This soup has been in my repertoire for many years, and I make it every time I want to serve an impressive but simple to make appetizer. The silky smooth soup offers just a tinge of sweetness from the maple syrup, and although it’s delicious on its own, it becomes extra special when topped by a single seared scallop, a few drop of best quality olive oil and a sprinkle of colorful sprouts. You can prepare the soup a couple of days in advance and sear the scallops at the very last minute, which leaves you time to enjoy your company. It’s the perfect soup for special occasions, like today. Happy Valentine’s Day!
1½ lb [750 g] parsnip, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp [30 ml] vegetable oil
¼ cup [60 ml] unsalted butter
3 leeks (white part only), sliced and cleaned
3 French shallots, finely diced
6 cups [1.4 L] chicken stock
3 pears, peeled, cored and chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tsp [5 ml] fresh thyme, chopped
2 tbsp [30 ml] maple syrup
½ cup [125 ml] heavy cream
8 large scallops
1 tbsp [15 ml] vegetable oil
Sea salt and black pepper
Preheat oven to 375°F [190°C]. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bol, combine the chopped parsnip with the vegetable oil, mixing well to make sure the vegetables are well coated. Spread the parsnip on the baking sheet. Grate some nutmeg over, then sprinkle with salt and white (or black) pepper. Roast for 25 minutes, turning the vegetables at mid-cooking point.
In a large pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and shallots and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and keep on cooking, stirring once in a while, for 4 minutes. Add chicken broth, roasted parsnips, diced pears, bay leaf, thyme and maple syrup. Stir well. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Remove pot from heat, remove the bay leaf and let the soup cool a little.
Use an immersion blender to purée the soup finely, or cool slightly and purée in batches in a standing blender, transferring pureed soup back to a clean pan on low heat. Incorporate the cream, taste the soup and adjust the seasoning, if needed. Keep warm on the lowest heat while you prepare the scallops.
Heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil in a large nonstick pan over high heat. Dry the scallops thoroughly (to ensure a good sear). Sprinkle each scallop with sea salt and black pepper. When the pan is very hot, add the scallops and sear about 2 minutes per side, (don’t move the scallops, except for turning them), or until golden on both sides but still translucent in the middle (you can check this by viewing them from the side). Be careful not to overcook the scallops as they will keep on cooking a little in the hot soup.
To serve, ladle the soup in warm shallow bowls and add one seared scallops per bowl. Sprinkle with drops of best quality olive oil, cracked black pepper and sprouts, if desired. Serve immediately.
Recipe Credit: Adapted from Coup de Pouce magazine