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Dish R&D: Scallops with White-Truffle Mac and Cheese

21 March 2006

A comfort-food classic gets dressed up at Denver's Solera Restaurant & Wine Bar.

This article first appeared in the 15 January 2006 issue of Restaurants & Institutions (R&I).

R&I is the USA's leading source of food and business-trend information and exclusive research on operators and restaurant patrons. Editorial coverage spans the entire foodservice industry, including chains, independent restaurants, hotels and institutions. To find out more about R&I, visit its website www.foodservice411.com.

By Allison Perlik, Senior Editor

Building a menu that strikes a balance between traditional and on-trend food is a challenge that Goose Sorensen, chef-owner of 4-year-old Solera Restaurant & Wine Bar in Denver, accepts with creativity and finely tuned culinary skills. A well-appointed entrée of sautéed Scallops With White-Truffle Mac and Cheese tackles the task with aplomb, marrying the comfort of pasta and white Cheddar with the cachet of seafood and truffles.

"We wanted to kill two birds with one stone with a dish we could menu in the wine bar and as an entrée," Sorensen says of the plate's cheese-accented pasta foundation, which flies solo on the bar menu and also is sold as an à la carte side. "We tried it with a pork chop, but they were hard to eat together and looked bulky on the plate. When we brought in the scallops, everything came together."

For the pasta, the chef experimented with bowties and tagliatelle that easily could be speared with a fork but instead chose corkscrew-shaped cavatappi, hollow noodles that are an ideal conduit for creamy, béchamel-based sauce. Sorensen gives high marks to béchamel, which gives the sauce consistency and moderates food costs since it requires less sharp white Cheddar.

Grilled asparagus and green peas introduce color and crunch to the mix, while slivered, toasted almonds deliver additional texture. "I thought about including mushrooms, but the dish would be all 'squish,'" says Sorensen, who also considered roasted red onions or shallots but didn't want to overload the composition.

Truffle oil, drizzled sparingly, heightens flavor and imparts a heady aroma. When they're in season, shaved white truffles can be added to the top. Garnished with sharp, grated stravecchio Parmesan and chervil, the dish ends on a bright note with a sprinkling of gremolata made with lemon zest, fresh Italian parsley and panko crumbs.

DISH: Scallops with White-Truffle Mac and Cheese
COMPOSITION: Scallops, cavatappi pasta, white Cheddar cheese, asparagus, green peas, toasted almonds and gremolata
TIMELINE - R&D THROUGH INTRODUCTION: 1 day
MENU PRICE: $20
FOOD COST: 21%

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