15 Minute Scallops

It’s early August, which means Christmas decorations will likely be showing up in stores any day now (sigh) — and while that can drive any person nuts, I’m already looking for ideas for Christmas Eve.  I found this Barefoot Contessa recipe a few years ago, and it has always been a good standby for a quick and tasty dinner that you can make in, no joke, 15 min or less.

Served alongside some sauteed sprouts, some crusty french bread to soak up the sauce, and a tall glass of wine to account for the presence of a threenager at the table, and you’ve got a quick and easy Friday dinner.

Enjoy

Tuna Done Right

With kid #2 slated to arrive just about any day now, I’m making a conscious effort to run through all of the wife’s favorite dishes.  She’s yet to make me an official list, but if she ever did, I’m pretty sure this one would be near the top.  Tuna with a spicy mango avocado salsa.

Before the wife showed up in my life, tuna was something that came from a can, was buried in mayonnaise and make the house stink like hell for days. In short, something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. But, over our first few dates, she helped expand my horizons and eventually I came up with this.

In short, it is pretty easy.  One mango, one red onion, one diced jalapeno (or whatever heat producing pepper you want), one avocado, some salt, a dash of chipotle powder, line juice and a handful of cilantro.  Toss it all together –and then wait for the tuna.

As for the fish –  season it with some salt and pepper, and again a dash of chipotle powder, then get the grill stupidly hot (700+ degrees) — and seer it about 30 seconds a side.  Remember, its almost impossible to uncook tuna, and incredibly easy to overcook it. This one was actually slightly overcooked, but still very tasty.

Wash it down with a tasty pinot noir  …. or if you’re 9+ months pregnant a tall yet refreshing glass of water.

Milan meets the Ocean

Years ago, the wife and I honeymooned in Italy. To this day, there’s a small part of me that’s surprised we ever left (jobs and having a source of income are funny like that) – but about two years ago, we went back, and took the then 11-month-old munchkin to Lake Como and Milan. Milanese cuisine is often hit or miss  The farther north you go in Italy, the more the cuisine starts to resemble French and German, neither of which are bad, just neither of which are the Italian that I love.

However, the one thing the Milanese do better than just about anyone is risotto.  As i’ve mentioned before, risotto itself is generally quite easy to make, as you can count the ingredients you need on one hand.  This NYTimes recipe is a good place to start, although as I almost always pair risotto with scallops, I tend to use seafood stock for the broth rather than other options (in this case I used some leftover shrimp stock I had in the fridge.

The little guy ended up eating his weight in risotto. Damn if saffron doesn’t cost several hundred dollars a pound….

Louisiana Fast

I’ve been fortunate that my career (or various careers) have taken me all over the world.  I’m a pretty adventurous eater and try to bring a lot of those flavors home to my (equally well-traveled) wife, and the kid. All that being said, the various cuisines of the United States don’t appear too often on our table.  I tend not to deep fry things, hotdish is disgusting, and I haven’t found a lot of variety in Creole cooking, where I often find the dominant flavor to be Tabasco (not that there’s anything wrong with Tabasco).

The one exception to the above: Jambalaya.  I love the stuff. Its a great meal on a hot muggy day, and in the grand scheme of things, pretty quick and easy to make.  I’m Italian though, so I can’t just wake up one morning and decide to decide to make Jambalaya — I needed a starting point; enter Emeril Lagasse,  This recipe marks a good starting point, although I change it up quite a bit.

  1. I brown the Andouille sausage. It gives the meat a nice caramelization and gives the veggies something tastier to sautee in rather than just plain oil
  2.  I way up the peppers in this recipe to add both color and flavor, so I add any color variety of bell pepper I can find, as well as poblano, jalapeno
  3. I drop the chicken. I know this is sacrilege to some, but honestly, its too easy to dry out in this dish
  4. Instead of chicken stock, I’ll make a shrimp stock from the shells and a few other veggies which really brings out the flavor of the shrimp in the dish.

Sleep with the Fishes

As a communications professional by day, I can appreciate the concept of irony. Like, for example, me noting that I rarely cook with a recipe, and then the first few blog posts showcase food that heavily relies on a plan of attack developed by someone else.  Let’s park that though, this is a blog about food, not semantics.

Firmer fishes are something I’ve come around to later in life. Growing up, we used to eat shark and other similar things on occasion, they were awful. Years later, with some cooking skills of my own under my belt, I’m realizing my aversion to “fork and knife” fishes was probably due to the fact that my parents overcooked them….incinerated them — like we’re talking Donald Trump steak preferences here.

The wife has brought me around the past few years, but I still don’t feel overly confident enough to just wing it.  So, when in search of a recipe — Ina Garten is always a good place to start. Her recipes are usually pretty straightforward, and generally speaking, calibrated to feed two people, not 20.

