Having done quite a technical dish last time, I thought I should show you an equally beautiful plate which is a touch more accessible to less confident cooks. Happily it also requires very little in the way of specialist cooking equipment (although if you do have a sous vide machine it is certainly (even) easier).
Well trodden in the history of numerous cuisines is the pairing of pork and shellfish. From Porco à Alentajana in Portugal to the multitude of delicious pork and shrimp concoctions to be found in the far East, a great number of cultures have long celebrated this surf and turf marriage made in the kitchen. Indeed in northern Europe (where I’m from), putting porky products with bivalves has also been de rigeur for generations (think black pudding, cauliflower and scallops – the archetypal nouveau British pub dish).
Here I’ve opted for a twice cooked pork belly without skin (proper crackling is hard to come by in Holland), but the addition of that crunch would also make an amazing addition to this dish. The melt-in-your-mouth earthy, fatty pork is wonderfully complemented by the firm, sweet, ozoney flavour of the scallops; Both of them benefiting from a sharp kick from the horseradish-infused emulsion and the acidity from the burnt onions. And sage? Well pork just adores sage too… Pork and Scallops is an open relationship.
Ingredients (for 2)
- 400g pork belly (skinless)
- 6 scallops (preferably hand dived)
- Sage leaves
- A couple of mini onions or shallots
- Double cream
- Horseradish cream
- Red wine (optional)
- Port (optional)
1. Cook the pork in a sous vide at around 65c/149f of braise in enough water to barely cover, over a very low heat, for as long as you can. You literally can not overcook this cut – it just renders more and more fat and becomes more unctuous with every passing hour. When finished, take it carefully out of the bag/pan, place on a plate and place another plate on top. Put something heavy on the upper plate (I use a stone mortar) and chuck in the fridge until flat, cold, and set firm. Season well at every stage.
2. Cook the asparagus in a touch of water for about 5 mins until just soft, blend as fine as you can, and pass through a sieve to get rid of the tough woody parts. Mix with a splash of cream, horseradish and a squirt of lemon. Keep warm. You can also turn this into an espuma if you really want to show off, but you’ll then need a siphon gun, and I promised a recipe without too many gadgets.
3. Take the scallops and pork out the fridge half an hour before you want to eat and allow to come up to room temperature. Season liberally with salt.
4. When you want to eat, fry the pork over a gentle heat until golden on the outside, before portioning. Fry some sage leaves also in the pan to crisp up and impart some beautiful flavour into the pork.
5. Turn the heat right up under the same pan, and when smoking hot, put a couple of onions, peeled and cut in half, face down (with no oil) until they are totally black. Remove and take apart into the separate leaves and keep aside for garnish.
6. Now pour a tiny bit of oil in to the still smoking-hot pan and place the scallops clockwise around. This method helps you remember which you put in first and thus which needs turning first. Leave them alone… don’t touch them, don’t shake the pan.. just wait. After a minute or so they will have developed a delicious, deep brown, and amazingly sweet crust. Turn them very briefly and then get out of the pan before they turn to rubber.
7. If you can be bothered you can pair this dish beautifully with a syrupy reduction of red wine and port which goes perfectly with everything else on the plate. (See photo below) Of course if you don’t have the energy for another step, just leave it out.. Noone will ever know.
8. Plate! Let your inner artist out. Any way you place these ingredients together it will not only taste but look amazing. Enjoy.