Saturday, June 11, 2011

Youngest Hawthorne's Dinner Request.

Never ask Youngest Hawthorne what he wants for dinner.
He will tell you. I had already bought scallops in anticipation of this request. I knew it was coming. And lemme tell you- scallops are expensive now. I got 4 jumbo scallops for $7.00. Ouch. Now, if you want to hear my spiel about dry vs wet scallops, here it is:
For proper sauteing, your scallops must be dry. And by dry, I mean dry both literally and figuratively. Literally, I patted the rinsed scallops until they were dry. Figuratively, the scallops are what we call "dry" scallops, as opposed to "wet" scallops. Wet scallops have been injected with a solution of sodium tripolyphosphate (STP) which helps the scallops maintain their moisture, plumps them up, and gives them a longer shelf life. It adds extra weight to the scallops for which you will be paying. The worst part is the chemical gives the scallops a milky appearance and no matter how hot your pan and oil, you will never be able to brown or sear these scallops because of all the excess moisture. The STP also changes the texture of the scallops (Rubber comes to mind.) and masks the sweetness and delicacy of their flavor. I would never buy wet scallops knowingly. Now, those of you who live in the heartland of the country, please, let me know if you can even get dry scallops. You can usually tell the difference by looking at the scallops. Wet scallops will be soaking in a milky-like liquid. Dry scallop liquid is clear. If you don't know and can't tell, always ask the fishmonger. Oh, and for heaven's sake - if you're ever going to make a ceviche, don't even think about not using dry.
 And again: Once more, I'll reiterate the difference
between wet and dry scallops. Never, ever, ever, ever buy "wet" scallops. If you live inland, always ask your fishmonger for "dry" scallops. If he doesn't know what you're talking about, turn around and walk away. Immediately. "Wet" scallops have been treated with a chemical to plump them up weight-wise, help them maintain their moisture, and keep a longer shelf life. You can spot them immediately by just looking. Wet scallops will be in a milky type liquid. And you'll be paying for extra water weight. The solution with which they have been treated is STPP, or sodium tripolyphosphate, a preservative. You will never be able to properly sear or brown these scallops, no matter how hot your pan is. Plus, they'll taste like crap. The STPP can also give the scallops a rubbery flavor and mask the delicate, sweet flavor of the mollusk. "Dry" scallops are natural scallops, harvested directly from the ocean. Dry scallops will caramelize naturally during cooking and present an attractive golden brown color.
Back to Youngest Hawthorne's repast. He's usually very specific in his request for this meal, but he's become a bit more accepting of substitutions and omissions. If you ask him what he wants, he'll tell you: "Seared scallops on the bed of risotto with sun-dried tomatoes and spinach with a Parmesan crisp and caramelized onions and pesto on top." This was a breeze to fix for him. I didn't have to fix the risotto for this. He accepted regular rice - a Basmati. And I didn't have to do the Parmesan crisps either. Pesto, as he knows, is a staple in my freezer, so that wasn't a problem. All I had to do was cook some rice, sear the scallops, thaw out the pesto, and caramelize some onions.

Pesto is thawing and I sliced half an onion.
Onions went into a combination of butter and oil.
 Butter for flavor.
 Oil to raise the smoke point
so you can cook at a higher heat without burning the butter.
I always add a teaspoon or two of sugar
to bring out the natural sweetness of the onions.
Freshly ground salt and pepper.
Cook over medium low heat until onions start to caramelize.
Normally, I'd use a white wine.
 But all I had was red, which is fine.
This is a nice Australian wine.
The Full Fifteen.
Smooth and rich with a full 15% alcohol.
 According to the winemaker's notes:
Appearance - Dark purple-black.
 Aroma - Spicy oak and rich blackberry aromas,  
with hints of chocolate.
Taste - Mouthfilling flavors of black cherry, plum, and cassis,
 with a l-o-n-g, velvety finish.
What he said.
Cook the onions down until nice and caramelized.
I really like the flavor the wine adds.
It's very important to dry off your scallops.
 I give them a few grinds of pepper.
Have the butter and oil very hot in the skillet and add in the scallops.
 Medium high heat.
These scallops were quite large,
 so they took about 2 minutes each side.

Plate the scallops and rice and add the caramelized onions and pesto.

That's some good eats.

1 comment:

Marilyn said...

Thanks for educating everyone on the evils of STP.

You have to realize though, that we in the heartland typically get our scallops frozen solid, not fresh. As Alton Brown would say, that's okay with me, as I know they are "fresh" and not going to to make us sick.