Last week turned into an unintended blog hiatus. I cooked almost every day, but at the end of it all I really had nothing to write about. Or at least nothing I wanted to write about. The plan was to create an original recipe, and then write a post detailing my thought process in creating, refining and plating the dish. The final result, however, wasn't something that I was happy with. The dish never fully came together. At the end of the week, I had a bunch of photos that I wasn't really excited about, and a dish that wasn't fully realized. Uninspired and frustrated, I decide to put off writing until now.
The foundation and inspiration of the dish came from a meal that I had at Sage. A dish that is still on their menu, in fact. Day boat scallops with braised oxtail, wild mushrooms and a salted carmel reduction. The concept of surf and turf is nothing new, but I really enjoyed Sage's twist on it - using a braised meat along with seared scallops turned out to be a wonderful pairing. I wasn't over the top about the salted caramel reduction, however, so when I decided to put together my take on the dish, I went in another direction.
My concept was this - omit the caramel, up the earthiness of the dish by adding a sunchoke puree, and give the dish a little brightness by finishing it with some orange zest. Also, use braised short ribs instead of oxtail. Only it never quite came 100% together to my satisfaction. I made three different versions of the dish over three days and they were all lacking in some measure. The scallops and short ribs turned out great, but I wasn't able to tie the dish together with the other elements.
Day One's plate was just too brown - the sunchoke puree was unappealing to look at and didn't add much flavor to the dish. The beef and the mushrooms gave the dish all the earthiness it needed, what the dish lacked was brightness/sweetness. I also tried to sauce the dish with a reduction of the short rib braising liquid, but it turned out to be an ugly brown and oily (the oiliness was a technical error on my part). Day Two saw the sunchoke puree substituted with a corn puree and another attempt at the braising liquid reduction. The corn puree was a move in the right direction. Flavor-wise, it complimented the scallops and visually it made the plate more appealing. The braising liquid, while not oily this time around, was still just as brown and unappealing to look at. Day Three saw the braising liquid replaced by a red wine butter sauce, which just did not go with the dish. The color and the flavor were just off. The mushrooms, which I had cooked on Day One, were now wilted and very unappetizing. And I was never really happy with the plating on any of the days - it never popped. And that was it. I was out of scallops, and out of short ribs.
This is the challenge of being a one man operation of limited means. I only get so many cracks at each dish. As much as I wish I could just buy 5 pounds of scallops and keep making the dish until I get it right, I just can't. So where does all this leave this dish?
It's close - the scallops and the short ribs were right on. The corn puree, along with the mushrooms were winners as well. The orange zest stays. I still have to figure out a sauce, which is going to be the challenge. Over the weekend, I had a bolt of inspiration with regards to plating. Instead of a traditional round plate, I think a rectangular plate will work better; alternating the scallops and short rib pieces in a horizontal fashion with the mushrooms scattered in between. I'm confident it will get there in the future, I'm not abandoning this dish. All-in-all, I'm happy with the progress I did make, but disappointed that a complete dish was never finalized. When the dish does finally come together, I'll provide a recipe and a detailed step-by-step process.
Visit my facebook page to view a small gallery of photos from this dish.