Now as for fat, nothing browns like butter. But butter also burns at a relatively low temperature. So, we're going to augment it with a little olive oil; not extra virgin olive oil, just plain old olive oil. It has a relatively high smoke point and certainly has a more neutral flavor. So we're just going to let this melt over medium high heat. I don't want it to melt so quickly that the butter starts popping and jumping all over the place. It contains some water and we want that to evaporate out nice and easy. We don't want any industrial accidents in here, so we'll do that over medium heat.
2 tsp. Unsalted Butter
2 tsp. Olive Oil
Meanwhile, we will face the scallops themselves. The key to this is that they have got to be bone dry. So I like to go over them with a paper towel just to make sure there's no moisture at all, and then give them some seasoning.
1 to 1 1/4 Pounds Dry Sea
Salt, always a good idea. You can use any coarse salt. I like kosher, of course, but you could use sea salt. There we go. A little pepper. Not too much. Pepper can burn. I'm going to go with a relatively fine grind on this, not a coarse grind.
|Season with Salt & Pepper|
Now here's something to point out. A lot of times scallops come with that small
muscle—the one that keeps the shell closed—still on the side. It is pretty
tough when it's cooked. So just tear it off gently and feed it to the fish if
you like. A lot of times, they're already taken off. This one was still on.
So I'm going to check the fat. All the butter is melted and we'll wait for the rest of the water in that butter to bubble out. Now once the bubbling stops, watch, and when you just start to see the first wisps of smoke come up off of the fat, you'll know that it's time to get the scallops in the pan. And you don't want to wait. Because once it starts to burn, it'll happen pretty quickly.
There we go. Now they can go in. I'm going to work in kind of a radial, from the outside in. Now this is key: once those scallops are in the pan, don't go moving them around. If they're going to get a good sear on them, they need to stay put. And notice I'm not cramping them. If you don't have enough room in your pan, you can do this in two batches.
A minute and a half has passed, so it is time to flip. And I'm going to go in the same order that I put them in the pan. And I don't want to fuss with them any more than I have to. So get them in position and leave them be. Nice sears there. Some of them are probably going to sear a little better than others. That's okay, especially if they have a little bit more pepper on them. Now these need to stay down for yet another minute and a half. And once again, no finicking, no fiddling, no poking, turning, or checking, okay? Because after all, the real goal here is to create ...
[pulls down a screen with a strata drawing of a scallop] ... a strata of textures by creating a strata of donenesses ranging from the outer sear, to pert near raw right slap dab in the middle. Now you will be tempted during the cooking process, to turn down the heat, because there's going to be some hissing, and splattering, and some smoking, and what not. But if you do that, the sear will take longer, and as a result, the interior might overcook. Do not let this happen to you. Keep the pedal to the metal, thermically speaking.
<-- SEAR -->
If searing scallops in two batches, clean the pan
in between and start with fresh fat.
[cutting into a cooked scallop] There. Now that's what I'm talking about. Almost burned on the outside, barely cooked on the inside. And within that range lies all the goodness, the flavor, and texture that a scallop has to offer. I like to park mine on top a simple green salad tossed with a little spicy vinaigrette.
CS: [sticks his head through the window
and takes the plate] Yeah, it's about time, dang 'ya! Don't 'ya know we've got hungry guests up
AB: Uh, no.
CS: Now, finish plating those salads and get to working on another dish.
AB: But I want to come up on deck.
CS: No, no, no. Coast guards coming and you're not wearing a life vest. Don't want to go to jail, now, do 'ya?
[examines a scallop shell]
Well, hmm, I guess I could use these scallop shells, and take some of those bay
scallops over there, and, I don't know, make some kind of scampi kind of thing.
Step one: crank your oven to 450 degrees. [opens the oven, which is filled with junk] Oh, good thing I brought a spare. [pulls a toaster oven out of his bag, sets the heat to 450] There.
