Tag Archives: sauce

By Request: Pan Seared Fish with a simple Lemon Buerre Blanc

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I was so pleased to find fresh Pacific Halibut at my local Costco this week! The fish was glistening and moist looking and sprung back immediately when I gave it a good poke with my finger, a good sign of freshness. I couldn’t wait to get home and give it a taste!

With a quality fish this fresh I usually keep the preparation simple. I like to enhance, not overpower, the flavor of the fish itself. I cut these fillets into portions, patted them dry on each side, then seasoned them with nothing but a little salt & fresh ground black pepper with a dusting of Old Bay Seasoning.

I warmed 2 tablespoons of grapeseed oil in a saute pan over medium high heat until the oil was shimmering then gently placed the fish into the pan…the rest is tasty, melt in your mouth history and you can read the details in the recipe below. Mmm Mmm Good!

Note: If you want to jazz this sauce up there are many variations; add a little white wine, some chopped shallots, or a splash of heavy cream and reduce these along with the lemon juice for a little extra flavor.

Pan Seared Fish with Lemon Buerre Blanc

2 to 4 – (6 Ounce) Firm white fish fillets at least 1” thick. (Such as Mahi-Mahi, Grouper, or Halibut)

1 Ounce – Freshly squeezed lemon juice (About 2 Tablespoons)

4 Tablespoons – Unsalted Butter, cut in roughly ½” cubes (1/2 Stick)

2 Tablespoons – Grape Seed oil (Olive oil or Canola is fine!)

Salt & fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Old Bay Seasoning, to taste.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 and using a paper towel pat the fish to dry the surface very well. Season both sides with salt & pepper and a little Old Bay then heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat until shimmering hot.

Swirl the pan to evenly coat the cooking surface then carefully place the fish, skin side up / flesh side down, in the pan. Cook 3 minutes (without moving) then gently turn over and cook 3 minutes more. Carefully remove the fish to an oven-proof dish and place it in the oven to finish cooking through.

While the pan is still hot pour out any excess oil and with the pan still off the heat add the lemon juice. Swirl the sizzling juice for about 30 seconds then return the pan to the heat to reduce the moisture. Simmer, swirling the pan from time to time until the liquid begins to thicken, about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from heat and add the butter cubes a few at a time swirling the pan as they melt. Still off the heat, continue swirling in the butter cubes until all are incorporated into a rich sauce.

The fish should be done about the same time as the sauce. Check to make sure the fillets have cooked through, leaving it in the oven a little longer if necessary. (Never overcook fish!) Carefully remove the fish from the oven and place each fillet on a plate. Spoon a little the sauce over each fillet and serve.

Menu for Two – Seared Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast w/ Rosemary Shallot Pan Sauce and Braised Kale

Photo by KathyHuntPhoto.com

As a home cook, one of the ways I work on improving my “chops” is by challenging myself. Sometimes I’ll pick a “secret” ingredient, a la Iron Chef, and other times I’ll prepare what I call a Pantry Dinner. For these, I simply scan the fridge and the pantry for ingredients, check out what produce we have on hand and try come up with something tasty for dinner. (If anyone remembers Gordon Elliot’s Doorknock Dinners show…that’s where I got the idea.) This recipe was the result of one of those “Pantry Dinner” nights.

On this particular evening I had to come up with something quick because I was a little late getting home…so late in fact, that I had actually thought of just making omelets and toast. But upon scanning the refrigerator I discovered half a bottle of wine, a package of chicken breast, and ½ a bunch of fresh kale left unused from a previous night. With a stash of whole shallots (Albertson’s has had good ones for 2.99 a pound lately) and a fresh head of garlic I was off to the races.

This cooking method is a fairly foolproof way to cook boneless skinless chicken breasts; they always come out nice and moist. Just be very careful pulling that pan out of the oven! I have a potholder glove that I keep on the handle of the pan while making the sauce. The pan sauce is very quick, it should take no longer than two minutes or so to reduce the wine. Remember to remove the pan from the heat before you stir in the butter. For this tiny amount of butter there should be no need to return the pan to heat. (Doing so could cause the sauce to separate causing it to be unpleasantly greasy.)

Start to finish this “Pantry Dinner” was on the table in about half an hour. With a piece of crusty whole grain bread, a salad and the rest of the wine this ended up being a rather nice dinner for two…I hope you’ll try it!

Seared Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast with Rosemary Shallot Pan Sauce and Braised Kale

For the chicken:
Two – Boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
¼ Cup – Dry white wine (I used Pinot Grigio)
1 – Med Shallot, chopped
1 Branch – Fresh rosemary (leaves only) chopped finely
Approx. 1 Tablespoon – Fresh lemon juice
1 Tablespoon – Unsalted butter, cut in 4 to 6 pieces and kept very cold
1 Tablespoon – Olive oil
Season with an Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder

For the braised kale:
4 cups – Fresh kale, stems removed, leaves torn or cut into bite-sized pieces
1 – Med Shallot, chopped
1 Clove – Garlic, minced
¼ Cup – Dry white wine
Approx. 1 Tablespoon – Fresh lemon juice
1 Tablespoon – Olive oil
Season with an Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat a 10” oven-proof pan over medium-high heat and using the Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder, season the chicken fairly liberally on both sides while the pan is getting hot. When the pan is hot, add roughly 1 tablespoon of oil and swirl or shake the pan to cover evenly. (There should be “just” enough oil to coat the pan.)

