Premiere Episode’s Quickfire Challenge Winner: Gabriela and Rich’s Seared Scallops with Pickled Zucchini, Pear & Fennel Sugar
Judging by everyone’s excitement over the past few weeks leading up to the Top Chef Canada premiere, I’d say that most of Canada was just as amped for the fourth season of the cooking competition series as I was. When it finally hit television screens on March 10th, it certainly didn’t disappoint.
The first challenge of the season was definitely an interesting one. I couldn’t imagine having to prepare a dish with someone I had just met, let alone not being able to talk to them. I imagine it would feel like that moment when you’re playing charades and it’s so clear to you what you’re acting out but your team is just not getting it.
While we watched some duos struggle with the no communication cook-off, others did well, like Gabriela and Rich. While it was evident that Rich wasn’t too sure about the components Gabriela put on the finishing plate, his thoughts were neither here nor there because the judges loved what ended up on their forks.
Pickling zucchini may sound a little odd, but I’m a fan of pickling just about anything. The zucchini for this dish was a quick pickle. The traditional method for pickles is fairly time-consuming (and a batch can yield too much for a lonely bachelor like myself). The quick-pickled zucchini was a great balance to the sweet pear and rich-tasting scallops.
In the recipe below, I used camelina oil instead of a regular high heat cooking go-to, canola oil. The camelina oil has a really high smoke point, making it great to help the scallops get a good sear. It also has a sweet, almost nutty taste to it, adding a bit more depth to the finished dish.
Seared Scallops with Roasted Pear and Pickled Zucchini
Total cook time: 40 minutes
Quick-pickled zucchini ingredients:
1 cup white vinegar
? cup water
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 clove garlic
1 dried bay leaf
1 teaspoon chili flakes
¼ zucchini, thinly sliced (approximately 1 cup)
Scallops and pear ingredients:
1 bosc pear, halved
2 tablespoons camelina oil
8 large scallops, patted dry
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
1 lemon, zested and juiced
salt and pepper, to taste
Quick-pickled zucchini directions:
1. Place all ingredients except zucchini in a small pot and bring to a boil.
2. Pour hot liquid over top of sliced zucchini and let sit for 10 minutes.
3. Strain and set aside to cool.
Scallops and pear directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Place pear flesh-side down in a small baking dish and roast until tender, about 25 minutes.
3. Heat one tablespoon of camelina oil in a large pan on high heat. Once hot, place the scallops in the pan and let them cook until they’re nicely browned on both sides, approximately 2 minutes per side.
4. Once the scallops are browned, add the butter to the pan, reduce to low heat and baste them for 1 minute by tilting the pan towards you and spooning the melted butter over top of them.
5. Transfer scallops onto a paper towel to absorb any excess oil.
6. Dice the (now) pickled zucchini and place in a small bowl along with the lemon zest and juice. Mix together and season to taste with salt and pepper.
7. Remove pear from oven and let cool slightly before slicing thinly.
8. To serve, place thin slices of pear on each plate, top with 4 scallops each and several spoonfuls of the pickled zucchini mixture. Finish with a drizzle of camelina oil.