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Arctic Scallops and Crab Rice Polenta

by Florian
Russian Far North - Arctic Scallops and Crab Rice Polenta

In my review of Murmansk’s Arctic cuisine restaurant scene, an analysis of the menu served at Tundra Grill & Bar reveals two prominent local shellfish ingredients: scallops and king crab. The scallops are baked on the shell with algae, or baked in a dish with butter and herbs; prepared on their own, or with other seafood; added to a potato cream soup, or to a pizza. The crab legs are served warm in their shells, or shelled and cold in a salad or on toast; mixed with mashed potatoes as a garnish for cod, or used as a topping for pizza. (Contrary to what some chefs would have you believe, pizza plays a more important role in the local Arctic diet than reindeer moss.) So after tossing all those dishes around in my head (excluding the pizza), I came up with this idea: scallops baked on the half-shell and served with a crab rice polenta and a simple crab cream sauce.

I discovered the polenta di riso made by Anson Mills a few years ago, and I’ve been waiting for the right opportunity to use it in a recipe for this blog. In many ways, it’s like a cross between regular corn polenta and risotto rice: it has the porridge texture of the former and, like the latter, it benefits from being combined with a variety of ingredients. In this case, I’m adding king crab, smoked ham, scallions, and parmesan.

Russian Far North - Arctic Scallops and Crab Rice Polenta

In the USA, you don’t see scallops sold in their shells very often. They’re heavy, they take a lot of space, and most people don’t eat anything but the adductor muscle – which is what’s commonly referred to as a “scallop” just by itself. Yet, unbeknownst to many, Citarella has an even wider seafood selection on their website than in their stores, and they let you special-order scallops in their shells.

But I leave you the choice: whole scallops baked in the oven, or cleaned scallops seared on the stove top. All the steps below are common to both methods, except for the “Baked scallops on the shell” and “Sautéed scallops” sections, where you have to pick one. Each approach produces a slightly different texture (sautéing creates a harder crust with a softer interior, while the baked meat is more uniformly soft), so you might want to try both! Either way, the recipe serves four people as a main course, or eight if you create half-portions for an appetizer.

Russian Far North - Arctic Scallops and Crab Rice Polenta

King crab fabrication
Yields 4 servings

about 400 g frozen (cooked) king crab legs

  • Let the crab legs thaw in a bowl overnight.
  • Take the crab meat out of the shells, and remove the cartilage. Shred the meat into small pieces (about 1 cm long). 
  • Reserve the crab meat (you should have about 150 g) and the crab shells (you will need 100 g). 

Crab rice polenta
Yields 4 servings

65 g polenta di riso (rice polenta)
400 g water
3 g fine sea salt
30 g cleaned scallion whites, thinly sliced
5 g garlic, minced
30 g unsalted butter
150 g king crab meat
30 g smoked ham, fine brunoise
0.75 g piment d’espelette
15 g scallion greens
40 g milk
15 g parmesan, grated

  • Place the rice polenta and water in a saucepan and stir to combine. Set the pan over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly for 6-8 minutes, until the starch takes hold. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, for 10-15 minutes, until the grains are completely soft. Season with the salt.
  • In a small saucepan over medium heat, sauté the scallion whites and garlic in half of the butter until soft. Remove from the heat, and stir in the crab meat, smoked ham, remaining butter, piment d’espelette, and scallion greens.
  • Combine the crab mixture into the rice polenta and keep warm.
  • Just before serving, mix in the milk and the grated parmesan.
Russian Far North - Arctic Scallops and Crab Rice Polenta

Crab cream sauce
Yields over 4 servings

40 g butter
30 g peeled shallots, sliced
80 g mushrooms, sliced
100 g king crab shells
160 g white wine
250 g chicken stock
160 g heavy cream
1.5 g sweet paprika
8 g corn starch

  • Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Sauté the shallots, mushrooms, and crab shells until they start to color, stirring regularly. Add the white wine, and simmer until almost fully reduced.
  • Add the chicken stock , heavy cream, and paprika, bring to a boil, then simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.
  • Pass the sauce through a chinois, pushing down to extract as much liquid as possible from the solids.
  • Return the strained liquid to the saucepan. Dilute the corn starch in a small amount of sauce in a separate container, then add back into the saucepan and simmer for a couple minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly. Reserve.
Russian Far North - Arctic Scallops and Crab Rice Polenta

Baked scallops on the half-shell
Yields 4 servings (2 scallops per person)

8 scallops in their shells
1 pinch piment d’espelette
20 g butter
4 g scallion greens, thinly sliced

  • Clean the scallops: run a fillet knife along the inside of the top shell to separate, detach the adductor muscle and the roe from the bottom shell with the knife, and discard everything else (you can save the mantle to make a sauce). Watch this video for detailed instructions.
  • For each scallop on the half-shell: season with salt and piment d’espelette, then top with a little piece of butter and some scallion greens.
  • Bake in a 260 C / 500 F oven for 6-7 minutes, to an internal temperature of 49 C / 120 F. The scallop shells turn yellow during baking; if this bothers you, keep some extra shells for serving.
  • Drain the cooking liquid (you can add it to the crab cream sauce). Proceed with assembly immediately.
Russian Far North - Arctic Scallops and Crab Rice Polenta

Sautéed scallops
Yields 4 servings

8 large scallops, cleaned
about 15 g flour
canola oil

  • Score crosshatch marks on one side of each scallop using a sharp knife. Sprinkle with flour, shaking off any excess, and season with salt.
  • Heat the canola oil in a pan over high heat. Sauté the scallops scored-side-down until golden brown, then flip and finish cooking over medium heat, to an internal temperature of 49 C / 120 F.
  • Distribute the scallops between serving bowls and proceed with assembly immediately.
Russian Far North - Arctic Scallops and Crab Rice Polenta

Yields 4 servings

crab rice polenta
crab cream sauce
baked scallops on the half-shell or sautéed scallops

  • Reheat the crab rice polenta and the crab cream sauce over low heat, if needed.
  • In each bowl or in each scallop half-shell, add a few spoonfuls of rice polenta and pour some sauce to cover the bottom of the dish. Serve!
Russian Far North - Arctic Scallops and Crab Rice Polenta

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