Plate of oysters from Dancing Bear Appalachian Bistro in Tennessee.

Tastes Like Spring

Dancing Bear Appalachian Bistro Chef Jeff Carter Dishes Up a Taste of Spring

REFINED, YET  approachable cuisine is the specialty at Dancing Bear Appalachian Bistro in Townsend, Tennessee. Chef Jeff Carter’s innovative approach to the menu is a product of his deep understanding of the history and evolution of the region’s unique culinary culture, as well as his emphasis on relationships with local farmers and his ongoing collaboration with the bistro’s resident farmer of the on-site gardens and hydroponic farm. Carter’s concentration on ingredients starting as seeds until they are harvest-ed and ready to serve allows him to execute exciting dishes that showcase the best ingredients available during each growing season.

Chef Carter’s excitement over the garden is contagious. 

“The first days of spring bring fresh peas tendrils to our garden, so this play on peas and carrots is the perfect addition to our early spring menu,” he says. ” The fresh English peas paired with a bright and flavorful carrot puree highlight the tender, briny sea scallops and are accented by smoky Benton’s bacon, salty caviar and fresh mint. The dish is finished with preserved lemon and pea tendrils picked right out of our garden.” 

We think you’ll agree: It tastes like spring. 

Chef Jeff Carter of Dancing Bear Appalachian Bistro
Chef Jeff Carter of Dancing Bear Appalachian Bistro

Sea Scallops with Peas & Carrots

Yields 4-6 servings

INGREDIENTS

12 each 
U-10 sea scallops, cleaned and scored on one side
12-16  small tricolored carrots–, peeled and cut in half lengthwise (about 5-6 inches long)
2 cups  English peas, blanched
4 oz   Benton’s bacon or any smokey bacon, finely diced
12-16 white pearl onions, peeled and blanched
3-4 cups  pea tendril salad (recipe follows)
1 cup  bacon vinaigrette (recipe follows)
2  cups  carrot coriander puree (recipe follows)
1 oz  caviar, like bowfin or paddlefish
2-3 oz  white wine (can sub vegetable stock or water)

METHOD

  • Blanch the English peas in boiling salted water for 10 seconds then remove  with a strainer and shock in ice bath, leaving the peas in the strainer. Once cold, removed from water, shake to remove water and place in a bowl lined with paper towels or a kitchen towel to absorb any water. Set aside.
  • In the same boiling water, blanch the pearl onions for about 1 minute then remove with a strainer and shock in ice water. Once cool, peel the outer skin off, and place the onions in a bowl and set aside.
  • For the scallops-make sure to clean the little side muscle off the scallop then, with a sharp knife, score one side (the presentation side) of the scallop in a diamond patten very shallow, about 3 slices one way and 3 slices the other way. Place on a tray lined with a clean cloth to make sure the scallops are completely dry.
  • Don’t season you scallops until you are ready to sear them.
  • For the bacon-small dice and set aside.

SERVING

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Place 6 plates in the oven to warm. 
Heat the carrot puree and set aside to stay warm.

For the scallops —
 

  • Heat a 10 to 12-inch heavy bottom pan. Add about 2 T of canola oil to the pan and heat until it shimmers. (You just want a light layer of oil on the bottom of the pan.) 
  • Season scallops with kosher salt and place scored side down into the hot pan. Let them cook for 2-3 minutes on one side then flip and sear the other side. Once the scallops are done, remove to a metal pan lined with paper towels and place in oven to keep warm.

For the Vegetables — 

  • Use tongs and wipe clean with paper towels the pan you cooked the scallops in and place on medium-high heat (alternately you can use another pan about the same size).
  • Add the bacon and cook until almost crispy, about 2-3 minutes, depending on size.
  • Add the carrots, cut side down if possible, and the pearl onions let them char, about 1 minute.
  • Deglaze the pan with wine, vegetable stock or water and add the peas and cook just to heat the peas through but keeping their vibrant green color. Pull the pan off the heat and start plating the dish.

