A fantastically elegant opener for a dinner party.
3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter
1/2 cup minced shallots (about 6 large shallots)
3 tablespoons dry white wine
1/4 cup plus 1/2 tablespoon white-wine vinegar
3 tablespoons warm water
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch of ground white pepper
2 pounds Nantucket bay scallops
1 cup flour, spread out on a plate
1 ounce osetra caviar
3 tablespoons finely minced fresh chives
1. Clarify 9 tablespoons of the butter by putting the butter in a small saucepan and melting it over low heat. When melted, turn off heat and let pan sit for 5 minutes. Skim off and discard any foam that collects on top. Then, pour the yellow liquid into a small bowl, leaving the milky, white solids in the bottom of the pan. Discard the white solids.
2. Put shallots, white wine, and vinegar in a medium saucepan. Over moderate heat, cook until liquid is almost completely evaporated, about 5 to 7 minutes. (There should be about 1 tablespoon of liquid left in the bottom of the pan.) Add water and stir. Turn off heat.
3. Cut remaining 15 tablespoons of butter into small pieces. Turn on the heat under the pan to low, and slowly add butter, a few pieces at a time, whisking constantly. (Do not stop whisking or turn up the heat, because this could cause the butter to separate.) When all butter is incorporated, season with the salt and white pepper. Strain beurre blanc through a strainer into a cool saucepan and place saucepan in a roasting pan filled with hot water. Set pan aside.
4. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Heat a large skillet over moderately high heat. Coat the bottom of the skillet with a thin film of clarified butter. Dry the scallops in a towel, and lightly coat some in flour. (Coat only as many scallops as will fit in the skillet without overcrowding it.) Shake scallops in a strainer, set over a bowl, to remove any excess flour.
5. When the butter is hot, gently place scallops in pan, making sure that they are not touching each other. (If they are too close together, the scallops will steam rather than sear and the flour will become gummy.) Sear on each side until golden, about 2 minutes total. Move the seared scallops to a sheet tray and cover loosely with foil while you finish the rest.
6. Over moderate heat, reheat beurre blanc, whisking constantly, until hot. Turn off heat and adjust seasoning. Place scallops in hot oven for just about 30 seconds to make sure they're hot.
7. Drizzle about 2 to 3 tablespoons beurre blanc onto each of 6 plates. Divide scallops into 6 portions and put 1 portion in the middle of each plate. Gently scatter 1 teaspoon of caviar over and around scallops, and then sprinkle with chives. Serve immediately.
This is a fantastically elegant opener for a dinner party. Just make sure you use a top-quality bay scallop -- either Nantucket or Peconic Bay. If your scallops aren't up to snuff, you might want to choose another dish, or increase the caviar. We have been moderate in the amount of caviar required ... because even great caviar can't steal the thunder from a plate of perfectly sautéed, unbelievably sweet Nantucket scallops. Serves 6 as a first course