Gothamist Eating In: Cooking Our Favorite Restaurant Dishes at Home

It’s probably fair to say that we all have a romantic notion of a little neighborhood bistro on a shady, tree lined tourist free corner of the world. Trees and romance aside, a few friends that live in Red Hook, Brooklyn think they have one in the restaurant 360.

It’s pretty easy to see why. A small, three course menu for twenty five dollars. A great wine list that is reasonably priced and well chosen, with the option of sampling beaker filled half carafes of select wines. And of course, simple and inspired French regional cooking that evolves daily on the whim of the market and the seasons.

One of the appetizers we had on a balmy summer night was a Tomato and Mushroom Napoleon. The napoleon technique simply refers to relatively thin layers of ingredients that typically form a colorful and flavorful tower on the plate. The fresh flavors of the perfectly ripe summer tomatoes were the highlight, having been marinated in herbs and olive oil. The alternating layers that made up the tower, a firm and earthy portabella mushroom and a creamy, soft slice of goat cheese, added a great balance and contrast to the sweet, juicy tomatoes. After one bite, we knew this would be a great concept for the Gothamist Recipe. A dish like this would be easy to make at home with little cooking on a hot summer night, while the flavors and tastes would impress your guest(s) and maybe even yourself. Who knows – maybe your own apartment can be your special little neighborhood bistro for the night.

Gothamist Recipe Summer Tomato and Scallop Napoleon with mint, Parmigiano Reggiano and arugula salad2004_08_food_tomnapfinal.jpg

We’ve taken 360’s Tomato Napoleon technique and added a few more elements to make it a more substantial dish that can act as a main course for dinner at home. Rather than mushroom, we’ve added fresh seared scallops. The scallops jazz it up a bit by adding a firm, soft and substantial element to the tomatoes. Rather than a soft textured cheese, a crispy and sharp wafer made from freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano takes the dish to another level. The cool, fresh mint and tangy vinaigrette drizzled on the napoleon and the peppery arugula side salad completes a light, satisfying summer dish that requires only fifteen minutes of stove time.

Ingredient Shopping List
Recipe serves two – just double it for a party of four.

8 large dry sea scallops (diver scallops are ideal if available)
1 wedge of fresh Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
4 small-medium sized tomatoes (mix of red, yellow, orange ideal)
1 bunch fresh mint
1 glove garlic
1 red onion
1 lemon, 1 lime
1 bunch arugula
kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
extra virgin olive oil
parchment paper (or silpat for cooking gear lovers)
non-stick spray

Estimated cost of ingredients: $25 at Fairway

Buying the Scallops and Tomatoes
It’s important to find scallops that haven’t been frozen or treated by preservation liquids. Unfortunately, scallops are usually taken from their shell when caught and stored in a preservation liquid to help make them last longer. The result is usually a soggy, mushy scallop that loses its taste. You can notice the scallops that have been chemically induced as they seem to be swimming in a white liquid on your market’s fish counter. Try and find a fish market that indicates ‘dry’ sea scallops and avoid those that look to be swimming in liquid.

As for the tomatoes, I’ve noticed a few trends that you should notice. First, the local tomato season is in full gear from July – early September. During this time, there is no reason to buy hydroponic tomatoes or the variety imported from Israel or Canada. Nothing against those tomatoes (they are OK in the winter), but the best during these two months are the ones you get locally (Jersey tomatoes or ‘heirloom’ tomatoes). How can you tell? Check the package or the little sticker on each tomato.

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Preparing the Tomatoes
The tomatoes can be made up to a few hours in advance and either left out or refrigerated. You’ll want to eventually serve them at room temperature.

Rinse and dry the tomatoes. Remove the top and bottom cores with the tip of your knife. With a sharp knife, place the tomato on its side and slice them into thin whole pieces. Do this for all of your tomatoes. While slicing, your cutting board will become filled with juice. Don’t throw this away. Scrape this juice into a large bowl with the sliced tomatoes. Peel and roughly chop one large clove of garlic and place in bowl. Slice the onion into quarters. Take one quarter of the onion and chop into a small dice and toss into bowl. Rough chop fresh mint until you get about one tablespoon. Add a drizzle of olive oil, a few squeezes of lime and lemon. Add a pinch of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper and mix with spoon. Taste. Does it need a little more salt? Pepper? Mint? You get the idea. When happy, set aside for up to a few hours to let the flavors marinate.

