Watercress Soup with Sea Scallops and Osetra Caviar

In Alain Ducasse’s monumental new cookbook Grand livre de cusine, this soup appears as Cresson de fontaine, but he also calls it a velouté. He’s not referring to velouté as the soup classically thickened with flour and butter and cooked for hours to obtain a velvet texture, but to the texture itself—slightly thick and certainly velvety.

As for the osetra caviar, it comes from a sturgeon not as large as the beluga; its prices are not as enormous, either. Osetra is famous for its value and for its nutty taste—a perfect match for the brown butter used in the watercress puree.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups unsalted chicken stock
  • ½ pound spinach leaves, stemmed, washed, drained
  • 2 bunches watercress, tough stems removed, washed, drained
  • 8 sea scallops, tough bit on side removed, rinsed, patted dry
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 ounces osetra caviar
  • ¾ cup Brown Butter
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • ½ cup unsweetened whipped cream

Method

Boil the chicken stock in a medium saucepan until reduced by half to 2 cups.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, boil the spinach and watercress in 5 quarts of heavily salted water until the leaves disintegrate between your fingers, about 5 minutes. Drain, cool rapidly in ice-cold water, and drain again. Press lightly to remove excess water. Puree the leaves in a blender and strain through a fine sieve.

Slice each scallop into 3 thin rounds. Mix the lemon juice and olive oil together and dip the scallop rounds in this mixture before putting them on a nonreactive metal or glass tray. Spoon ¾ of the caviar onto 12 of the rounds, dividing it evenly; place the other scallop rounds on top. Distribute the remainder of the caviar equally on top of the 12 little scallop-caviar “sandwiches.”

Return the reduced stock to a boil and whisk in the brown butter. Add the watercress puree, season with salt, and grind in quite a lot of pepper. Puree the mixture in a blender or food processor until well emulsified.

Place 3 scallop sandwiches in a triangle on each of 4 warm plates. Heat the watercress puree and pour it around the scallops. Spoon a dollop of whipped cream into the center around, but not on top of, the scallops and sprinkle the cream with very coarse freshly ground black pepper.

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