Now place your favorite skillet over medium heat and melt two tablespoons of butter. That would, of course, be unsalted butter. And when that is thoroughly melted, add one tablespoon of finely minced garlic, along with just a little pinch of salt—kosher salt, of course, is nice. And this is going to cook very, very quickly. Only about 30 seconds.
2 Tbs. Unsalted Butter
1 Tbs. Minced Garlic
That will give us just enough time to find one cup of freshly ground bread crumbs. And I'm thinking that, around here, [opens a cupboard and finds CS's crackers] Ah. Seems that we found the Captain's wafers, if you get my drift. And that will be just fine. This size cracker, about 20, finely crushed, will do the trick. So hopefully, he won't mind [crushes the crackers in the bag].
CS: [hears this up on deck and suspiciously turns his head to the noise]
And just dump these right on top of the garlic, and stir thoroughly to combine. You want to make sure that all of the butter is completely absorbed. And if the crackers brown a little in the process, that is okay. There. Now kill the heat.
1 Cup Fresh Bread or
Cut up two medium very, very, very ripe tomatoes, and about a quarter of a cup of Italian, or flat-leaf parsley. And we're just going to scoop that up and deposit it into the tomatoes, along with, eh, we'll say a quarter of a teaspoon of kosher salt. Give that a stir.
2 Medium Very Ripe
Tomatoes, Finely Chopped
1/4 Cup Fresh Chopped
1/4 tsp. Kosher Salt
And we're going to need some kind of containment vessel to bake in. We could use just any kind of oven-ready ramekin. But we happen to have some of nature's ramekins right here. That's right, sea scallop shells can be used for cooking, as long as you are gentle with them. So we're going to have, say, four of these and we'll just divide the tomato mixture evenly. Go around and kind of half fill the first time and then go back around with whatever remains.
Distribute eight ounces of bay scallops right on top of that. And notice that I'm kind of making a little bed for them by pushing down. And the same kind of thing. I'm going to go around twice, until I've got them all used up.
8 Ounces Bay Scallops,
Rinsed & Patted Dry
Oh, the crackers. Excuse me.
Not only will our flavored cracker crust provide a nice brown topping for the
dish, they'll actually act as kind of an insulation keeping the scallops from
drying out during their time in the oven.
Because we're doing this in a toaster oven, we'll only be able to do two of these at a time. I've made a little cup kind of action or a little holder out of this foil. So just set them thusly. We'll put one facing in, and another one there. Good, that will give us good circulation of heat as well. Now this goes into the oven.
In eight to ten minutes, your scallops will be cooked through and the top will be golden brown and delicious.
CS: [bursts in]
AB: What are you doing?
CS: I'm going to make a ceremonial offering to Poseidon to bring us good luck. Gimme that. [takes the scallops] You keep the dishes coming, you goody dry-pants. We need all the luck we can get. [leaves]
AB: Uh, once I fire off all these, all I've got left are those nasty wet-pack scallops of yours.
CS: [from off-camera] Well, what are you waiting for, then? Keep cooking!
Although wet-pack scallops are definitely not my favorite, they are pretty good for making a mousse. And no, I did not mean something that you would put in your hair. Step one: crank whatever you have that passes for an oven to 350 degrees and then take one pound of wet-pack scallops for a spin in your friendly neighborhood food processor. Now we want to make a smooth paste here, not a soup. So work in pulses, okay?
1 Pound Wet Scallops, Rinsed
& Patted Dry
|Four to five pulses will get our scallops almost smooth. And we'll open up and drop in two egg whites, and these we will process in until basically we can't see that there are eggs in the mixture anymore.||2 Egg Whites|
|Then we will add the seasoning: a quarter teaspoon each of freshly ground nutmeg and freshly ground white pepper, and follow that with half a teaspoon each of lemon zest and freshly chopped parsley, and a teaspoon of kosher salt. Then we'll put on the lid, and then drizzle in a quarter cup of very cold heavy cream.||
1/4 tsp. Each Ground Nutmeg
& White Pepper
1/2 tsp. Each Lemon Zest
& Fresh Parsley
1 tsp. Kosher Salt
1/4 Cup Very Cold Heavy
Cold is crucial because what makes mousses light and fluffy, of course, is air. And the fat phase of the cream will hold onto bubbles better if it's nice and cold. As for the egg whites, well, they're there to provide protein, so that the bubbles will set in place when cooked.