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Making the Reggiano Crisps
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. To start, grate about ¼ cup or a nice mound of the Parmigiano Reggiano. Next, take out a flat sheet or cookie pan and overlap with a piece of parchment paper or a silpat (a silpat is a re-useable non-stick silicon sheet that bakers use to line sheet pans. You can get one for about $15 in most kitchen stores these days. It’s definitely worth it if you use the oven frequently.) If using parchment, spray with non-stick spray.

Take the grated cheese and create flat circle of the cheese on the parchment paper or silpat. It’s important to lay the cheese in a relatively flat layer. Create the circles in roughly the size of the tomatoes you sliced. Make as many circles on the pan as you can without getting the cheese circles too close to each other. They will expand as they bake.

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Place the sheet pan into the oven and bake for 8 minutes. Check the cheese. It should be starting to bubble and beginning to turn a golden brown. After about 3 or 4 more minutes, take out of oven when golden brown. Let cool on counter. Once cool, you can leave them out for a couple of hours before serving.

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Searing the Scallops
Place a heavy frying pan on low heat while preparing the scallops for the pan. Meanwhile, place the scallops on folded pieces of paper towels. Place a folded paper towel on top of the scallops and dry them as completely as possible without crushing them. You may need to repeat as you should try and get them as dry as possible. It’s important for the searing process that follows.

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Season each side of the scallops with kosher salt and fresh pepper. Turn the heat of the pan up to high. Add one small glug of olive oil to the pan and move the pan to coat the bottom with oil. Wait a moment and add four of the scallops to the pan (adding all of the scallops will crowd the pan and not allow for optimal browning). The goal here is to let the scallop cook on one side as long as possible, allowing for a nicely seared brown scallop. Cook the scallop on one side for about 3 minutes on high heat. Flip the scallops and cook for about 1 minute only. Take off the pan and place on a plate. Repeat this process for the next four scallops.

You can make the scallops up to 15 minutes before serving. It’s OK to serve them room temp, but try to avoid serving them cold.

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Slicing the Scallops
After the scallops rest for a minute, take a sharp knife and set a scallop on its side. Slice a small and relatively thin disk from the scallop. Depending on the scallop’s size, you can either have two or three slices per scallop. Slice each of the scallops into slices and set back on your plate.

At this point, check your scallop slices. You want a medium rare center for each of the slices. You’ll be able to tell by comparing the center of the slices with the edges. The edge will be a solid white and will become just a touch opaque in the center. That’s perfect. If they seem to be too opaque, you can toss them into a warm oven five minutes before plating for a few seconds (not much more).

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Making the Arugula Salad
Make sure the arugula is washed and dried. Place two large handfuls into a bowl. Take a tablespoon of the juices that have collected in your marinating tomato bowl and drizzle onto the arugula. It’s great to get some of the mint and onion into the arugula as well. Drizzle arugula with a bit more olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. Mix with your hands. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Be sure to make the salad only a few minutes before serving, as you don’t want it to get soggy.

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Serving and Plating
Lay out both of your large plates. Place three slices of scallop in a large triangle pattern on each plate. Add a slice of marinated tomato on top of scallop slice (make sure to get pieces of onion and mint as well). Break off a shard of the Reggiano chips and place on top of tomato. Add a scallop slice on top of Reggiano and repeat the layering, finishing with the seared side of scallop on top of each stack.

Pick up a pile of the arugula and mount in the middle of the plate. Take some of the extra tomato, Reggiano shards and scallop slices and place on top of arugula salad as garnish.

Lastly, take some of the remaining juice in the tomato bowl and drizzle around each of the napoleon stacks.

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--Joe DeSalazar, foodie