Issue 30

Cook Before You Leap? A recipe for sweet chili caramelized scallops and shrimp

Cook Before You Leap? A recipe for sweet chili caramelized scallops and shrimp

One of my favorite cooking idioms is “you eat first with your eyes first” and I always want my food to be as beautiful as it is delectable. My background is in culinary education at Metro’s Institute for the Culinary Arts and my favorite class ever was a sauce class with a large tome of several hundred pages devoted almost exclusively to hundreds of variations derived from the five classical French mother sauces – in other words, somewhat technical stuff.

My friend Dave, on the other hand, is always pushing the envelope in everything he does; he lives life on the edge and is often taking a leap of faith trusting there will be a place to land. This philosophy extends to his cooking style as well. Dave’s education is as an art major, his culinary schooling was a question of ‘here and there’ as he waited tables at some wonderful restaurants, quizzing the chefs between delivering courses to his diners.

I often get a call from Florida as he excitedly starts telling me about a new dish he is inventing to try out on his family. As I listen I’m thinking “nooooo, you can’t do that, it’s not a proper culinary technique, it’ll never work.” But, as often as not, as he continues to describe the dish, it not only works but, is often intuitively brilliant, often to my surprise. He tends to jump first and ask questions later, while I prefer the tried and true classic approach.

A few months ago, he started suggesting some ideas for a sauce we could cook together over a Skype call. I was once again silently questioning his cooking acumen. But as we continued the conversation and ideas were volleyed back and forth, I sensed a delicious dish starting to coalesce into existence; green peppercorns and shallots, fish sauce and coconut milk, classic French beurre blanc techniques and delicious Asian flavors melding together.

My yin balancing his yang as the synergistic sum of our ideas became greater than its individual parts. Not all jumps turn out so well, but this one marched into uncharted culinary territory and ended with a safe landing and a sublimely tasty recipe in hand.

The following is the result of that phone call, and the beautiful plating was also a collaboration of ideas between Dave, my photographer/food stylist extraordinaire Jacob Herrman and myself. My hope is that this will encourage you to embark on your own culinary adventures. Don’t be timid about experimenting. Play with your food and, above all, have fun in the kitchen.


Sweet Chili Caramelized Scallops and Shrimp with a Green Peppercorn Coconut Curry Beurre Blanc (yields 4 servings)


Beurre Blanc Sauce

1 Tbsp finely chopped shallots

½ cup Gewürztraminer Wine

2 Tbsp fresh lime juice

2 tsp fish sauce

1Tbsp Thai red curry paste

½ tsp sugar

1 cup unsweetened canned coconut milk (not from the dairy aisle)

½# unsalted butter (cut into ½ inch chunks-kept cold until incorporated into sauce)

1 tsp lime leaves chopped fine (available in the freezer section of Asian grocery stores)

2 tsp green peppercorns (in brine, rinsed and drained)



12-14 shrimp

4 medium scallops

1 Tbsp olive or vegetable oil

½ cup Mae Ploy sweet chili sauce



Add the first six ingredients and simmer in a large heavy bottomed sauté pan until almost all the liquid is gone.

Stir in the coconut milk and lime leaves, turning up the heat to medium high and bringing the sauce to a simmer.

Add the cold butter chunks, whisking continuously, removing immediately from the heat once butter is completely incorporated to prevent sauce from breaking.

Add the green peppercorns and salt to taste.

Hold the sauce in a warmed thermos or placed in a double boiler with hot water on the back of the stove (use within 30 minutes or sauce may break).

Heat 1 Tbsp olive or vegetable oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat, searing the seafood for a minute or two per side until just cooked thru, brushing with the sweet chili sauce the last minute or so of searing to caramelize the sauce.


To serve

Pool a little sauce on each plate and artfully place the scallops and shrimp on top of the sauce, if desired serve with jasmine rice mixed with cilantro and grilled pineapple chunks, a tiny splash of rice wine vinegar or lime juice and toasted macadamia nuts seasoned with salt and pepper to taste. Edible flowers make for a delicious splash of color.

Charles Schlussel

Charles Schlussel

Professional head shaver, reckless adventurer, erstwhile semi-pro skydiver*(*amateur lander), fanatical tomato lover, All around awesome cook extraordinaire.

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