Just a few ingredients, all of uncompromising quality, are combined in this elegant shellfish dish, which I created for my first New Year’s Eve dinner at Le Cirque in 1986 and which has since become a signature item.
It’s a harmonious combination of layered big, succulent sea scallops and dark diamonds of Perigord — black truffles — both of which are encased in spinach and puff pastry. It can be assembled up to 4 hours in advance, refrigerated, then baked, and its sauce prepared 10 minutes before serving.—Daniel Boulud
2 black truffles, fresh or canned, golf-ball size, juice reserved (buy it)
10 jumbo Maine sea scallops, very fresh and firm
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces spinach leaves, stems discarded, leaves thoroughly washed
1/2 pound puff pastry
1 egg whisked with 1 teaspoon water
1 1/4 cups dry white vermouth (Noilly Prat)
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1. Slice each truffle into 16 thin slices with a vegetable slicer or mandoline (you will need about 3 slices of truffle per scallop). Save any juice, chop the trimmings, and set both aside for the sauce.
2. Cut each scallop horizontally into 4 slices. Reconstruct each scallop by alternating the 4 slices of scallop with 3 slices of truffle. Season with salt and pepper and refrigerate until needed.
3. Wilt the spinach in a steamer or in water for 1 to 2 minutes. Drain, cool under cold running water, and drain again. Carefully spread each spinach leaf open on a kitchen towel and pat dry with a second towel.
4. Place a layered scallop in the center of a large spinach leaf and wrap the leaf tightly and smoothly around the scallop. If the scallop is not totally enclosed in the spinach leaf, use a second leaf to seal the scallop in. Repeat the same process for each layered scallop and refrigerate until needed (discard the remaining spinach leaves, or keep for other uses).
5. Sprinkle the counter and rolling pin with flour and roll out the puff pastry until very thin, about 1/8 inch thick. Cut out 24 disks with a 1 1/2-inch round cookie cutter and 12 ribbons of puff pastry about 5 by 1 1/2 inches. Refrigerate the disks and ribbons on a floured baking sheet for 15 minutes.
6. After the dough has rested, brush about 1 inch at one end of each ribbon with the egg wash. Place 1 spinach bundle on the other end of the ribbon and roll the ribbon around the bundle until it overlaps the brushed end to seal. Fold the pastry edges tightly over the top and bottom of the bundle. Brush 2 disks with the egg wash and place a disk on either side of the bundle. Press well to seal. Repeat the same steps to wrap each spinach bundle in the puff pastry.
7. Place the turnovers on a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Brush each pastry lightly with the remaining egg wash. Refrigerate until ready to cook.
8. Preheat oven to 450°F (230°C). Bake the turnovers for 5 to 8 minutes, depending on the size, or until golden (while baking, watch carefully that they do not burn).
9. Prepare the sauce while the turnovers are baking. Pour the vermouth into a small saucepan over high heat. Reduce to 1 teaspoon, about 10 minutes. Add the reserved truffle juice and the chicken stock. Reduce to 1/4 cup and stir in the butter. Add the reserved chopped truffle trimmings, salt and pepper to taste, and remove from heat.
Split the turnovers in half from top to bottom with a sharp knife. Spoon 1 tablespoon of sauce on the bottom of 4 warmed plates if serving as a main course, 6 warmed plates if serving as an appetizer. Overlap 6 turnover halves (main course) or 4 halves (appetizer) like rose petals on top of the sauce. Serve immediately.
Buying Sea Scallops
Maine sea scallops are in bountiful supply from fall to spring. Look for firm, ivory-colored scallops, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter.
Recipe © 1993 Daniel Boulud. All rights reserved.