CS: Chief, these Coast Guard fellows want to slap a fine on you for scalloping
out of season. I think I can hold them off with a few snacks, if you get my
In the painting Birth of Venus, the goddess of love is
seen rising from the ocean in a giant scallop shell.
Our scallop mousse is a daring multi-tasker, capable of many impressive feats.
My favorite: piped mini-tarts. Now if you want to make puff pastry or phyllo
tart shells from scratch, you certainly can. But the idea of working with that
dough in here kind of gives me the willies. Of course, the fact that Captain
Squint had store-bought phyllo cups in his freezer also kind of gives me the
Anyway, as far as piping goes, you could use a real piping bag with a metal tip, but you could do what I do too which is just snip the end out of a heavy-duty zip-top bag. Just remember that the goo will expand a little bit, so don't go too much over the edge there. Oh, and it's a good idea for this stuff to stay very very cold while you're working, so you might want to keep a bowl of ice nearby to park it every now and then, you know, in case it starts to get a little bit too loose.
Ten minutes is all these little babies need to cook. But you want to let them sit and cool down for two to three minutes before you pop them in your mouth or, of course, you'll burn yourself. Now I need to find something to serve these things on. Hmmm. I wonder what's in here. [enters the lower galley]
[opens a closet and pulls out a snorkel and mask] Dive gear. Curious. Hello. [retrieves a long-range clamp with two scallops welded onto the pincers] Scallop attack, huh? [hears laughter from above, goes above]
Times Food Critic
AB: [Climbs onto the top deck] Wha ...? What the blazes.
DINERS: [are on the deck, apparently enjoying AB's food]
CS: [is serving wine to a "customer", his
sea "accent" is not present] Grapes, grapes, grapes. And that's the poem I wrote about wine.
And I think
you'll enjoy this wine. It's delicate, not pretentious. Has a hint of a smoky
aroma from the Renaissance era. The paintings, that is, and I, uh [sees AB on
deck] Wait! Wha? [with his accent] Come here. What in tarnations are you doing on deck, you
scallywag? Get down below! Don't you know, um, a storm's coming?
AB: A storm's coming?
TIMES FOOD CRITIC: Excuse me. Are you the chef?
AB: Well, yeah, I guess. Sure, heh heh.
TFC: Well, the scallops were delicious.
AB: Well, that's nice. I'm glad you liked them. [pointing his finger at Captain Squint] This is wrong. This man is perpetrating a complete and utter ...
TFC: Excuse me, excuse me.
AB: Yes, ma'am.
TFC: I'm a food writer for The Times, and I'd love to do an interview with you later.
AB: Oh. Well, maybe later. Here, you can have the rest of these [scallops]. [to Captain Squint] No, no. I can't do it. I'm going straight to ...
CS: Name your price.
AB: What do you mean, name my price?
CS: Look, business wasn't so good, so I made up the whole attack thingy, and look! Now people are lining up at two fifty a head. And I would have gotten away with it too, but it hadn't been for your meddling.
AB: You heard me.
CS: Arrgh. Deal.
Well, shiver me timbers, I guess I'd better get below and whip up some more of them scallops for you good folks. I sure would hate for you to run out of "Good Eats", eh. Ha ha ha ha. Woody, but pretentious, and, uh, ...
AB: [AB grabs Captain Squint and attempts a kiss, the townspeople laugh]
CS: Looks like you've been playing with test tubes all your life.
AB: [looses it and laughs] I'm sorry.
Transcribed by Michael Roberts
Proofread by Michael Menninger
Last Edited on 08/27/2010