Thursday, June 9, 2011

Lemon Herbed & Delicious!

Good evening everyone! Tonight, we’re breaking new ground on the blog once again. If you’ll recall, last week I debuted pork to our blog – a product that had firmly resided in my least liked food group for ages. I found that with the right treatment, and an appropriate cooking method, pork could actually become a decent dish. Tonight, I’m going to debut a new ingredient for the blog once again. This one isn’t on my ‘dish-ona non-grata’ (ha…puns are fun) but it is something I’ve never cooked with before: scallops.

Scallops are members of the marine bivalve mollusk (think clams). They are traditionally found of the coast of the eastern United States, China and Japan. They are very similar (behavioral wise) to oysters – they are primarily filter feeders and have muscular ‘foot’ that they can use to move around the sea floor. Unlike oysters, however, the meat of a scallop is very firm almost like a cross of steak and chicken. No gross ‘mucus’ like dishes are coming from a scallop recipe.

Maggie and I first tried scallops at Bonefish Grill in West Des Moines. Maggie was feeling adventurous and decided to try something completely new – bacon wrapped scallops. We were both very surprised by the final dish. Tender, firm, delicious scallops disproved every notion we had about shellfish – clams in particular. So, when I found a recipe for scallops in our ‘Cooking For Two’ cookbook – I was eager to give it a go.

The Recipe: Baked Scallops With Lemon Herbs

Original Recipe Found In: Cooking for Two 2011

What You’ll Need:

1 Very Small Leek, White & Light Green Parts Only. Sliced 1/4 inch thick, rinsed (1/2 cup)
2 Teaspoons Vegetable Oil
1 Garlic Clove (Minced)
1/8 Teaspoon Dried Thyme
2 Teaspoons Unbleached All Purpose Flour
2 Tablespoons Dry White Wine
1 Cup 1% Low-Fat Milk
1/4 Teaspoon Grated Lemon Zest
2 Teaspoons Fresh Lemon Juice
12 Ounces Large Sea Scallops (About 8 scallops)
1 Teaspoon Fresh Minced Parsley

The first thing you need to know when buying scallops is that they come in two variants. Wet & dry. Now, this does not mean that they are stored in water or stored on ice – rather it refers to the treatment of the scallops. ‘Wet’ scallops have been treated with an MSG like salt solution to help extend the shelf life of the scallop; whereas ‘dry’ scallops are simply stored on ice or in an ice water solution.

Wet scallops will tend to be more ‘pink’ and have shades of off white. They are also a little less firm than a dry scallop. It’s likely that the further you extend from either coast – the more likely you are to find wet scallops only. Living in Iowa, dry scallops are nothing more than a pipe dream.

So, what’s the difference for a recipe? Well, wet scallops acquire an off flavor from the MSG solution that a dry scallop does not have. It has been described as an almost ‘chemical’ like flavor. So, if you can only find wet scallops, are you resigned to eating chemical tasting fish? Nope – thanks to our friends at America’s Test Kitchen, who have developed a method for removing the MSG flavors from a scallop, you can eat fresh tasting scallops no matter where you live.

All it takes to cure a wet scallop of its ill-gotten flavor is to submerge the scallop in quart of cold water, with ¼ cup of lemon juice and two tablespoons of salt. Let them rest for 30 minutes and – ta-da – you now have dry tasting scallops (and in this case, that’s a good thing!)

Fixing wet scallops - with a bath

Begin preparing your scallops by adjusting the oven rack to the middle position and preheating the oven to 450 degrees. Combine your leek, oil and pinch of salt & pepper in a medium saucepan. Cover and cook on medium-low heat for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until the leek begins to soften. For us, this took a much shorter 4 minutes. Be sure to monitor it.

Next, stir in your garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, roughly 30 seconds. Stir in the flour and mix until combined. Slowly whisk in the wine and once incorporated, slowly mix in the milk as well. All the mixture to come to a simmer and cook until thickened (roughly 2 to 5 minutes). Off of the heat, stir in the lemon zest and season with salt & pepper to taste.

Pat the scallops dry with a paper towel. The scallops store a great deal of moisture in them, and they will release that moisture while cooking. That's why our sauce is pretty thick at the moment, as the scallops will add a lot of water to the sauce in the oven. However, if you don't pat the scallops dry - you may have too much water being released into the sauce and end up with a runny mess.

Once the scallops are dried, season them lightly with salt and pepper and place in a square (oven safe) baking dish. Pour the sauce over the top of the scallops and cook in the oven until they become firm - roughly 10 minutes but this will vary based on the size of the scallop.

Once cooked, carefully transfer the scallops to a serving plate, leaving the sauce in the baking dish. Add lemon juice and parsley to the sauce and whisk to combine. Pour the sauce over the scallops and enjoy!

The Results:

If you've never tried scallops, you really do owe it to yourself to go out and find some. They don't have the most appeasing appearance (pre-cooked) but they end up with great flavor no matter how you end up cooking them. The lemon herb sauce lived up to it's name, adding a nice touch of zesty flavor to the dish without masking the great natural (almost chicken like) flavor of the scallops. The scallops themselves were firm, yet tender and delightfully fresh tasting. The lemon juice bath is certainly a necessity if you're working with wet scallops.

That's all we have for you this week. It's been another adventurous week here on the blog. We hope you enjoyed reading our recipes as much as we enjoyed sharing them with you. We're back on Monday with another 'Around The Culinary World'. Until then, enjoy your weekend and as always,


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