Every winter, just as the mercury starts to nosedive, I feel a great sense of relief at the welcome sight of dozens of different brightly colored citrus at the grocery store. Their range of hues from lemony green to rosy orange stand out against winter’s monotone of grey. Their arrival is doubly well-timed to brighten up my kitchen repertoire, which by January has usually sunk deep into “comfort mode”. A liberal dusting of grapefruit zest is just what I crave to wake up my chilled senses, and I find that even when it is illogically cold outside, I look for the those same refreshing notes in crisp white wines, like Muscadet.
Bernard Chereau’s family has been making Muscadet from some of the most prized vineyards between the Sèvre and Maine rivers of the western Loire since the 15th century. Bernard classifies his different cuvées according to each particular vineyard site, to showcase melon de bourgogne’s naturally expressive personality from different soil types and exposures. This cuvée’s long-winded name “Comte Leloup de Chateau de Chasseloir de Ceps Centenaires” bares the family name – Leloup – who originally planted this 8 hectare parcel of 100-year-old vines, likely some of the oldest in the region. Fermentation with all of Chereau’s wines is spontaneous with indigenous yeasts; once complete, this cuvée is allowed to rest on its lees in cement tanks for 12 months before bottling and later aged for 3 years before release. Elegant and clean, this wine delivers loads of sea brine and tart lime zest, with surprising body and Muscadet’s classic cutting mineral finish. It’s a match made in heaven for any fresh shellfish, but in the winter I particularly love it with plump, fresh sea scallops, served crudo style with a liberal dose of citrus.
This recipe is simple and easy to prepare, and will come as a welcome change from the heartier, more typical winter dishes we are all cooking these days. Thinly sliced sea scallops have enough body and richness to stand up to fresh citrus in a light vinaigrette with a bit of vinegar, olive oil, and a kick of spicy fresh chili. The recipe lists grapefruit juice, but its easy to substitute other citrus – blood orange works well, or pomelo, or a combination of a few different types. Let the fruit inspire you.
Scallop Crudo with fresh citrus and chili
(If you see Maine Bay scallops, substitute them for the sliced bay scallops. They are a fraction of the size and can be used whole. They are sweet and delicate and a real treat in this dish, when you can find them.)
4-5 fresh sea scallops, sliced thin
1 tsp. grapefruit zest
Juice of 1 grapefruit
2 tsp. Banyuls vinegar
4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 Scotch Bonnet pepper, ribs removed – slice one half in thin strips, and reserve other half
sea salt to taste
A few wedges of one blood orange, removed from pith and thinly sliced
A handful of minced fresh chives, and some little pieces of fennel fronds
In a non-reactive bowl, combine grapefruit juice, olive oil, vinegar, a pinch of salt, and the ½ pepper. Take a quick taste test and tweak – if the grapefruit is super sweet you might want another drop or two of vinegar.
Arrange the sliced scallops on a plate and generously dress with vinaigrette. Top with the slivers of blood orange, pepper slices, fennel fronds and chives, and a sprinkle of sea salt crushed between your fingers. Serve chilled.
– Jess Smith