She calls this one Indonesian Swordfish, although the ingredients are pretty basic, so I’m not overly sure what makes this Indonesian.  But again, we’re talking about food here, not semantics.

I served this alongside some quickly flashed kale, that uses all of five ingredients (6 if you count the fire) – Kale, Salt, Pepper, Lemon Juice and Olive Oil. As Ina would say, “How easy is that?”

Spring Pea Risotto with Seared Scallops

Risotto often gets a bad wrap as being exceedingly difficult. It’s not. It just requires an exceeding amount of attention.  Given that the kid loves carbs and scallops, we have a fair amount of risotto, and we might have more scallops if they weren’t usually almost 20 bucks a pound here.

For whatever reason, a lot of the “authentic” risotto recipes I see call for Vialone Nano rice. I’m honestly not sure what the difference is between that, and Arborio rice, or any of the others classified as risotto rice, but I stick with it.  Vialone Nano can be a little hard to find, but if you have a neighborhood Italian store, you’re sure to find it. If you don’t have a neighborhood Italian store, I strongly suggest you contact a realtor and a moving company.

This dish is pretty straightforward. Sautee some shallot in a pan with some olive oil then toss in the rice to toast for a minute or two. From here, get comfortable, you’re not leaving the stove for 20 minutes. First, throw in a quarter cup of white wine for every cup of rice, and start slowly stirring. Don’t stop. Once the wine is absorbed, start adding warm stock a ladleful at a time (in this case, seafood dish=seafood stock) until the rice is tender, so about 20 minutes.  Your stock to rice ratio should be about 3-1, but humidity and altitude will affect that.  Once the rice is near al dente, (your pan should look like a thick soup), add a tab of butter and some parmesan and let everything warm for a minute or two.

Then, seer your scallops. Don’t over think it. Salt and pepper. Get your pan screaming hot, and then drop in a little butter or olive oil and cook them about 60-90 seconds a side. For the love of god, don’t overcook them. They’re already dead. No need to kill them again.

With the meaty scallops, we ended up having a rose with this dish, but a classic chardonnay would work here too.

Christmas Eve – Main

Traditionally, the main course for the feast would be a whole fish, but as yet, that’s been a little too ambitious for me. So, this year, I went with some swordfish, served Calabrian style (basically, think of it as swordfish piccata).

This is also a good opportunity to dispel a wine myth. Not all seafood pairings have to be white. Meatier fishes do great with reds. This was great with a fabulous pinot noir from Tudal, a small vineyard in Napa that we’re members of.

 

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#7 Calabrian Swordfish 

 

Christmas Eve – First Course

I love scallops. My wife loves scallops. My two-year-old son devours them. It’s an expensive habit to have.

When I first took over the feast, I knew I wanted to have the first course be a single scallop over something. I scoured the internet looking for an idea on how to serve them, and pretty much came up empty, until I found this recipe.  As far as writing and details go, its not the greatest piece of writing in the world (like, for example, there’s no reference in the writing to whatever that puree is under the scallop) but the ingredients are all there and over the past few years, I’ve made this one my own.  It pairs with a chardonnay quite nicely

 

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#5 Scallops with Butternut Squash Caponata

 

 

Christmas Eve Appitizers

We started these and paired the course with some prosecco.

Oven Fried Shrimp

One of my oldest memories from Christmas Eve at my Aunt’s– was the fried shrimp.  She would buy enormous piles of frozen, pre-breaded shrimp, and then place them out for all of us to gorge on.  I’d have dozens.

However, frozen seafood is a mortal sin, so I’ve found this recipe from Williams and Sonoma that packs a ton of flavor, and cuts down on the oil. Some of the courses for the feast change each year, this one is a staple

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#1 Oven-Fried Shrimp

Lobster Arancini

A new addition to the feast for 2017 from Homemade Italian Cooking, and one that has the potential to have some staying power. I made the risotto the night before, and then rolled and fried the arancini in the early afternoon (my first attempt at ever deep frying something). They turned out great, with the added bonus of being pretty affordable. The cost of buying fresh seafood can add up pretty quickly, but relatively speaking, lobster is pretty damn affordable these days. I was able to make them all for about 20 dollars.

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#2 Lobster Arancini

Calamari Soup 

Here’s another recipe steeped in family tradition, that’s been a staple of our Christmas Eve for generations. I found a riff on my Aunt Jean’s recipe. Although it should be noted I have no biological relationship to Jean (remember, Italians can pick their family). This one happens to be one of my dad’s favorites.

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#3 Calamari Soup

 

Smoked Salmon Crostini  

This one’s quick and easy — and one of those things that can stay around all night as people come and go. Thanks to Tori Avey for the recipe 

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#4 Smoked Salmon Crostini