Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The World Is My Scallop.

I love scallops.
And if I had to pick a favorite seafood, it might just be scallops.
They're sweet, tender, have a delicate flavor, and they're quite the versatile little bivalve.  Scallops can be baked, poached, seared, broiled, fried, and ceviched. 

Today, I'm searing my scallops and serving them on a bed of cauliflower purée with a colorful side of corn, peppers, and tomatoes. 
It's gonna be good.

First, I must go into the dry vs wet scallop issue.  It bears repeating. 

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.

 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 using wet.

Now, to prepare scallops.
Look for the tough, rubbery foot on the side of the scallop and remove it.
You can peel it off with your fingers or cut it off with a knife.
Discard it or give it to your cat for a special treat.

Rinse off scallops and pat dry with paper towels.  Lightly season with freshly ground pepper.
I don't bother with salt.  The scallop's been living in the ocean.  It's already salty.

We're having seared scallops, a vegetable mélange, and cauliflower purée.

First, the Cauliflower Purée.
I simmered cauliflower florets in lightly salted vegetable broth until tender.

I poured a little of the broth out, saving it for another use, then used an immersion blender to purée the cauliflower.
Add more of the vegetable broth back in as needed, puréeing until you get the consistency you like.  I like mine similar to smooth mashed potatoes.  Season with unsalted butter, kosher salt, and freshly ground pepper.  Sprinkle fresh thyme leaves over top.  Cover and keep warm.

Next, the Vegetable Mélange.
A few tablespoons unsalted butter

Bell pepper (You can use a combination of colors for the pretty.)

Canned corn, drained
A few pinches of sugar

Smoked sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
Chopped cilantro

Blacken the pepper over a flame or under broiler, then submerge in ice water.
Peel off blackened skin and chop pepper.

Chop onion.
Slice jalapeño, removing ribs and seeds.
Peel, seed, and juice tomato.

Melt butter in skillet over medium heat and add onion, pepper, tomato, jalapeño, and corn.  Sprinkle in a pinch or two of sugar and toss the vegetables.
Cook a few minutes until onion is tender and everything is heated through.

Season with smoked sea salt, freshly ground pepper, and chopped cilantro.
The smoked sea salt - Alderwood Smoked Sea Salt - was from The Spice and Tea Exchange in Duck.  A nice addition to the vegetable medley, the salt intensified the flavor of the smoked pepper.

Char the peppers.

Submerge in ice water and rub off the blackened skin.

Sauté the vegetables in butter.

And now on to the scallops!

Remove the "foot."
Rinse scallops and pat completely dry.

Grind some fresh pepper over the scallops and give them some lemon-zest loving along with some fresh thyme.

Heat a tablespoon each unsalted butter and peanut oil in a skillet over high heat.  Add scallops, one at a time, and cook until lightly browned.
About a minute on each side.
Remove scallops from pan.

Remove pan from heat, pour a splash of sherry in the pan, and return to heat, tilting the pan to ignite.

I love a little fire in the kitchen!

Scrape up the goody bits.  That's where the flavor is.
Add a little more butter for enrichment.

Pour reduced juices over scallops.

Plate scallops and juices on top of cauliflower purée and serve with vegetable medley.
Sprinkle with extra fresh thyme.


I love pretty food!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Rosie Makes Ciabatta.

Rosie always has homemade bread in the house.

Now, whenever I want a baguette,
 I have a go-to recipe -  my food processor baguettes, below.

You mix the dough, knead it, and let it rise all in your food processor.  After the third rising, you shape into baguettes, give it a final rise, then bake these beautiful loaves.

Of course, slather with buttah.
   Super simple and super delicious.

Now, I've been experimenting.
Let me introduce you to my ciabatta.

Ciabatta - my new favorite loaf to make.

Today, I'll show you how to make these ciabatta loaves.

The only special equipment you'll need is a pizza stone, which is necessary for the loaves to do their extraordinary rise in the first five minutes in the oven.

