Originally, my husband and I were planning to spend the last night of 2021 with two good friends in Boston, but because the pandemic is widespread in Massachusetts, we all agreed that cancelling was a wise choice. So, I’ve decided to make individual scallop gratins to anchor our imposed dinner for two.
I had a Eureka moment recently when I thought of my favorite potato gratin prepared with crème fraîche and Gruyère. Why, I asked myself, couldn’t I make individual scallop gratins using those two primary ingredients? After several attempts I got the amounts and timing figured out. A single recipe yields four servings, but can be conveniently cut in half.
This dish is simplicity itself. You halve extra-large sea scallops horizontally, arrange them in buttered crème brûlée dishes (scallop shells work equally well), and then season them with salt, pepper, and thyme. Finally, you spread a small amount of crème fraiche over the scallops and top them with grated Gruyère. As the crème fraîche bakes it melts and becomes a thin but delicious sauce.
Use this dish as a first course or a light main course as I am. Blanched haricots verts topped with crushed pistachios and grated orange zest plus a salad of mixed greens in a white wine vinaigrette will complete our menu along with a warm baguette.
Happy 2022 to all—may this be the year when we bid the pandemic good- bye!
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New Year’s Eve Sea Scallop Gratins
Butter for greasing gratin dishes or shells
12 extra large sea scallops (about 1 3/4 ounce each or 1 to 1 1/4 pounds total) See note.
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Two small pinches cayenne pepper, optional
6 tablespoons crème fraîche
1/2 cup (1 1/2 ounces) grated Gruyère cheese
Toasted bread crumbs (Recipe follows.)
8 thyme sprigs for garnish, optional or 2 teaspoons chopped flat leaf parsley, optional
Equipment needed: four crème brûlée dishes or other baking dishes about 5 1/2 inches across the top and 4 inches across the bottom or scallop shells
1.Arrange a rack at center position and preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Butter 4 individual crème brûlée dishes or other similar sized baking dishes or scallop shells generously.
2. Remove side muscles from scallops and halve them horizontally into two even disks. Pat scallops dry with paper towels. Then arrange them in a single layer, overlapping just a little, in the baking dishes or shells. Combine dried thyme, kosher salt, black pepper, and two pinches cayenne if using, in a small bowl. Then sprinkle over the scallops. Divide the crème fraîche evenly and spread over the scallops in each dish. Divide Gruyère evenly and sprinkle over the scallops.
3.Place the baking dishes on the rack and bake until flesh of scallops is opaque and cheese has melted, about 8 minutes or slightly longer. (Watch carefully; cooking time will depend on thickness of scallops.)
4. Using potholders, remove the dishes from the oven and sprinkle each gratin with about 1 teaspoon toasted bread crumbs. (You’ll have plenty of breadcrumbs left over; save for another use.) If desired, garnish each gratin with a couple of thyme sprigs or chopped parsley. Serves 4 as a generous first course or as a lighter main course.
Toasted Bread Crumbs
Half of a good-quality peasant or country bread (sourdough works particularly well) with crusts removed and bread sliced or torn into large pieces
1 tbsp olive or canola oil
1.In a food processor, process enough bread to make 1 cup coarse crumbs.
2.Heat the oil in a medium, heavy skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the crumbs and cook, stirring constantly, until they are crisp and rich golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. (Bread crumbs can be stored in a plastic self-sealing bag and refrigerated for up to one week.)
Note: Extra-large scallops that are an inch or slightly more tall work best in this recipe.
Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2021