Desperately Seeking Chloe’s Scallops

By Carolyn Wyman

Originally published by Philadelphia City Paper September 2015

It’s been a tough year for the many fans of Chloe’s scallop, potato pancake and arugula salad entrée. Despite a deluge of customer praise and its signature status — being one of only four current dishes dating back to the 15-year-old bistro’s first few years — the dish has been on Chloe’s menu fewer than a dozen times in 2015.

Chloe co-owner and chef Mary Ann Ferrie attributes that to New Jersey’s Barnegat Bay freezing over in February. “We only use Barnegat Bay sea scallops — the taste is unsurpassed — and after the harsh winter, it’s been hard to get them for a good price. And I don’t want to have to charge $40 for that dish.”

The menu item was inspired by a dish Ferrie and her husband, Chloe co-owner and chef Dan Grimes, ate long ago while vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard. It had “beautifully seared scallops and watercress lightly dressed with lemon,” Ferrie remembers.

Though delicious, the dish needed crunch and spice, the couple decided. It wasn’t long before a scallop and watercress salad with a crunchy potato pancake and spicy sour cream sauce appeared on Chloe’s menu — most likely without a dry run. “After all our years of cooking, we know enough about what these elements taste like to put them together in our heads,” Ferrie says.
The only change in the decade and a half since has been a switch from watercress to arugula in 2004, when, Ferrie says, “I became addicted to arugula.” The greens up the dish’s zip. Celery seed accents the potato pancake’s crunch. Ferrie says that seasoning is “one of those things I keep in my pocket for when a dish needs something.”

Though the scallops entrée is cited in almost a third of Chloe’s Yelp reviews, the BYO’s long-running ribs entree actually sells even better. But it’s so hearty most people can’t finish it. And the scallops have the advantage of leaving plenty of room for Chloe’s banana bread pudding, another old favorite.

The sauce:
• 1 cup sour cream
• 1 small can chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
• Salt and pepper, to taste
Blend the sour cream, half of one pepper and 1 tablespoon of adobo sauce in a food processor until smooth (about 2 minutes). Refrigerate covered for up to a day (but at least 2 hours).

The salad:
• 2 cups baby arugula (or watercress)
• 1/4 of a small red onion, sliced paper-thin
• 1 teaspoon olive oil
• Salt and pepper, to taste
Toss arugula in a small bowl with onion, olive oil, salt and pepper and set aside.

The potato pancake:
• 1 Idaho potato, peeled and grated
• 1 large egg, beaten
• 1/4 cup Wondra flour
• 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
• Salt and pepper, to taste
• 1/2 cup vegetable oil
Press excess water from the grated potato. Mix the potato, egg, flour, celery seed and salt and pepper together in a bowl and let stand for 5 minutes. Heat sauté pan to medium high. Add oil. When the oil is hot, drop half the potato mixture on one side of the pan and the remainder on the opposite side. Cook both cakes for about 3 minutes or until brown, then flip and brown the other sides. Drain on paper towels. Set aside and keep warm in the oven.

The scallops:
• 8 large sea scallops (about 3/4 pound), preferably dry-packed
• 1/4 cup Wondra flour
• Salt and pepper, to taste
• 1/4 cup vegetable oil
If not using dry-packed scallops, blot them dry. Dust scallops with the flour, shaking off any excess. Heat a sauté pan large enough to comfortably fit all the scallops to medium high, add vegetable oil and heat another 3 minutes. Carefully add scallops to the oil. Cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes or until golden. Flip the scallops and cook an additional 3 minutes. Do not overcook or scallops will be rubbery. Ferrie recommends cooking them medium-rare.
Place a potato pancake on the center of each of two dinner plates, cover with arugula salad. Stir the chipotle sauce, then drizzle about 2 tablespoons on each salad. Arrange the scallops on opposite corners of the salads. Serves 2.

GET IT: $28 @ Chloe // 232 Arch St., 215-629-2337, Wed.-Sat., 5-9:30 p.m.