Seared Scallops with Carrot-Harissa Puree and Bacon Marmalade

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I made these scallops 2 or 3 years ago and I still find myself thinking of them. I was going through some old recipes that I have written up but not published and found this near the bottom of the list. This recipe deserves to be dusted off, shared with you, and eaten! Perhaps I didn’t publish it earlier because the photos aren’t great, they don’t portray how delicious this recipe is. Just trust me. Scallops taste like buttery heaven all on their own, but add some spicy harissa, creamy carrot, and bacon (doesn’t bacon make everything better?) and the scallops are transformed into something truly celestial.

slightly adapted from: Food + Wine
serves: 2

1/2 pound thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
Cayenne pepper
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound carrots, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon harissa*- (use 1 teaspoon for less heat)
1/4 cup heavy cream
16 large sea scallops (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1-2 tablespoons butter (for cooking the scallops)

Cut the bacon into 1/4-inch dice. In a medium cast-iron skillet, cook the bacon over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 6 to 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a plate. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat. (Alternatively, leave the bacon whole and  bake on a rack over a baking sheet at 400 until the bacon is crisp. Use 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat for the onions and crumble the bacon into pieces and set aside.) Add the onion to the skillet and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden, about 25 minutes. Add the sugar and cook until the sugar is dissolved and the onions are glazed, about 2 minutes. Return the bacon to the skillet; season with a pinch of cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper. Keep the bacon marmalade warm.

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In a medium saucepan of salted boiling water, cook the carrots until tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain well. In a food processor, combine the carrots with 2 tablespoons butter and harissa and puree until smooth.

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Add the cream and pulse until incorporated. Season with salt and black pepper. Scrape the carrot-harissa puree into the saucepan; keep warm over very low heat.

Season the scallops with salt and black pepper. In a large skillet, heat 1 to 2 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat. Add the scallops and cook until browned on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Turn the scallops and cook until just opaque throughout, about 1 minute longer. You want medium-rare, which means the sides have firmed up and all but the middle third of the scallop is opaque. Transfer the scallops to plates and top with the bacon marmalade. Serve the carrot-harissa puree alongside.

Make Ahead: The bacon marmalade and carrot-harissa puree can be refrigerated separately overnight.

*Harissa is a North African chile paste. It is available in jars and tubes at specialty food shops.

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