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Butter + leeks = delicious: Scallops with melted leeks and egg noodles

Try "melting” leeks by cooking them slowly in butter. They’re a sweet complement to sautéed scallops and pasta. 

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Melt the leeks. Slice the dark green leafy top and root tip from each leek, leaving just the white and pale green parts. Halve lengthwise and rinse under cold running water, fanning layers to wash away any grit. Slice leeks crosswise into 1/8- to 1/4-inch half moons.

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Blue Kitchen

Terry Boyd is the author of Blue Kitchen, a Chicago-based food blog for home cooks. His simple, eclectic cooking focuses on fresh ingredients, big flavors and a cheerful willingness to borrow ideas and techniques from all over the world. A frequent contributor to the Chicago Sun-Times, his recipes have also appeared on the Bon Appétit and Saveur websites.

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Heat a heavy lidded saucepan over a medium-low flame. (Heavy is the key here, a thin-bottomed pan will brown or even burn the leeks.) Cut up butter and add to pan, along with 1 tablespoon oil, swirling to combine. Add leeks to pan and stir to coat with butter and oil. Season with salt and pepper. Add 2 tablespoons water, stir again and cover the pan. Reduce heat to low and cook for 1/2 hour, stirring occasionally and adding water a tablespoon at a time if the leeks seem too dry. I added 3 tablespoons through the course of melting the leeks. The leeks don’t truly “melt,” by the way – they won’t be like a confit or jam. But they will be buttery soft. You can make ahead to this point and keep them covered on the stovetop.

Meanwhile, prepare the scallops. Rinse scallops under cold running water, feeling the surfaces carefully for any bits of sand. Slice off the side muscle from any scallop that still has it – this is a tougher piece of flesh attached to the side (for the second time in one post, I’m saying “hence the name”). Pat the scallops dry with paper towels and halve crosswise. Season both sides with salt and pepper and dredge the tops and bottoms lightly in flour. Lightly is key – you don’t want to bread the scallops, but just give the pan something to brown. Set aside.

Also meanwhile, cook the pasta. You want to time this so the pasta is done just before you’re ready to cook the scallops. The scallops will cook very quickly, and you don’t want to be screwing around with draining noodles while the scallops overcook. Cook according to package instructions. When the pasta is cooked to your liking, drain it, reserving some cooking water. Toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt, pepper and half the chopped parsley. Cover and set aside.

And finally, cook the scallops. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium flame. (If the leeks need reheating, put them over a low flame now.) Add a tablespoon or so of oil and a teaspoon or so of butter to the skillet and swirl together. You want enough fat to coat the bottom of the pan well. Add the scallops and cook until just browned, about 2 minutes. Turn and cook for a minute more (the browned side will be the presentation side – the rest of the time is just to cook them through). Transfer scallops to a small plate and tent with foil.

Assemble the dish. Toss the egg noodles once more. If they seem dry, add a little of the reserved cooking water. Divide noodles between 2 shallow pasta bowls (you don’t have to use all the pasta – just put a good serving in each bowl). If you reheated the leeks, remove them from the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Spoon leeks over pasta. In this case, do use all of them – they’re very good. Arrange four scallop halves on each bowl and sprinkle with some of the remaining parsley. Serve.

Related post on Blue Kitchen: Seared Scallops with Asian Slaw

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