In 2010, I accompanied my daughter to New York City for her interview at Sotheby’s. It was a mandatory part of the application process, which she obviously aced because she was soon after accepted to the London Sotheby’s master’s program.
My daughter didn’t need me with her in NYC, but because she had been feverishly finalizing her first master’s degree thesis, she hadn’t really taken the time to think about interview clothes, or get herself emotionally prepared. That’s where Moms come in handy.
Thanks to my wonderful travel agent, I made reservations at the The Surrey hotel. Her recommendations are always fabulous, and this hotel was perfect for us. It’s a boutique hotel, just 1 block off of Central Park. Still lots of honking outside throughout the night but, well, it is New York. But the hotel was lovely and had the best staff. They even had a bottle of champagne chilling in the room after my daughter’s interview.
But the wonderfulness didn’t end there. Turns out, Café Boulud is right next door to The Surrey; they even provide the room service. We went for lunch one day, and were so impressed, that we went for dinner on another night. (My daughter and I also went to Le Bernardin one night, so we didn’t suffer in the dining department. Again, that’s what Moms are for!)
Every one knows of Daniel Boulud, but this was a first for me dining at one of his many establishments. The food, wine, and the service were all top notch at Cafe Boulud. And the best part? After the meal, you’re brought warm Madeleines, along with the check, of course.
So it was because of our experience that I bought his Cafe Boulud cookbook – one for myself and one for my daughter. It was published in 1999.
It’s a very interesting cookbook, because it’s organized differently from the traditional sets of chapters. The book is divided into four parts:
La Tradition, the traditional dishes of French cooking
La Saison, the seasonal specialties of the market
Le Voyage, dishes from lands far and near
Le Potager, vegetarian dishes that celebrate the bounty of the garden
Within each chapter are subchapters including soups, small dishes, lunches, main courses, etc. It makes it a little more difficult to look for recipes in the normal way, but it still works. I’ve made quite a few recipes already, and have many more marked.
I chose to post about the scallop and tomato grain for its simplicity. As I’ve mentioned before, simple food can be the best food – as long as it’s made with the highest quality and freshest ingredients.
This recipe allows the bay scallops and tomatoes to shine. And as my tomatoes have begun to ripen, this is the perfect recipe to try! It’s in the Le Voyage chapter, for its Italian style. He recommends a Pinot Grigio as a pairing, and I concur!
For this recipe you need to have peeled tomatoes. The way I peel potatoes is to boil them in water for about 30 seconds. If the skins don’t split, then use a tip of a knife to pierce the skin for easy removal.
Bay Scallop and Tomato Gratin
from Café Boulud Cookbook
3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
6 sprigs Italian parsley, leaves only, finely chopped
3 sprigs thyme, leaves only, finely chopped
3 sprigs basil, leaves only, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled, split, germ removed, and finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
9 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 1/4 pounds bay scallops
3 large ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch dice
Toss together the bread crumbs, half of the parsley, the thyme, basil, and three quarters of the garlic, season with salt and pepper, and set aside.
Preheat the broiler. Butter six shallow gratin dishes (The dishes should be only about 1″ deep and about 6″ in diameter.)
Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large sauté pan or skillet over high heat until it is very hot. Pat the scallops dry, then season them with salt and pepper and slip them into the pan. (Do this in batches if necessary.) Cook, turning the scallops as needed, until they’re golden on both sides, 2 minutes.
Toss in the diced tomatoes along with the remaining parsley and garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute more, to cook off some of the tomato juice.
Divide the scallop mixture evenly among the gratin dishes and sprinkle an equal amount of the seasoned bread crumbs over each dish. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over each gratin and slide the dishes under the broiler for 2 minutes – watch them closely – or until the tops are golden brown.
To serve: The herb-crusted scallops should be served in their gratin dishes, so place the hot dishes on heatproof dinner plates, and rush the gratins to the table.
On a side note, my daughter and I went to Bar Boulud in London, and we weren’t impressed. Maybe they had a bad night. But if you’re ever in NYC, check out Café Boulud!
verdict: As much as I’m a devotee of white pepper, I felt like it was too strong of a flavor for this scallop dish. Otherwise, the dish was fantastic!