scallops + pots de creme to honor the dreamy movie of "inception"

i have a confession to make.  i have seen only two- "the kids are all right" and "inception"- of the ten movies that have been nominated for best picture this year.  how lame of me!  i want to see many more of the films, but david and i don't seem to make many out of the house dates these days...these films are in our netflix queue, however, so we have lots of fun friday date movie nights on our couch to look forward to!  out of the two films that i saw, i liked them both, but i am selecting "inception" as my best picture this year.  i was surprised by how much i enjoyed it.  to honor this film, i am taking an idea from whole foods and creating a "dreamy" dining experience of seared scallops and espresso pots de creme...have fun watching the awards show- i am excited about anne hathaway as one of the hosts!

for the seared scallops with blood orange and smoked paprika sauce:

heat 1 cup blood orange juice in a medium saucepan over low heat.  simmer until reduced by half, about 30 minutes, stir occasionally.

once the juice is nearly reduced, season 16 ounces of wild scallops with salt, pepper, and cumin on both sides and heat a large cast-iron skillet over high heat until smoking.  add 2 tablespoons of canola oil to skillet and sear scallops, about 1 to 2 minutes per side, until they develop a golden-brown crust and are just cooked through.  while scallops are searing, whisk 4 tablespoons of butter (cut into small pieces) into the warm reduced orange juice.  continue whisking until sauce is shiny and smooth.  whisk in 1/2 teaspoon of paprika, salt and pepper. spoon a bit of sauce onto each plate.  top with scallops and serve immediately.  this recipe makes plenty for four people or to have leftovers for monday's workday lunch:)  we had our scallops with a side of harvest grains and olive oil and kosher salt grilled veggies.

for the espresso pots de creme:

lightly crush 1/2 cup of regular or decaf espresso beans by pulsing them two or three times in a coffee grinder (if you don't have a coffee grinder, you can place them in a bag and use a rolling pin just to break the beans open).  transfer to a small pot, add 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream, 1 1/2 cups of whole milk, 1/3 cup of sugar and 1 whole vanilla bean and bring just to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. remove pot from the heat, cover and set aside for 30 minutes.

preheat oven to 300 degrees.  remove vanilla bean, rinse and set aside. strain espresso bean mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl, discarding solids.  whisk 6 eggs yolks in a medium bowl until frothy then add about 1/2 cup of the hot milk mixture while whisking constantly to temper the yolks.  pour the warmed yolk mixture back into the hot milk mixture while whisking constantly until well combined.

strain one more time through a fine mesh strainer, discarding solids. halve vanilla bean lengthwise, scrape out the seeds and whisk into the yolk mixture along with 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and a pinch of salt; discard vanilla bean pod.

arrange ovenproof ramekins, bowls or teacups on a large, deep baking dish. divide the yolk mixture evenly between the cups then carefully pour enough hot water into the baking dish to reach about two-thirds of the way up the sides of the ramekins.

bake until just set in the middle, 30 to 40 minutes, then set aside to let cool in the water bath.  once cool, remove ramekins from water, cover individually with foil and chill for at least 2 hours before serving. garnish with chocolate-covered coffee beans.

pictures will be posted at later date...sorry!