These seared scallops with vadouvan carrot puree make the most gorgeous appetizer. They are astoundingly easy to make, but look like they came out of a five star restaurant kitchen. I highly recommend making them the next time you entertain…or having them for simple but flavorful weeknight dinner – they’re that versatile!
Top Chef has long been one of my favorite shows. Some seasons have been better than others, but one of my all time favorites was season 5, where we met Fabio Viviani and Carla Hall, bless them. I loved their personalities, and I could listen to Fabio talk all day in that melodic Italian accent. It’s season 5 where he coined the phrase “It’s Top Chef not top scallop!” after fellow contestant Jamie Lauren made yet another scallop dish, this time seared scallops with vadouvan carrot puree.
Padma swooned over the use of vadouvan in the dish, and I knew that I needed to hunt this new-to-me ingredient down and try it after such a rave review. In fact, I have wanted to recreate this dish for over a decade since I first saw it on Top Chef and I FINALLY did it. Praise be. Fortunately, I didn’t wait these 10 years to try vadouvan, and it quickly vaulted to the top of my spice pantheon. Vadouvan is a French-Indian curry. It’s similar to traditional Indian curry powder, but includes aromatics like shallots and garlic. It’s absolutely divine. I like this brand, but feel free to shop around and find one you like. I like to use it in this curry butternut squash soup from Bon Appetit.
Scallops are one of those ingredients that add an immediate fancy factor. But, they are really quite simple to prepare, and you reap the rewards of an elegant ingredient without much work. These are the kinds of ratios and math I like. There are two keys to perfectly searing scallops: dry scallops and trust.
Dry scallops means two things. You want scallops that have been dry packed, meaning they haven’t been packed in any kind of liquid preservative that causes them to absorb water or lose flavor. It also means that you want to pat them dry before searing so that they get a nice crust. I like to use U10 scallops, which means there are about 10 scallops in a pound, and they are a nice, big size.
The trust required in cooking scallops is in trusting the timing. It’s easy to overcook scallops, so you just kinda need to trust that searing them about 2 minutes per side (more on this below) is going to do the job, and remove them from the heat once that time has elapsed. That’s really it. I only started eating scallops about 8 years ago, have only cooked them a handful of times, and I think I’ve cooked them perfectly every time. If I can do it, you can too!
Making these seared scallops with vadouvan carrot puree dish really made me feel like a Top Chef, but it was so simple. I made it for my Dad and he oohed and aahed over it. Little did he know how easy it was.
Here’s a pro tip: the vadouvan carrot puree is likely to make more than you need. I recommend saving what’s left after you plate the scallops and using the remaining liquid from the simmering step to thin it out and make a soup. Two dishes in one. The puree seriously makes a crazy delicious soup, and you’ll have gotten serious bang for your buck!
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These seared scallops with vadouvan carrot puree make for a five star dish with one star effort!
- 8 large U10 scallops, rinsed and patted dry
- 2 cups carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 large shallot, chopped (about 1/2 to 3/4 cup)
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 3 tablespoons half and half or coconut cream for whole30
- 2 tablespoons butter or ghee, divided
- 1 tablespoon vadouvan curry powder
- Kosher salt
- In a medium saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of butter/ghee over medium high heat. Add the shallots and smashed garlic and saute until shallots are translucent and garlic is caramelized, about 5 minutes
- Add the vadouvan powder and stir to coat the shallots, toasting about 1 minute until the spice blend is fragrant
- Add in the stock, half and half (or coconut cream) carrots and a pinch of salt. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until carrots are soft, about 15-20 minutes
- Strain the solids from the liquids, reserving the liquids. Add the solids to a blender with a few tablespoons of the simmering liquid (about 3-4 tablespoons). Blend, adding liquid in small amounts, about a tablespoon at a time, until a puree forms. I needed between 5-6 tablespoons of liquid total before my puree came together. Any more and it would have been runny/not a puree
- In a large saucepan over medium high heat melt the remaining tablespoon of butter/ghee. Lightly season the dry scallops with salt, then add to the pan once hot
- Sear scallops over medium high heat for 2-3 minutes per side – depending on how thick the scallops are – until nice and golden brown. If the scallops are less than an inch thick, they probably only need 2 minutes per side. Remove from heat when done and plate immediately
- To plate, spread some puree on the bottom of a plate. Top with 2 scallops, and any other garnish of your choosing, like herbs or microgreens
- Save the simmering liquid and use it to make soup with any puree remaining after the scallops are plated
Keywords: vadouvan, seared scallops, carrots, carrot puree