PLATING

  • While the vegetables are cooking place a couple Tbls of carrot puree on each plate a little off center. Using the back of a spoon, swipe the carrot puree across the plate.
  • Divide the carrot, onion, pea and bacon mixture between each of the plates on the carrot swipe.
    Remove the scallops from the oven and place 2 on each of the plates around the vegetable mixture scored side up.
  • Toss the peas tendril salad together in a bowl and divide between each of the plates, a little of the salad next to each of the scallops.
  • Spoon about 1 Tbls of the bacon vinaigrette on each plate around the scallops and vegetables. The vinaigrette may bread a little, but that’s okay. 
  • Top each scallop with a dollop of caviar and serve.

Carrot Coriander Puree

INGREDIENTS
yields about 4-5 cups

2 lbs. carrots, peeled and medium diced
2 Tbls. coriander seeds, toasted
2 Tbls. fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1 Tbls. kosher salt
½ tsp red pepper flakes
1-1½ cups water
½ each lemon, juiced
½ c EVOO

METHOD

  • Place all ingredients except the lemon juice and EVOO in a metal pan and cover with foil or a lid.
  • Cook at 350 degrees low fan for 30-40 minutes, or until semi-soft.
  • Remove from oven and let come to room temperature then transfer the contents of the pan to a blender.
  • Add lemon juice and EVOO then puree until smooth.
  • Check seasoning then transfer to a small pot and set aside.

Pea Tendril Salad

INGREDIENTS

2 cups pea tendrils
1 cup fresh mint leaves, picked
½ cup preserved lemon rinds, thin sliced julienned (recipe follows) or (purchase on amazon or specialty food stores)
½ each lemon, juice
½ cup purple micro greens (optional)
2 Tbls EVOO

METHOD

  • Mix all ingredient together in a bowl right before plating.
  • If you can’t find preserved lemon, you can substitute a couple Tbls of lemon zest, just know this will change the flavor of the salad.
  • If you are using salted preserved lemons, make sure you rinse them well under cold water. (See note below.)

Bacon Vinaigrette

INGREDIENTS
yields about 2 ½ cups

1 each shallot, minced
½ cup bacon fat (preferably Benton’s), melted
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup cider vinegar
2 Tbls brown sugar
1 cup olive oil
¼ cup Dijon mustard
½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp salt
1/16 tsp(dash) xanthan gum (optional-for stability of vinaigrette)

METHOD

  • In a small sauté pan, cook the shallots in about 2 T of bacon fat until soft.
  • In a 1-quart container, or blender, combine vinegar, sugar, mustard, the rest of the melted bacon fat, salt, pepper and the cooked shallots with the bacon fat.
  • Blend on medium high with stick blender to combine or in the blender if using.
  • While still blending slowly stream olive oil then sprinkle in xanthan gum, if using. Blend for 30 seconds. Check seasoning and set aside.
  • Utilize any leftover bacon vinaigrette on a fresh spinach salad or kilt greens or toss with some roasted fingerling potatoes for a nice side dish.

Preserved Lemons

STEP ONE

Ingredients
10 lemons
1 sprig basil
1 spring tarragon

Method

  • Place lemons in a medium size pot, cover with water and bring to a boil.
    Cook until tender, about 10-12 minutes.
  • Drain the lemons and place on a metal pan.
  • Let them come to room temperature.
  • Once cool enough to handle, cut in quarters from end to end. Cut out most of the pulp, including the seed, from each quarter.
  • Place cleaned rinds in a glass jar with the herbs.

STEP II

Ingredients

1 c water
2 c sugar
2 ½ c rice wine vinegar

Method

  • Bring mixture to boil and pour over lemon rinds. Let cool at room temperature and sit out overnight then place in fridge.
  • Let the preserved lemons refrigerate for at least 12 hours before using.
  • Preserved lemons will last a month in the refrigerator.
  • Use in salads, light pasta dishes, marinades or toss with some fresh herbs and use on grilled fish or chicken.
  • Note that there are many different recipes for preserved lemons and different products to purchase, most using just salt and lemon to preserve. Our recipe for this dish creates delicate, sweet, preserved lemon. If you use different ones, make sure to taste them before using to understand the flavor and how it will pair with the dish.
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