Chef Marion Morash, former assistant to Julia Child and celebrity chef of the long-running PBS series "Victory Garden," was the guest chef and had created an extraordinary meal. Course after delectable course had passed before us.
Then the scallop course arrived. The fresh little mollusks had been plucked from Massachusetts' Nantucket Bay as the sun rose over the Atlantic, air-freighted cross-country, and set before us a mere eight hours later.
There were, perhaps, two dozen 1/2-inch morsels, lightly coated in a delicate wine sauce, flecked sparingly with fresh dill. The flavor, texture, everything was exquisite. I set out to savor the dish slowly, getting to know each perfect little scallop up close and personal.
Ever since, I've appreciated a well-made scallop dish. Which means, of course, starting with great scallops.
At the market, you'll find two choices in scallops. The large sea scallops, caught miles out at sea, are available year-round. Tiny bay scallops that live in shallow coastal waters, are at their prime in winter months (but, of course, they're available all the time in their frozen state).
When scallops are fresh and untreated with any preservatives, they brown nicely when sauteed and have an almost sugary flavor. As they age, that sweet flavor diminishes as does the browning aspect.
Since it has become a common practice to soak shucked scallops in a water-and-tri-polyphosphate solution, which can undermine the cooking and eating quality of scallops, it's not a bad idea to ask at the time of purchase if the scallops are preservative-free.
If you can't get your hands on truly fresh-out-of-the-bay bay scallops, and fresh-out-of-the-sea sea scallops, then your next best option is to buy them while they're still frozen. That way, you'll be guaranteed of a good quality offering.
This dish combines many intense flavors without overpowering the delicacy of the scallops.
Sea scallop royale
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated
1/4 cup white Riesling or Gewurztraminer (a fruity and aromatic white wine)
1/4 cup undiluted orange juice concentrate
11/2 pounds (15 / 20 count) sea scallops
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup chopped green onions
1 pound orzo pasta, cooked and held hot
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Additional chopped green onion for garnish
Whisk together the sour cream, ginger, wine and orange juice concentrate; set aside.
Dredge the scallops in flour, shaking off the excess
Add the olive oil and butter to a large, nonstick skillet placed over high heat. When the oil mixture is very hot, add the scallops and sear one side until golden-brown, about 2 minutes. Turn the scallops and add the green onions and the wine and orange juice mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 2 minutes, just to heat through the scallops.
Place the hot orzo on a platter, then place the scallops on top of the pasta and pour the sauce on top. Garnish with additional chopped green onion and serve.
Makes 4 servings.
Adapted from "Cooking with the Seafood Steward," by Gary Rainier Puetz.
Red beans and rice with scallops, shrimp and sausage
2 (16 ounce) cans red kidney beans
3 cups chicken stock
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon Cajun's Choice Creole Seasoning
3/4 pound sea scallops
3/4 pound (16 / 20 count) shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails left on
3/4 pound Andoullie or Polish sausage, cut into 12 equal portions
4 thick strips pepper bacon, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
2 cups chopped yellow onions
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
3/4 cup chopped shallots
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
3 green onions, sliced on the bias for garnish
6-8 cups long-grain white rice, cooked, held hot (see note)
Place beans, chicken stock, bay leaves and creole seasoning in a large, heavy-bottomed kettle or pot on low heat. Leave uncovered.
Saute the bacon and sausage pieces in a large saute pan over medium-high heat until the bacon is slightly crispy and the sausage has browned. Using a slotted spoon, transfer both to the bean pot, leaving the drippings in the saute pan. Add the celery, onions, garlic shallots, and bell pepper to the saute pan and saute, stirring frequently, until both the celery and onions are tender.
Transfer the celery mixture to the bean pot, and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes, uncovered. Increase the heat to medium, add the scallops and shrimp, stir gently, and simmer uncovered, for 5 to 7 minutes, just until the scallops and shrimp are opaque.
Remove the bay leaves and serve the beans and equal portions of the shrimp, scallops and sausage over the hot rice. Garnish with the chopped green onions.
Note on long-grain white rice: This is the traditional rice used in this style of dish, however feel free to substitute with your favorite style of rice.
Makes 6 servings.
Adapted from "Cooking with the Seafood Steward," by Gary Rainier Puetz.
There's something particularly complimentary between scallops and the anise-flavored liqueur called Pernod, and so it is an essential ingredient in this recipe.
However, finely chopped fennel leaves or bulb, which also have a faint licorice flavor when cooked, would be a noble substitution.
Scallop saute with dillweed and Pernod
3 tablespoons butter
3 cups sliced mushrooms (about 1/4 pound)
2 cups sliced celery
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh dillweed, chopped (or 3/4 teaspoon dried dillweed)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
2 tablespoons Pernod (an anise-flavored liqueur)
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
1 pound bay scallops, rinsed and drained (if they seem at all slippery or "fishy")
12/3 cup light cream
1 pound of fettucini pasta (preferably spinach or herb-flavored)
Melt the butter in large skillet and saute mushrooms, celery and onion until onions are soft and mushrooms have released their liquid, about 5 minutes. Add dill, salt, pepper, Pernod and capers and continue cooking until liquid is almost evaporated. Add scallops and continue cooking until scallops begin to turn opaque, about 1 minute. Add cream and cook until cream reduces by about half and mixture thickens, about 5 minutes; adjust flavoring.
Meanwhile, cook fettucini in large pot of boiling water until tender (according to package directions). Drain, then toss with butter to coat. On each of four dinner plates, place a serving of pasta, then top with a portion of the scallop mixture.
Yields 4 servings.
Jan Roberts-Dominguez is a Corvallis food writer, artist, and author of "Oregon Hazelnut Country, the Food, the Drink, the Spirit," and four other cookbooks. Readers can contact her by email at email@example.com, or obtain additional recipes and food tips on her blog at www.janrd.com.
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