Apparently, scallops are a very romantic food. It seems that in every painting of Venus, the Roman goddess of love, there is a scallop shell somewhere. Here in the Midwest, scallops are a splurge and usually on the menu at expensive restaurants. All this makes it the perfect thing to serve on Valentine’s Day when an exceptional meal made at home sure beats fighting the crowds at some fancy establishment. The dish posted here has a touch of elegance since cooking “en papillote” or in parchment paper is a classic French technique. Actually lots cultures wrap food in a material which allow the ingredients inside to be steamed when the package is exposed to heat . For instance, tamales are wrapped in corn husks and in Asia, banana and cassava leaves are similarly employed. Here in the United States, foil along with a campfire is used: (Click HERE). However, the French are so romantic that they actually cut the parchment paper into a heart before putting yummy things on one side and then close it up to make a cute little bundle of deliciousness. So have fun cutting out Valentine hearts and then enjoy a fabulous meal!
Ingredients for Four Servings:
1 pound jumbo scallops (about 12), rinsed and drained
4 (15 x 15 inch) squares parchment paper
1 cup beluga (black) lentils
1 carrot, peeled and cut in half
1 small bunch celery leaves or small stalk
8 to 12 stalks of asparagus
1 small bunch fresh cilantro (1/4 cup chopped)
1 lemon (to make 1/4 cup juice)
1 tablespoon garam masala or curry powder
1 teaspoon plus 1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil for brushing
The lentils need to be partially cooked before they are put in the parchment bundle or either they will turn out crunchy because they didn’t have enough time to get done, or the scallops will be rubbery for too long a cooking time. So, first rinse them in a fine mesh colander and look them over to remove any foreign objects. Peel and cut in half one of the shallots. Add the rinsed lentils, the halved shallot, the peeled carrot, and the celery leaves to a pot along with 2 cups of water. Bring the pot up to a boil, then turn down the heat, and allow to simmer for 15 minutes.
While the lentils are simmering, cut out the parchment hearts. Cut off 4 squares of parchment paper. Mine shown here are 15 inches by 15 inches.
Next, fold each square in half and trace half a heart.
Now, cut out along the tracing marks and open each heart up. Set the parchment hearts aside for later.
Wash the asparagus stalks,cut off the tough ends, and cut in half. If they are thick, cut them in half down the middle.
By this time the lentils should be done with their partial cooking. Remove the carrot and celery from the lentils and discard. Turn the oven on and let it preheat to 425 degrees. Peel and dice the remaining 3 shallots to make 1/4 cup chopped. Juice the lemon to make 1/4 cup juice. Chop the cilantro to make 1/4 cup. Add the shallots, lemon juice, cilantro, and the 1/2 teaspoon salt to the lentils and combine. Set aside for just a moment. Also, mix the garam masala with the 1 teaspoon of salt and set that mixture aside for a moment as well.
Brush both sides of the parchment paper heart with a little of the olive oil.
Place 1/2 cup of the lentil mixture in the middle of one side of each heart.
Lay the cut asparagus piece in a nice pattern on top of the lentil mixture.
Place three to four scallops on top of the asparagus and sprinkle 1 teaspoon of the garam masala mixture over the top.
Place 1 tablespoon of butter over the middle scallop.
Close up the parchment packet by making a series of overlapping folds – almost like crimping a pie crust.
Place the packets on a baking sheet and put it in the preheated 425 degree oven for 20 minutes.
Place each packet on individual serving plates. With a sharp knife cut an “X” in the top of each packet. Pull the paper aside and smell the delicious aroma! The meal can be eaten right from the parchment or if desired be removed from the paper and placed on a separate dish. Happy Valentines Day! Enjoy!