Michelle Bernstein is South Florida’s most well-known chef, thanks to her restaurants – Crumb on Parchment in Miami’s Design District is the latest in a line of successes – and her appearances on local and national television. For our food issue, we asked Michelle her thoughts on the local restaurant scene – and for a couple tasty recipes.

Q: Let’s start by talking about one of the dishes you’ve shared with us. Seared scallops with pomegranate brown butter is a beautiful dish, but also quite straightforward. What’s special about a dish like this? What makes it work for you?
A: What I love about this dish is as simple as it might be, the balance of the nutty brown butter with fresh lemon, brininess of the capers and juicy, crunchy bite of pomegranate truly make a happy dance in your mouth.

Q: Many people are likely familiar with you thanks to your work on television. Today it seems like so many restaurant patrons are knowledgeable about food and interested in the stories behind dishes and ingredients. Do you think the explosion of TV and media around food has changed the way regular people see it?
A: Very much so. I think people want to know not only where their food comes from, but what exactly went into the preparation, how the ingredients were used, what was the method in preparation and they most definitely have a higher knowledge of ingredients.

Q: You’ve worked in different styles of food and restaurants. What really excites you today in the culinary world?
A: Young talent, and the fact that you could be a young woman from Mexico cooking Korean food that might happen to be vegan and gluten free and it’s totally accepted whereas just 15 years ago, I was a young Jewish Latin chef trying to be accepted by doing the Latin food I grew up with and was rejected left and right because I wasn’t Latin enough.

Q: Finally, you’re one of the faces of the food scene in Miami. Do you follow what’s happening in Fort Lauderdale and Broward? How are we doing up here?
A: Absolutely. I feel the cuisine in Broward and the Palm Beaches is at the same level as it is in Miami. You can find incredible Middle Eastern to Asian to Latin to my girlfriend, Lindsay Autry, doing impeccable Southern cuisine. I just wish we could have sandwiches like Clay Conley’s down here in Miami.


The Dish: Seared Scallops With Pomegranate Brown Butter

Ingredients (serves 4):
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 8 (10/20 size) scallops, dry pack
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1 tbsp shallot, diced small
  • 1 tbsp capers
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp Italian parsley, chopped
  • ½ tbsp dill, chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
Method:

Heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Season the scallops with salt and pepper. Sauté the scallops until golden brown on both sides. Place into a 375-degree oven for four minutes.
Meanwhile add the butter to a small stainless steel sauté pan. Turn the heat; to medium-high. Allow the butter to turn a golden brown. Shut off the heat, immediately add the shallot, pomegranate seeds, capers and season with salt and pepper. Add the lemon juice and herbs.
Top the scallops with the brown butter sauce and serve immediately.


The Dish: Squash Blossoms With Shrimp And Grits

Ingredients (serves 6):
  • 12 squash blossoms
  • Flour, for dredging
Shrimp filling
  • 1/2 lbs fresh shrimp, peeled, deveined, chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 2 tbsp shallots, minced
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • 1 egg
Batter
  • 3/4 cup AP flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 12 oz of cold beer
  • Flour for dredging
Cheese Creamy grits
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 cup stone ground grits
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 lb grated cheddar Cheese
Method:

Place all ingredients for the shrimp filling except for the egg in a food processor and puree until smooth. Add the egg and puree. Transfer the mixture to a pastry bag. Cut a small opening in the tip and pipe 1/2–1 tablespoon of shrimp filling into each blossom. Refrigerate until set.

Whisk the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl. Mix in the egg. Pour in the beer and whisk until smooth. Dredge the filled blossoms in flour then dip into the batter.

Submerge into hot oil for about 3–4 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels.

Bring the chicken broth, butter and salt to a boil; stir in the grits and bring back to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook the grits for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the milk; cook until nice and soft, about another 10–15 minutes. Add the cheese and season to taste. Cover for a few minutes before serving. Serve the grits in a bowl with one or two blossoms right on top.

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