Hubby and I had a “Cherry Galore” dinner two weeks ago to close off this year’s cherry season with a yum- and photo-tastic menu celebrating cherries in each of the four courses. While I was going through my notes on previous cherry season-feasts in preparation for the gig, I immediately zeroed in on this recipe, sporting a few blotches and a between-stirs-scrawl reading: “re-do for blog!!! 1.7.2017”.
As soon as I read my own barely legible chicken scratches, I remembered that day. Vividly. Even hotter outside than this year – too hot, in fact, to do anything with the seasons very-cherry bounty other than… eat them right out of and in front of the open refrigerator and wash them down with a glass of seriously cold Pastis. While I was sitting there on the kitchen floor, feeling like a little kid, I noticed for the first time how extraordinarily well cherries and anise worked together and, as soon as the ice-cube tingle at the back of my head wore off, I went ahead and put my newly discovered flavor combination to the test. Since undiluted Pastis is rather harsh on even the most booze-bite-proof palates, my first impulse was to use it to flambé off… well, what exactly, I had yet to decide. I didn’t want to go down dessert-lane with those two, so I went on a quick fridge-/freezer-/pantry raid, and – courtesy of 35°C+ temperatures – came up with nothing but a whooping not-much of frozen peas, frozen scallops, two apples, an apricot, several cheese wedges and four baby potatoes of the “use me now or I’ll walk away on my own in a couple of days” variety. And the dwindling pile of cherries, of course. After making another amazing combo-discovery – Taleggio cheese and cherries, yum~! – during my make-this-work moment, I ate the apricot, ditched the peas, remaining cheese and apples and decided on a fried potato and scallop Surf & Turf, flambéd with Pastis and with lots of cherries on top. The end result of the experiment stunned both me, fan of cherries and seafood and anything anise-related, as well as hubby, not a fan of cherries and even less enthusiastic about both seafood and anything anise-related, into silence. The kind of silence we call “pudding silence” over here, the one that fills the room when everyone’s blissfully stuffing their faces with a delicious dessert – or, in our case, a delicious starter. According to Hubby, with whom I wholeheartedly agreed of course, it turned out “absolutely yumtastic!” and “can we please have this more often?” So, if you think I’m biased on this matter, take it from hubby “Mmmmhmmmore.”
Here’s another morsel of food for thought, brought to you by Hubby: I had intended this to be a starter, but he suggested it to fit perfectly on a breakfast/brunch spread (with a couple of more potatoes) as well. Or maybe as a main, served on a pile of salad leaves and “some sort of refreshing, lemony dressing”. He still refuses to admit to having any skills even remotely related to cooking. <insert heavy sigh here> Anyways, here we go, a delicious starter/brunch dish/salad for two:
The Scallops, Black Cherries and Crispy Pastis Potatoes
6 Fingerling Potatoes, diced into ½ cm cubes
3 Sage Leaves, finely chopped
Salt, Pepper, Nutmeg
3 Tbsp Olive Oil
12 Cherries, stemmed, pitted and halved
4 Tbsp of Pastis
1 Tbsp Honey
Fleur de Sel
A generous Pinch each of Sea Salt, freshly cracked Pepper and Chilli Flakes – I always use the kind that comes in a kind of sinister-looking, unprinted/unlabelled mystery paper baggie, found at the register counter of the Thai-run Asian Food Market nearby for my standard “Pinch of <insert no further specification here> Chilli Flakes”. If you can’t take/risk that kind of heat, I highly recommend using dried Ancho or Poblano flakes for their aroma and/or a very small pinch of Bird’s Eye chillies for the zing.
Opt: Salad Leaves of any kind to create “beds” on your plates
1) Place the cherry halves in a mixing bowl and drizzle them with the honey and 1 tbsp of olive oil.
2) Dust them with a generous pinch each of salt, pepper and chilli flakes.
3) Give the lot a gentle but thorough stir until the cherries are evenly dotted with the flakes, then set the bowl aside and allow the cherries to marinade for an hour.
4) Douse the potato cubes with boiling water, then spread them out in a wide sieve or on a pan splash-guard to steam off and dry.
5) Sprinkle them with a very generous pinch of salt and leave them to squeeze out excess water for 1 hour as well.
6) Once the time’s up, pat them with paper towels to soak up the moisture currently on its way out of the cubes and get ready to fire up the pan. Yep, just one large pan – I simply love it when a dish looks/sounds/tastes rather fancy while being a ridiculously simple quick-fix behind the scenes. Don’t tell anyone, though~
7) Set a large, heavy-based pan onto medium heat.
8) Add the potato cubes, the butter, the remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil and a generous dusting of salt, nutmeg and pepper.
9) Fry the potato dice for roundabout 15-20 mins until they’re deliciously golden and crispy all around.
10) About 10 mins into their pan-time, have the sage leaves join the potatoes.
11) As the dice are nearing perfection, pick up your scallops and pat them dry with a couple of paper towels before seasoning them with salt, pepper and a hint of chilli on both sides.
12) As soon as the potatoes are done, move them to one side of the pan and pop the scallops into the newly opened space in the heat.
13) Sear them for 1 min on each side, then take a step back and deglaze them with the Pastis.
14) As soon as the boozy cloud has poofed out of existence, add the honey and the cherries – juice and all -, give the contents of your pan a hearty flip to mix things through evenly, then close the lid and place the pan back on the stove for 3 mins.
15) And that’s it! Plate up, sprinkle everything with a pinch f Fleur de Sel and…