Also, know that this is a two-day recipe.
The first day, you make the starter; the second day you make the bread.
Believe me, it's worth the time!

Holey ciabatta!

Now for the recipe.

Rosie's Ciabatta

First day:
Make the starter or sponge or biga.  This is a flavor-builder.  The yeast ferments overnight, producing lactic and acetic acids which give this bread its characteristic sourness.

1 cup unbleached King Arthur AP flour
1/2 tsp yeast
1/2 cup warm water
Combine flour, yeast, and water in medium bowl, stirring with a wooden spoon until you form a uniform mass.  Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature overnight.

Second day:
Make the dough.

2 cups unbleached King Arthur AP flour, plus extra for work surface
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp yeast
3/4 cup warm water
1/8 cup heavy cream, room temp
1/8 cup skim milk, room temp
above starter

(You could use 1/4 cup whole milk.  I use what I have on hand and I never have whole milk, but I always have cream and skim, so I use half of each.)

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix dough ingredients on low speed until roughly combined and shaggy, about one minute.

Add in the sponge and continue mixing on low for another minute, scraping down sides as necessary.

Increase speed to medium and mix for 5-6 minutes until dough becomes a uniform mass and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Switch from paddle to dough hook and continue kneading at medium speed until smooth and shiny, about 10 minutes.  Dough will be sticky.

Transfer dough to large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in size - an hour or so.

Spray a bowl scraper or spatula lightly with oil and gently fold the dough over itself by lifting and folding the edge toward the middle.  Turn bowl 90° and fold again.  Keeping turning and fold six more times for a total of eight turns.  Cover with plastic and let rise about an hour.  Repeat folding.
Cover again and let rise until doubled - about 60 minutes.

Place baking stone on oven rack and heat oven to 450°.  Let stone heat at 450° for at least 30 minutes.

Cut two 6 x 12-inch pieces of parchment paper, place on non-rimmed baking sheet, and dust with flour.

Transfer dough to floured work surface, being careful not to totally deflate dough.  Flour top of dough and divide in half.  Turn one piece of dough cut side up and flour lightly.  With floured fingers, press dough into a rough 6 x 12-inch shape, or thereabouts.  Fold shorter sides of dough toward center, overlapping like a business letter.  Repeat with other piece of dough.  Transfer loaves, seam side down, to parchment sheets, dust with flour, and cover with plastic.  Let loaves sit at room temperature for another hour.  The surface will develop small bubbles.

Evenly poke entire surface of each loaf to form a 6 x 10-inch rectangle.  Spray lightly with water.  Carefully slide the parchment with loaves on the baking stone.  Bake, spraying the loaves again after 5 minutes, until the crust is a deep golden brown and center of loaves registers 200-210°, about 20 minutes.  Rotate loaves after 10 minutes and cover with foil if loaves are darkening too much.  Transfer to wire rack, discarding the parchment, and let cool to room temperature, about an hour, before slicing and serving.

Here's my sponge.

After a while, the starter is starting to grow.
It's alive!

Nice and bubbly.

Here's the starter the next day.  You can see where it's risen and deflated.
It's smells yeasty and alcoholic.
It's ready to add to the dough.

And here's the dough.

Cover and let double in size.

This is such a pretty dough - nice, satiny, elastic.
Fold dough over itself quarter turns for 8 turns.

Cover and let rise again.

 Gently turn out onto floured surface.


Press into 6 x 12 shapes, or thereabouts.

 It gets nice and dimply.

Fold like a letter.

Place seam-side down on parchment paper.

Flour lightly and cover with plastic.


Ready for the oven.

Slide parchment with sprayed loaves onto heated 450° pizza stone.
Spray again after 5 minutes.

I turn the loaves halfway through.
 Cover with foil if it's browning too much.

Let cool on wire rack.

They're beautemous!

Let cool for a bit.

And slice.

Isn't that lovely?

Treat yourself to ciabatta.
You'll be glad you did.