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Bay scallops with vodka cream sauce

(Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff)
By Jill Santopietro
November 19, 2008
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Serves 4

The most prized bay scallops from Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard, (pricey at about $30 a pound, but cheaper than eating out), arrived earlier this month. Local bays are best eaten simply raw with a little lemon juice, sea salt, and a delicate olive oil. Otherwise French them up with this sauce, which begins with pancetta, celery, leek, and fennel, and follows with a generous splash of vodka. Creme fraiche enriches the sauce and adds a hint of tartness.

6tablespoons olive oil
4ounces pancetta, half diced and half finely chopped
1stalk celery, finely chopped
1leek (light green and white parts only), finely chopped
1small fennel (outer leaves pulled off), cored and finely chopped
1bay leaf
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4cup vodka
1cup water
1cup clam juice
1/4cup creme fraiche
1 1/4pound bay scallops
1. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat. Cook the pancetta, stirring often, for 4 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel.

2. Add the celery, leek, fennel, bay leaf, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.

3. Remove 1/2 cup of the vegetables from the pan; set aside.

4. Add the vodka to the skillet and, let the vodka reduce until nearly evaporated. Add the water and clam juice. Boil gently to reduce the liquids by half.

5. Strain the sauce into a bowl; return it to the skillet. Stir in the creme fraiche and boil 2 minutes.

6. In another large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over high heat. Season the scallops with salt and pepper. Sear half the scallops, without moving, until just opaque. Transfer to a plate and keep warm. Clean and dry the skillet. Repeat with remaining olive oil and scallops.

7. Divide the scallops among 4 plates, place 2 tablespoons of the reserved vegetables around each one, and top with pancetta and sauce.

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