"One autumn afternoon while on holiday in Paris, I discovered a tiny restaurant with walls covered in white and blue tiles, a former crèmerie," says Damien Pignolet. "Reading the menu I was entranced by this at first curious-sounding salad. On second thought, it was the perfect balance of sweet, salty and acidic flavours, with the texture of seared scallops contrasted by the slight bitterness of the witlof and married by the toasty hazelnut vinaigrette. I asked the young waiter if there might be a table available for dinner and he obliged with, 'Bien sûr, Monsieur.' At 11pm I returned to enjoy this brilliant salade composée. I brought it back to my then restaurant, Claude's, and then to Bistro Moncur in Sydney. Now I'm at Regatta in Rose Bay and we offer this marvel as a special; it's always well received, I guess because it ticks all the palate boxes."
- 50 gm hazelnuts
- 600 gm scallops, roe attached, hard white muscle trimmed
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 3-4 witlof, trimmed, leaves separated
- 120 gm Roquefort, broken into pieces and refrigerated again
- 60 ml vegetable oil (1/4 cup)
- 2 tbsp hazelnut oil
- 1½ tbsp cider vinegar, or to taste (see note)
- 1Lightly toast hazelnuts in a dry frying pan over medium-high heat (3-4 minutes). Tip into a tea towel and rub off the skins, then coarsely chop.
- 2For hazelnut vinaigrette, whisk ingredients and finely ground white pepper to taste in a large bowl, adjusting ingredients to create a spike of acidity.
- 3Heat a frying pan over very high heat. Pat scallops dry with paper towels, brush pan with oil, season scallops and sear in 3 batches, turning once, until a crust forms, keeping the flesh close to raw internally (1 minute each side). As each batch is seared toss in the bowl with vinaigrette.
- 4Arrange witlof, scallops and Roquefort on plates, sprinkle with hazelnuts, drizzle with vinaigrette, season to taste and serve.
Damien Pignolet likes to use vinaigre de cidre aux algues, échalotes et la fleur de sel (cider vinegar infused with seaweed, shallots and fleur de sel), available at Simon Johnson.