olive oil and kosher salt to taste. Place in the center of a plate, perch the scallop off to the side, spoon the gastrique around the plate and sprinkle the edges of the plate with pixie dust, garnish with fennel fronds.