Saturday, October 16, 2010

Tomato Basil Butter, and some stuff to serve with it.

I just had a bunch of this sauce with my dinner, and as I think of it I still want more. The whole meal was pan seared scallops, broccoli stir fry, potato and parsnip puree, sourdough bread that we picked up at the market today and the sauce, the yummy sauce.

I made this sauce for the first time many years back after tasting it in a restaurant down in Virgina Beach. My friend Tom and I were eating dinner and it was a special on the menu, served on some kind of white steaky fish, mahi or swordfish perhaps.  I don't recall the fish, I know it was well prepared but the sauce was the star of the show. I went on a mission to recreate it. I nailed it pretty well the first time out (if I do say so myself) and have refined it a bit over time.

As with many dishes this recipe is not exact but it should be a good start. This takes a while to cook down. 40 minutes to an hour, however this sauce freezes great so feel free to make it up ahead of time. Just reheat in a pan and finish as described below.

1 stick butter
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 can whole tomatoes
12-14 large basil leaves
kosher salt

Today I varied from this recipe by replacing most of the tomatoes with a few cups of fresh tomato sauce I made previously. I used some fresh whole cherry tomatoes instead of the canned whole tomatoes.

In a large wide saucepan melt 3/4 of the butter. Once the butter has melted start adding the whole tomatoes by grabbing one from the can and crushing it on your hand then repeat. It is pretty therapeutic. If you are using fresh tomatoes slice them into quarters and cook until they soften a bit, about 5 minutes. Add the can of crushed tomatoes (or tomato sauce) stir well then reduce heat and simmer. After about 20 minutes or so take about 10 of the basil leaves and chop them. Add them to the sauce and add a fat pinch of salt. Stir and continue cooking until the whole tomatoes have broken down almost completely. The sauce should be almost smooth.Taste for seasoning. There should not be any raw tomato taste at all and the acidity of the tomatoes and the richness of the butter should balance each other out really well.

To finish the sauce, once the tomatoes have completely broken down chiffonade the last of the basil add the remaining butter to the pan, once the butter has melted toss in the basil and turn off the heat. Serve immediately on top of your food of choice.

Today that food of choice was pan seared scallops. There are about 95,200 recipes for pan seared scallops on the Internet. They all follow a similar format, for simplicities sake I usually go to Alton Brown
If you have not experienced the joy of a "Dry" scallop yet I encourage you to do so. If you like scallops already then I can assure you that you will never want to go back to the scallops you have known and loved. They just have the very essence of scallop.

Drizzle some of the tomato basil butter sauce on some seared scallops and you are in for a treat. It is also great on swordfish, mahi mahi, cod, haddock or any nice firm fish. 

I wanted to do some kind of a puree to work with the scallops and the sauce.I had turnips in the house, Kerrie is not a big turnip fan so I was going to do potatoes instead until we went to the market today and saw parsnips. Parsnips or one of my favorite vegetables, they are versatile as heck. Anyplace you might use a carrot you can replace with a parsnip. However comparing them to carrots just does not do them justice, they have a nutty earthy flavor that balances the sweetness of the parsnips. I love them pan roasted or roasted in the oven with chicken or beef, or pork any thing that you want to slow roast in the oven. For a puree you will need

3 medium sized parsnips
1 large potato
kosher salt
black pepper

Cut the parsnips parsnips and potatoes into 1 inch pieces then place in a pot and cover with enough water to cover them by an inch or so. Add a pinch of salt and turn on the heat. Once they come to a boil reduce heat and simmer until the vegetables are soft. Drain the vegetables and put them pack into the pot. Add about 1/2 cup of milk and 2 Tbsp of butter. The use a stick blender or hand blender to break them down. After they are smashed but not smooth, add some salt and pepper to taste. Then finish blending until smooth.

Add a mound of your puree to the plate, lay the seared scallops on top and drizzle with the tomato basil butter sauce. Tasty stuff.

All of the components for this dish are really versatile and I encourage you to try the sauce with different kinds of fish or even as a pasta sauce. Try the puree instead of mashed potatoes with a roast and you can do anything with seared scallops.

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