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Scallop Tartare from the Russian Far North

by Florian
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Scallop Tartare from the Russian Far North

In my last post, I introduced you to the Pomor people and reviewed Pochtovaya Kontora, a restaurant in Arkhangelsk that serves its own interpretation of the local cuisine. One of the dishes I tried there was a scallop tartare, made with fresh scallops, cold-smoked halibut, and cucumber, topped with salmon roe and a few dill sprigs, served in a little puddle of smoked tomato water and green oil. Scallops in Russian cuisine? Really?

Well, yes! Russia may not rank among the world’s top producers (those would be the UK, the US, Canada, Japan, and South Korea), but the Russian Far North and Far East both have emerging scallop fisheries, in the Barents Sea and the Sea of Japan and Sea of Okhotsk, respectively. Combine the scallops with a few ingredients more traditionally associated with Russian food – dill, cucumber, salmon roe, smoked seafood – and you get a perfect example of modern Russian cuisine. Kind of what I try to do here at Food Perestroika…

In creating my own scallop tartare recipe, I departed from Pochtovaya Kontora’s dish in a number of ways:

  • The tomato water is out. I really couldn’t figure how anyone was supposed to eat it together with the tartare, and tomato seemed neither local nor seasonal.
  • Instead, what a tartare needs is bread, which is why I’m serving fingers of rye bread (another staple from Northern Russia) toasted in butter.
  • One of the things scallops are known for is their high umami content. Raw bay scallops pack even more umami taste than raw large scallops, and sautéing any kind of scallop over high heat also ups its game. I want to play that umami card to its full extent, so I’m quickly searing the large scallops that go into the tartare, and I’m serving a small skewer of (lightly smoked) sautéd bay scallops on the side. Incidentally, the salmon roe on top is also rich in umami taste.
  • Finally, I made a number of tweaks: I added green apple, Greek yogurt, and lime, and I skipped the smoked halibut (whose rather generic smoked seafood taste is already found in the smoked bay scallops).
Scallop Tartare from the Russian Far North

To smoke the bay scallops, you’ll need a smoking gun. Worried that this is a kitchen gadget you’ll only use once? Fear not, I’ve got plenty of recipes for you! A smoked Karelian balzam cocktail, smoked mussels, smoked trout, smoked perch roe, smoked sulguni, smoked pork belly… See, it’s almost as useful as a vegetable peeler!

Dill oil
Yields about 20 servings

salt
15 g dill sprigs
60 g grapeseed oil or canola oil

  • Bring about 1 liter of salted water to a boil. Blanch the dill for 5 seconds, then drain and transfer to a bowl of ice water. Let cool for a minute.
  • Squeeze the water out from the dill, pat dry with paper towels, then coarsely chop and transfer to a blender. Add the oil, and blend starting on low, increasing the speed to high just long enough to blend most of the dill, 20-25 seconds.
  • Pass the dill oil through a chinois, pour into a squeeze bottle, and refrigerate. The oil can be kept for a couple of days.
Scallop Tartare from the Russian Far North

Scallop tartare
Yields 2 servings

250 g large scallops
salt
10 g canola oil
20 g peeled green apple, brunoise
15 g peeled and seeded cucumber, brunoise
25 g plain Greek yogurt
4 g lime juice
0.2 g lime zest
2 g dill oil
0.5 g piment d’espelette

  • Debeard the scallops and season with salt. Heat the canola oil in a pan over high heat, and sauté the scallops 5-10 seconds per side until lightly colored (this helps develop their umami taste). Remove from the heat, drain on paper towels, and let cool for a few minutes.
  • Cut the scallops into a brunoise. Some scallops may be gritty and should be discarded or kept for some other use (try them and see; off-white coloration is usually a good indicator). You should have about 185 g of scallop brunoise. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  • Add the green apple, cucumber, yogurt, lime juice, lime zest, dill oil, and piment d’espelette. Combine using a spatula, and rectify the salt level if needed. Return to the refrigerator until ready to use.
Scallop Tartare from the Russian Far North

Smoked bay scallops
Yields 2 servings

6 (about 20 g) bay scallops
salt
5 g canola oil

  • Debeard the bay scallops and place into a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, insert the tip of a smoking gun, and fill the bowl with applewood smoke. Let sit and infuse for 10 minutes.
  • Remove the plastic wrap from the bowl, and season the scallops with salt. Heat the canola oil in a pan over high heat, and sauté the scallops until brown on all sides.
  • Drain on paper towels, then skewer the scallops, three at a time, on 12 cm cocktail skewers. Proceed with assembly immediately.
Smoked Bay Scallops

Assembly
Yields 2 servings

7.5 g butter
about 30 g rye bread without crust
scallop tartare
3-4 g dill oil
15 g salmon roe
2 small dill sprigs
smoked bay scallops

  • Melt the butter in a small nonstick pan over medium heat. Cut the bread into four fingers (or just two slices if you prefer), and sauté in the butter until golden brown on all sides.
  • Mix the scallop tartare once more. In the center of each plate, fill a 4 cm tall, 6.5 cm diameter ring mold with tartare. Drizzle with dill oil, top with a spoonful of salmon roe, and decorate with a sprig of dill. Arrange the toasted bread on the side, topping with a bay scallop skewer. Remove the ring mold, and serve immediately!
Scallop Tartare from the Russian Far North

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