Curried Scallops on Pumpkin Polenta Cakes
1/2 cup canned unsweetened pumpkin puree
* 1 1/2 cups water
* 2 tablespoons heavy cream
* 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
* 1/2 tablespoon honey
* 1/2 cup polenta (not instant)
* 1/4 cup vegetable oil, plus more for frying
* 1/2 tablespoon curry powder
* 16 medium sea scallops
* Cilantro leaves, for garnish
In a medium saucepan, combine the pumpkin with the water and bring to a boil. Add the cream, butter, honey and a generous pinch of salt. Add the polenta in a thin stream, whisking constantly. Cook over moderate heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until thickened and tender, about 20 minutes. Scrape the polenta into a 9-inch-square pan and refrigerate until firm.
2. In a small saucepan, heat the 1/4 cup of vegetable oil with the curry powder. Pour the curry oil into a small bowl and let cool. Spoon off the yellow oil and discard the curry powder.
3. Run a knife around the sides of the pan and unmold the polenta. Cut it into 1 1/2 -inch squares; you should have about 32. Heat 1/2 inch of vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet until shimmering. Fry the polenta cakes in batches, turning once, until deep golden and crisp, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a rack set over a baking sheet to drain.
4. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the curry oil until shimmering. Season the scallops with salt. Add 8 scallops to the skillet and cook over high heat until browned, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining scallops and curry oil. Let the scallops cool, then cut them in half crosswise.
5. Arrange the scallops on the polenta, cut side down, garnish with cilantro and drizzle very lightly with the remaining curry oil. Serve immediately.
MAKE AHEAD The recipe can be prepared through Step 3 and kept at room temperature for up to 6 hours.