Italian food is so special in London. Many Londoners spend holidays in the warmth of the Mediterranean, and hundreds of thousands of Italians have made London their home. The influence of the more than thirty-years-old River Café, with its emphasis on seasonal Italian dishes, is so strong among contemporary London restaurants, too: Basically, Italian simplicity marries beautifully with the good farm products of the English countryside. Luca is a more recent British-Italian destination, and I’m a little smitten. It’s a big, ambitious space, and yet has all these intimate little nooks. The food is beautifully whittled down and sumptuous. At Luca, sea scallops arrive baked in their beautiful shells with a bit of spicy soft ’nduja sausage. If you can get your hands on scallop shells, by all means use them! If not, a pretty, simple plate will do just fine.
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Scallops with ’Nduja
- 1 pound (455 g) dry-pack large scallops
- ½ cup (1 stick/115 g) unsalted butter
- 5 ounces (140 g) ’nduja sausage , (I recommend La Quercia, a US-based maker of artisan cured meats made from heritage breeds), pulled into small pieces
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 lime, half for squeezing, half in wedges, to serve
- crunchy sea salt, to finish
- Set the scallops out on a paper towel to dry. Season lightly with salt on both sides.
- In a small sauté pan over medium heat, melt 4 tablespoons (55 g) of the butter, then add the ’nduja and break up the meat with the end of a spatula to make the sausage melt into the butter. When incorporated, turn off the heat and reserve.
- Heat a 12-to 14-inch (30.5-to 35.5-cm) heavy steel pan over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and 3 tablespoons of the butter to the pan and let melt. Pat each scallop top with a paper towel to dry the surface. When the butter is bubbling, place each scallop in the pan, making sure to not crowd the scallops together. Increase the heat to high and do not move the scallops. Let them cook for 1 ½ to 2 minutes, or until each has a nice dark caramel color. Flip each scallop with tongs and add one more tablespoon of butter to the pan. Squeeze about 1 tablespoon of lime juice into the pan and cook for another minute, basting the scallops using a large spoon. Cook until the scallops are just firm to touch and warm at their centers (use a knife to check one). They should be rare, but not cold, and should look raw and transparent at their centers.
- When the scallops are done, place them on a warm plate. Reheat the ’nduja butter, about 30 seconds, and spoon over the scallops. Sprinkle with crunchy salt and serve with another wedge of lime to squeeze over.