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November 29, 2006

(Late) Fall Flavors

Amanda Magnano
Weeeellll, this one's kind of on the tail of the of the season for which it was intended, but I couldn't wait another year to post it. It's one of my proudest creations for a number of reasons, not the least of which is because it's still the highest scoring dish in the history of Iron Chef Chicago. The only thing I still struggle with somewhat is the squash chips. The silpat/oven method works pretty well, but they're very touchy. I have to believe there's an easier way. If anybody has any suggestions, I'm all ears.

In any case, this was a dish I created for Iron Chef Winter Squash. It was actually one of the dishes on the chopping block when we were deciding which ideas to roll with, so mad, mad props to Faithful Sous Kirsten for reassuring me that there isn't a soul on the face of the planet who doesn't love butter sauce. It's a high-maintenance dish, and it involves assembling three last-minute components, but it's completely worth it.

Dominic Armato
1 large butternut squash
2 shallots, minced
¼ C. white wine
½ tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. heavy cream
½ C. unsalted butter
½ C. sliced shiitake mushrooms
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
8 large scallops
2 Tbsp. canola oil
1 oz. caviar

Crispy Squash and Scallop Napoleon with Butternut
Butter Sauce
Serves 4 as an appetizer

Preheat the oven to 250º while you're prepping the squash. When selecting your squash, you need a big, solid chunk for the squash chips. It's best to pick one with a nice, long neck about 4" in diameter. Remove the stem and peel the squash. Using a mandoline set to about 1mm thickness, slice 20 discs from the neck of the squash and trim them into 3" diameter circles. It's absolutely critical that the discs be of uniform thickness, and unless your knife skills are borderline superhuman, a mandoline is the only way it's going to happen. You'll only use 16 of the crisps, but they're extremely fragile and it's a good idea to make extras. Sandwich the discs between two silpats and bake for 45 minutes to one hour, checking frequently towards the end to be sure they don't overcook and take on a burned flavor. They are done when they are dried and ever so slightly brown in color. They'll crisp further as they cool.

Meanwhile, cut the remaining squash into large chunks, add to a large pot, seeds and all, cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat slightly and simmer, uncovered, for an hour. Strain the mixture through a chinois or other fine-meshed strainer, pressing against the sides, and save the resulting squash stock.

The next three items require a little timing mojo, since you ideally want them all to be ready at the same time. The one that will hold the best and can easily be reheated, however, is the mushrooms. Melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a sauté pan over medium-high heat, add the sliced shiitakes and cook until the mushrooms are nicely softened. Salt and pepper to taste, then remove from the heat.

Meanwhile, get the butternut butter sauce going. Add the shallots, wine, salt and 1 C. of the squash stock to a saucepan, and reduce down to about ⅓ of a cup, stirring constantly as the mixture thickens. When finished, it'll be gooey and caramel-colored. Add the cream, and continue to cook for about 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and whisk in the ½ C. of butter, a couple tablespoons at a time. Adjust the salt, and remove from the heat so it doesn't separate. If it does separate, however, don't panic. Just boil up a little more wine and cream, and then whisk the entire broken sauce back into the new base.

The last step before assembly is to sauté the scallops. Pat them dry and season them lightly with some salt and pepper. Heat the canola oil in a sauté pan over high heat until hot, but not smoking. Sear the scallops, turning once, until they're slightly browned on the outside and just done in the middle, about 1-2 minutes per side.

To assemble, slice the scallops in half lengthwise, then stack squash crisp, a bit of sautéed mushroom, half scallop, crisp, mushroom, scallop, placing two of these stacks to a plate. Or, if you're feeling particularly brave, go for one monster tower. Either way, top with the butternut butter sauce and a dollop of caviar, garnish wish some chives, and get 'em on the table... they don't hold well.


Damn you, Crispy Squash and Scallop Napoleon with Butternut Butter Sauce! I had that Iron Chef in the bag! OK, not really. But still. That was the culinary equivalent of losing a fantasy football game when your opponent has LaDainian Tomlinson and he rushes for 150 yards and 2 TDs, catches another TD, and throws for a fourth TD on a trick play. There was no Milton Berle-ing that night.

Wow there were so many references in that comment that I absolutely didn't get. Milton Berle played football, too??
=) I think we can all thank my grandfather for that victory, with his wise words: "anything with butter in it will taste better with more butter. Some things without butter, too."

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