Street closures around the NAC during Ottawa Race Weekend

Herbaceous smoked Qualicum sea scallops

© photo: Christian Lalonde, Photolux Studio
© photo: Christian Lalonde, Photolux Studio
© photo: Christian Lalonde, Photolux Studio
© photo: Christian Lalonde, Photolux Studio
© photo: Christian Lalonde, Photolux Studio
© photo: Christian Lalonde, Photolux Studio
© photo: Christian Lalonde, Photolux Studio

Herbaceous smoked Qualicum sea scallops
chorizo kale crumble | green olive and roast garlic whip

Everyone loves scallops! In this recipe, these jewels of the sea get the respect they deserve thanks to a cold thyme-infused smoking technique prior to being pan-fried. Once you’re ready to cook the scallops, use duck fat and fresh, unsalted butter. Don’t handle them! Make sure to cook them on one side and let the natural sugars caramelize. I have loved spicy chorizo sausage ever since I first tasted it years ago while working at the Fairmont Pierre Marques Hotel’s restaurant in Mexico. The twist here is I serve the chorizo out of its casing. The final sin of this dish is an incredibly smooth purée of green olives, Yukon gold potatoes and garlic that has been roasted in olive oil. Bring all of these flavours together and you will understand why we made this dish a main course and not an appetizer at le café. Enjoy!

Step One: Herbaceous smoked Qualicum sea scallops

12 pieces         Scallops U/10 or U/20

1 bunch           Fresh thyme

1 bunch           Rosemary

1 cup               Charcoal

1 cup               Wood chips (apple, cherry cedar)


Choosing scallops can be tricky. The variety and choices available are broad in scope and for us living here in the Ottawa region, it’s best to get them fresh in season. Second best is to get them frozen “loose scallops”. The term “U10” refers to “10 pieces per pound”. When you get home, allow your scallops to thaw one day in advance. Don’t thaw them in a bowl of water. It’s best not to try to accelerate the process: just let them thaw at room temperature on a kitchen towel. There is nothing worse than a soggy, un-firm scallop. A good tip is to allow them to air dry for a minimum of 24 hours in the fridge. The scallop will lose approximately 20% of its water content and will be far more durable when cooking, and coloring will happen quicker and more evenly. On to smoking the scallops: It’s not as complicated as you might think. The technique involves using your BBQ and a couple additional tools.

First turn your oven to broil, wrap a metal pie plate with aluminum foil, place the charcoal in the pan under the broiler, and keep the charcoal there until it is glowing red hot. Some chefs like to soak their wood chips. Not me. I prefer my wood chips dry and naturally smaller… but never sawdust! Prior to starting your smoking, you will need to ensure your BBQ is located in a well-ventilated area outside. Don’t turn it on! We are using the BBQ as a smoking chamber. So lay your scallops on one side of the BBQ, preferably on a wire rack on which you might cool a cake. Next, take your glowing charcoal and place it on the opposite side of the BBQ. Add the wood chips. The best wood chips to use here are apple, cherry or cedar. Add your favorite wood chips on top of the hot charcoal. Once you generate a good amount of smoke, add your herbs. For best results, use fresh thyme or rosemary (use the entire herb, stem and all). Once you’ve added the herbs, close the BBQ lid and apply wet paper towels to seal any seams to the BBQ to ensure that a minimal amount of smoke escapes. Generally it takes about 20 to 35 minutes to smoke the scallops. Tip: ensure you are keeping an eye on the BBQ temperature gauge in case it starts to climb. This will tell you if you’ve put in too much charcoal. This would mean that instead of “cold smoking” your scallops, you’re “hot smoking” them. Definitely not a cool thing for the scallops. Once you’ve completed this process, allow the scallops to firm up in the fridge for a minimum of 30 minutes prior to cooking them.

Step two: Chorizo kale crumble

2 to 3 pieces    Chorizo, Mexican (fresh)

1 bunch           Kale

2 to 3 tsp         Butter sweet, cold


You need to purchase Mexican-style chorizo here. It’s not the same thing as Portuguese or Spanish chorizo sausage, which are dry-cured. Remove the casing of the sausage so you are only left with the meat. Cook your chorizo in a sauté pan over medium high heat until the fats are released and your meat is fully cooked. That’s it! Reserve warm for plate assembly. Cut the kale into 8 to 15 cm branches showcasing the leaves and par blanch in hot water. Ensure to wash well prior as these leaves can be quite gritty with dirt.  Ideally, take some of the rendered fat from the chorizo and a touch of cold butter, sauté the kale and season to taste. Again reserve warm until plate assembly.

Step three: Green olive and roast garlic whip

½ cup               Green Sicilian olives, pitted

3 Tbsp.             Potato (Mash)

2 pieces           Shallots

1 cup               Chicken stock

1 cup               Spinach leaves, fresh

¼ cup               Olive oil

2 bulbs             Garlic bulbs

To taste           Salt

To Taste          Lemon (juice only)


Using a knife, cut the top of the garlic bulb to expose the cloves. In a small frying pan, lay a small 20 cm square sheet of aluminum along with the garlic bulbs, fold up the edges of the aluminum foil into the shape of a beggars purse, fill with the olive oil and bake in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 40 minutes. Check after 30 minutes to ensure the garlic is turning golden brown on top. Reserve when fully cooked. Allow the garlic to cool. Using your fingers, gently push the garlic cloves out. Reserve both the garlic confit and oil, and discard the husks.

In a sauce pot over a medium flame, sauté the sliced shallots along with the olives and garlic confit (use 2 tbsp of garlic confit oil) for 2 minutes no colour. Next add ¾ of the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Finally add the spinach and potato and transfer this mixture to a bar blender and purée to a thick paste that should generously coat the back of a spoon. Transfer back to the now clean saucepot and adjust the thickness with the remaining stock, bringing it to a simmer. Adjust seasoning with salt and the juice of one lemon to your taste.

Plate Assembly

Prior to assembly make sure everything, except for the scallops, is hot and holds its temperature. It’s finally time to cook the scallops. Here is the simplest way (and in my opinion, the only way) to cook scallops:  in a sauté pan over medium high heat, add an equal portion of vegetable oil and olive oil. Allow the oil to preheat for a minute. Next, ensuring your scallops are totally dry, place each one into the pan. Avoid touching them or turning them over for the first 2 to 3 minutes. Allow the scallops to naturally caramelize then add cubed, cold butter to the pan cook for another 2 minutes. Once a dark golden colour has been achieved, turn the scallops over and finish cooking for another 30 seconds… and not a second more! Transfer out of the pan and discard the drippings. Use hot plates. First element down is the green olive purée. Place a heaping dollop on one end of the plate. Clean your spoon and pull it directly through the dollop, creating a teardrop with an open channel in the center. This is where two generous spoonfuls of the chorizo crumble will go. Next, place on the opposite end of the dish the sautéed kale. To finish off this plate, add the scallops (generally three for a main course). Should you wish to copy my plate presentation, grab some funky Chinese metal teapots and place your smoky scallops in the tea pot. Serve to your hungry guests, sit back and soak up the praise.