"When you see that crab cake sitting all by itself on the plate without even a sprig of parsley you may think, ‘what’s so special about this?’ But when you taste it, it’s like, ‘OK, now I get it.’" That’s Jimmy Sneed, two-time James Beard Foundation nominee, on his straightforward cooking style: deep flavors, no frills. After learning from Jean-Louis Palladin at Washington, D.C.’s Watergate Hotel in the ’80s, Sneed made a name for himself, particularly at The Frog and the Redneck in Richmond, Virginia. This fall, he was lured to Naperville where he opened SugarToad, a regional American restaurant in the new Hotel Arista.

Jimmy Sneed’s Pan-Crusted Scallops with Lobster Coral Butter Sauce
Yield: Six servings

Lobster Coral Butter
Prep time: 4 minutes

½ stick unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 ounce lobster coral (roe)

1. Cream the butter and lobster coral until smooth, occasionally scraping the sides.
2. Use a rubber spatula to transfer the lobster coral to a container, cover, and refrigerate.

Cream Base
Prep time: 15 minutes

1 onion, sliced
2 shallots, sliced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock
2 cups heavy (whipping) cream

1. Sweat the onions and shallots in olive oil. Add the wine and stir, reducing this mixture until pan is practically dry, about 3-5 minutes, depending on the size of the pan.
2. Add the chicken stock and reduce again until almost dry.
3. Add the cream and stir to combine.
4. Simmer slowly for 10 minutes.
5. Remove from heat and strain out the solids. Set aside.
"The resulting liquid is a rich, flavorful, multidimensional cream base."

Sautéed Leeks
Prep time: 5 minutes

2 leeks trimmed, split, sliced, and washed thoroughly
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Good quality salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3 tablespoons cream base (see recipe above)

1. Sauté the sliced leeks in oil over medium heat, seasoning with salt and pepper.
2. When the leeks just lose their crunch (about 3-4 minutes), add three tablespoons of the cream base and stir.
3. Remove from heat but leave in the pan to keep warm.

Pan-Crusted Sea Scallops
Prep time: 3 minutes

12 large "dry" sea scallops, cleaned of side muscle. ("Dry" or "sticky" sea scallops are usually from the last day’s catch. The best contain no water-retaining food additives, and are less common and therefore more expensive than the more readily available "soaked" sea scallops.)
extra-virgin olive oil
good-quality salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Slice the scallops in half widthwise, resulting in two uniform rounds from each scallop. Season the tops with salt and pepper.
2. Place a cast-iron skillet over high heat and until very hot. Add just enough oil to barely coat the bottom of the pan.
3. Place the scallop slices in skillet. A very fresh dry scallop will have lots of natural sugar in it and will crust—surprisingly like a crème brûlée—in the hot pan. 4. After a good crust is formed, about 15-20 seconds, flip the scallops and cook for two more seconds.
3. Remove the slices to a paper towel–lined plate.

Lobster Coral Butter Sauce
¼ cup lobster coral butter (see recipe above)
1 tablespoon chicken stock
Good quality salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Combine the lobster coral butter and the chicken stock in saucepan.
2. Whisk gently over medium heat until the sauce is smooth and thickened. Work quickly and be careful that the coral butter doesn’t ‘scramble’ since these are eggs. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Final preparation
1. Rewarm the creamed leeks and place a spoonful in the center of each plate.
2. Arrange four slices of scallops around the leeks.
3. Spoon lobster coral butter sauce around the scallops.

Film: Uji Films