December and the Holiday Season magically bring sharp contrasted visions of the world for all of us to notice.
A world becoming illuminated with specks of white and colors blurring together.
The naked city displaying black and white signs of bleakness expertly balances with tactful humor hidden pockets of colors for the eye and mind to reenergize themselves.
The cooler air and sadness of the winter associated with the sweetness of the Holidays denote a certain happiness intertwined with the colors and sounds of Christmas.
The cold arrived here on December 1. Like clockwork.
The heat was turned on 4 days after.
While the beautiful leaves are now long gone, the city hasn’t yet wrapped itself in its white and muffled winter coat.
The gardens are still very green. The colors vivid and present.
Bringing colors into my kitchen during the cold months is a wonderful cure for winter slump.
It makes for a good vitamin D supplement.
Bright yellow, red of orange food cooking in pots and pans rejuvenate the eyes.
This year, I will get to spend the Holidays in France. It’s not often!
I usually try to avoid December and the summer season to travel due to expensive airfares.
But this year is an exception.
And rare exceptions are always notable.
Christmas in the Loire Valley and the New Year in Paris. “Excited” might not be even the right word to describe me these days.
The Holidays in France are full of festive and exceptional moments.
Charming Christmas Markets with endless regional delicacies and enchanting sceneries to gaze at in wonder.
Holiday lights and window displays showing sumptuous patterns and magnificent creations.
Two réveillons (Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve dinners) to prepare. Will they be simple and traditional? Luxurious and sparkling?
A very traditional French Christmas Eve dinner will include oysters and foie gras for appetizers, a roasted turkey or capon served with roasted chestnuts and warm apple compote, and the famous bûche de Noël - Christmas log – for dessert.
Seafood is also acceptable on the French Christmas table.
Lobster as well as scallops are notoriously part of the celebrations.
And it just so happens that I have a recipe to share for the Holidays.
One of my favorite thing to do when cooking scallops is to pair them with vanilla.
It gives them a subtle hint of sweetness that will surprise many.
This vanilla pan-seared scallop recipe (below) with a curried butternut squash purée is easy to make and can be served both as an amuse-bouche in cuillères - appetizer spoons - or as a bigger appetizer on its own.
It will add lots of new flavors to your Christmas menu.
I will come back with photos and recipes to share.
New things I will discover along the way and experiences snapped by my camera.
In the meantime, a Joyeux Noël to all.
Vanilla Pan-Seared Scallops with Curried Butternut Squash Purée (inspired by Cuisine et Vin):
1 small butternut squash
3 Tbsp (40 g) of butter
1 Tbsp of powdered curry
2 Tbsp of heavy whipping cream
2 Tbsp of chervil
1 Tbsp of pink peppercorns
1 Tbsp + 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of red wine vinegar
Peel and chop the butternut squash in small cubes.
Peel and slice the parsnips.
Melt 1 Tbsp (15 g) of butter in a medium sauce pan. Add the butternut squash and parsnips.
Mix well to coat for 5 minutes – medium heat.
Add 1 Tbsp of curry to the vegetables and mix well.
Add 3 cups (70 cl) of water to the saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat.
Once boiling, reduce to medium heat and simmer for 25 minutes.
While the vegetables are cooking, put your 5 fresh scallops in the freezer for 10 min.
Use a hand held mixer or a blender to purée the vegetables. Add the cream, chervil and peppercorns. Mix well.
Pour in a bowl, cover and save.
Remove the scallops from the freezer. Cut them in half lengthwise.
Melt the rest of the butter (2 Tbsp) in a medium pan. When the butter is melted, add the vanilla and vinegar in the pan.
Mix the juices.
Delicately add the scallops in the pan. Count with a timer 2 minutes. Flip them on the other side for another 2 minutes.
Repeat the operation one more time. Each side will cook 4 minutes total in the end. Scrap the juices on the side so they mix with the scallops.
Remove the scallops when golden brown.
Serve on top of the purée in a bowl or appetizer spoons. Make sure to place very little purée in the spoons to allow for just one bite.