We visit the AVIA where expertly paired, locally-inspired small plates really round out a wine tasting tour. Chef John Alexander breaks down why day boat scallops are so special and makes a succulent appetizer that will have you coming back for seconds.
Day Boat Scallops Recipe Divya Gugnani: Hi, I'm Divya Gugnani and I'm enjoying a very sunny, beautiful day in Napa, California. While most people come here to taste wine, I'm here to enjoy the fine cuisine. So let’s go behind the burner and meet the chef at Avia Kitchen & Wine Bar. I'm here with executive chef John Alexander. John, I see beans and bacon and corn, some of my favorite ingredients. What are we having? John Alexander: We’re going to have a pan seared sea scallop with a—and a delta corn puree. I'm going to go ahead and start with some scallops. What I've got here is U-10 which is a size differentiation. It means under 10 to a pound. They're day boat scallops which means they're the day the boat goes it in the daytime, but they're shut on the boat and packed right then and there. There is no processing plant. They're dry packed which means that there is no saline. So when you sear them, they don’t lose a lot of the moisture. Divya Gugnani: So a great tip is to buy the dry packed scallops. John Alexander: Absolutely. So what I've got here is a little bit of kosher salt and some white pepper. So I'm going to season both sides of those. Let me get some grapeseed oil and go in here while this is getting hot. Divya Gugnani: So why do I like to use grapeseed oil? John Alexander: Grapeseed oil is a neutral flavored oil. It doesn’t impart any flavor to the dish. It’s also allergen-friendly. You want to flavor the scallops to kind of come through. But what I've got over here— Divya Gugnani: Is some boiling water. John Alexander: I've got some salted boiling water. I'm just going to add my fava beans in. We’re going to let those go for just a couple minutes. I've got some ice here that we’re going to shock those in. Divya Gugnani: And so is that the technique, you want to boil the beans to cook them and shock them to stop the cooking process. John Alexander: What you want to do is you basically want to just heat them through quickly. You just have to soften up the skins on the outside and they you can squeeze it out, squeeze out the bean on the inside. You don’t want the bean overly done. Divya Gugnani: So how long are you cooking your scallops? John Alexander: I like to cook them about a minute, a minute and a half on each side. Let me go ahead and turn these over and turn this off. Divya Gugnani: Look at that beautiful brown color. John Alexander: Yeah, that’s part of the dry pack. That’s when you have a dry packed scallop, they will caramelize like that and just give you that nice— Divya Gugnani: Beautiful brown color. John Alexander: So I've got my pan hot here. And some grapeseed oil again here, a little bit of the apple wood smoked bacon. Divya Gugnani: Love that. John Alexander: Apple wood smoked bacon. So what we’re going to start here is the succotach. Succotash is a southern vegetable medley. You may refer to it as southern succotach in the cartoons. Succotash really does exist. It’s a beautiful thing. So we've got a little bit of diced red onion, diced red bell pepper and then I'm going to take some of our delta corn here. We got some sweet delta corn, move ahead and take some of the husk here. Divya Gugnani: That’s a nice technique, just hold it and run your knife down. John Alexander: So we throw the delta corn right in there, the raw delta corn. So what I've got here is some fava beans that I've already boiled and shocked. So, let's go ahead and add those in since they’ve already been partially cooked I'm going to add those in last. Divya Gugnani: Look at all those gorgeous colors. You’ve got the green and the yellow from the corn and a bit of the bacon. That’s glistening and a red from the onion. John Alexander: So and right here when I've already started over here is the delta corn puree. I've got again, delta corn, a little bit of the heavy cream, a little bit of butter, some salt and white pepper and this is going to be—I mean, just keeping it simple, just to keep the flavor in the corn. So what I'm going to do is I'm going to put that in the blender behind us and puree that and that’s going to be the sauce for it. So with the blender and it’s kind of one of those at home. When you have hot stuff in the blender, I would pulse it because if you have hot things in the blender, it’s going to explode. Divya Gugnani: Right. John Alexander: So with this blender, I've actually got a low, low setting so it allows you to start low and then I just turn up the speed as I need to. So we have our finished sauce right there. It's all nice and smooth. So I'll ladle just a little bit of the sauce right in the middle. These are sweet delta corn. Divya Gugnani: When you have good corn, you have to do very little to it to have it taste beautiful. John Alexander: Exactly. So we’re taking a little bit of our succotach in the center there. Divya Gugnani: That’s gorgeous colors and textures. John Alexander: Put those right on top. There you have it. Divya Gugnani: Four happy people there are going to have that but I'm going to be the first happy one. So I love the creaminess of the corn. John Alexander: And my personal favorite is the sweetness of the scallop. I love the sweetness of the scallops. Divya Gugnani: It really is just an amazing taste of the sea. John Alexander: It really is. I mean, just the clean, true flavor. Divya Gugnani: Thanks so much for having us. John Alexander: Well, thank you for having us. Divya Gugnani: Stay tuned to Behind the Burner, where we give you the tips, tricks and techniques that are lighting the culinary world on fire. For the recipe, Q&A, photos and more, visit BehindtheBurner.com.