Recipe from Indian Cooking Unfolded by Raghavan Iyer (Workman Publishing Company, 2013)
Macher Malai Curry
A trip to the fish market in Calcutta in the morning reveals bountiful fish and seafood, clean smelling, healthy looking, and inviting. A common sight of a stray cat sauntering from vendor to vendor in hopes of a morsel of sardine or any fish parts is cute to see, as his begging eyes and pitiful meows pull at many a vendor’s heartstrings. The perfect balance of simple spices here yields creamy results for sweet scallops, and the combination is nothing short of perfection. Serve it with steamed white rice (preferably basmati) for a quickie (meal that is!).
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1⁄2 teaspoon black or yellow mustard seeds
- 1⁄4 teaspoon cardamom seeds
- 1 pound large sea scallops (12 to 15)
- 4 medium-size cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 dried red cayenne chiles (like chile de árbol),
- stems discarded, coarsely chopped (do not remove the seeds)
- 1 teaspoon coarse kosher or sea salt
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1⁄2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
- leaves and tender stems
1. Place the fennel, mustard, and cardamom seeds in a spice grinder (you can also use a coffee grinder) and grind them to the consistency of finely ground black pepper. Don’t forget to get a good whiff as you open the lid. Be prepared to be blown away and say wow! Transfer the spice blend to a medium-size bowl.
2. Add the scallops, garlic, chiles, and salt to the bowl with the spice blend and stir to mix, making sure you coat the scallops well with this highly aromatic combination. Refrigerate the scallops, covered, until you are ready to cook them. Keep in mind that since there is nothing acidic in this mix, you can easily marinate the mollusks overnight.
3. When you are ready to cook the scallops, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil appears to shimmer, add the scallops, rub and all, to the skillet, arranging them in a single layer. Sear the scallops until they are a light reddish brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side.
4. Pour the coconut milk into the skillet and reduce the heat to medium. The coconut milk will immediately start to bubble in the hot skillet. Scrape the bottom of the skillet to release all the browned bits, effectively deglazing the skillet to create a depth of flavor in the sauce. Cover the skillet and let the scallops simmer, without stirring, until they are firm to the touch but not rubbery, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the scallops to a serving platter. Let the sauce continue to simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 2 minutes. Pour the pan sauce over the scallops.
5. Serve the scallops warm sprinkled with the cilantro.