Carefully place the chicken in the pan, skinned side down and sear until some browning appears around the edges, about 4-5 minutes. Turn the chicken over and cook 1 minute more, cover and place in the oven for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, warm a large sauté pan over medium heat, when the pan is hot add 1 tablespoon of olive and swirl or shake the pan to cover evenly. Season the oil with a few good grinds from the Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder then sauté the shallot and garlic just until the aroma of the garlic begins to fill the kitchen, about 1 minute. Add the kale and toss to coat with some of the oil.

Add the wine and a squeeze of lemon juice and cover. Cook covered, 15 minutes or until the kale is tender, stirring every few minutes. Toss again and check for seasoning just before serving. If necessary, add a little salt & pepper to taste.

After 20 minutes, very carefully remove the chicken from the oven holding the handle of the pan with a pot holder or “dry” dish towel. Remove the chicken to a plate (or cutting board) to rest. Place the pan with any remaining juices over medium-high heat. As the pan juices begin to boil, stir in the shallots. Cook about one minute then add the white wine and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Return to the boil and allow this to cook until about three quarters of the liquid has evaporated.

When the liquid in the pan has reached nearly the consistency of syrup, turn off the heat and remove the pan from the burner, stir in the rosemary and half of the butter. Continue stirring and when that butter has melted, stir in the remaining butter. Stir until all of the butter has melted into the sauce and set the pan aside while you prepare your plates.

To serve, spoon a healthy serving of the kale onto each plate. Carefully slice the chicken in diagonal slices, fan the slices out and serve next to, or right on top of the kale with the sauce spooned evenly over the chicken.

Enjoy!

Randy

Birthday Dinner (plus leftovers) – Crab Cakes with Dijon & White Wine Cream Sauces

Photo by KathyHuntPhoto.com

There are indeed times that life becomes so overwhelming that I don’t even have time to cook. Then there are those times that I am just having so much fun that I’m too lazy to take the time to write about it on my blog! Thankfully, since I last posted, the latter has been the case.

I am feeling much better, work has been manageable and we have been busy having a little fun over the last couple of weeks including a camping trip for the Memorial Day weekend. This past weekend we celebrated my wife Kat’s birthday and as bad as I am at picking out gifts, hopefully I made up for it by cooking some of her favorite meals.

On Saturday night I made Crab Cakes with a Dijon cream sauce then yesterday, her actual birthday, the leftovers made for a very special brunch; Crab Cakes Benedict! I was pleased with the way they came out but the Benedict would have been better with a traditional Hollandaise sauce. I used a “quick and easy” version and I don’t think it was as good as taking the trouble to do it right. I am going to include a link below that explains both the quick and the traditional Hollandaise.

Speaking of sauces, the Dijon and white wine cream sauce is simply a variation from rouxbe.com, I just cut the recipe in half and used a little more wine to boost the flavor. You could certainly substitute plain non-fat yogurt but I don’t think a little bit of cream is all that bad for you as long as you practice moderation. If you do prefer to use yogurt remember not to let it come to a boil or it may curdle. Just move the pan on and off the heat to control your temp and you will be fine.

Unless you are picking the crabs yourself, I recommend using only the “fresh” canned crab that you find in the refrigerator case at a fresh fish market or a warehouse store. In my experience the stuff on the shelf (next to the tuna) at the grocery store just isn’t worth messing with. Lump crab is quite sufficient for crab cakes, I don’t think the extra expense of “jumbo lump” or “back fin” is really necessary. Usually, I buy the 16 oz can of Phillips or Blue Star brand at Costco or Restaurant Depot.

You may notice that the crab cake recipe itself is quite simple, even more so than my salmon patties, but there is a method to my madness. I have tried many different crab cake recipes including adding mayo, chopped onions, peppers and/or celery, Worcestershire sauce, and even cubed wonder bread to the mix. I have always gone back to minimizing the ingredients because crab has such a wonderful and delicate flavor…I prefer to keep it simple and let that flavor shine through.

Crab Cakes with Dijon & White Wine Cream Sauce

For the crab cakes…

1 Lb – Lump Crab meat, drained
1/3 Cup – fine panko bread crumbs, plus 1/3 cup on the side
1 – Egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon – Old Bay seasoning
Olive Oil
Canola Oil

For the Dijon & white wine cream sauce…

1 Tbsp – Unsalted butter
1 Tbsp – Shallots, finely chopped
¼ cup – Dry white wine
1 cup – whipping cream
½ Tbsp – Dijon mustard
Pinch of salt & fresh ground pepper to taste

Combine the first four crab cake ingredients in a large mixing bowl and fold gently to combine. Mix well trying to break up the crab pieces as little as possible.

Using a 1/3 cup measure mold the mixture into cakes pressing firmly to compress into an evenly shaped patty. Dust the outside of each cake with additional panko and set very carefully on a lined cookie sheet so as to avoid breaking the cake. (This recipe should make 6 equal cakes with a little left over for one smaller cake for the cook.) When all the cakes have been formed, refrigerate the crab cakes for at least 1 hour to allow them time to set up.

Heat a large non-stick pan over medium high heat and add enough olive oil and canola oil (combined 50-50) to cover the entire bottom of the pan. When the oil is hot, using a spatula, very gently place half of your crab cakes into the pan and cook about 3 minutes or until golden brown. Gently turn and cook 3 minutes more. Remove the browned crab cakes to a cooling rack or paper towel then carefully wipe out the pan and repeat with the rest of the crab cakes.

When all the crab cakes are browned, carefully pour off the oil and return the pan to the heat. Add the butter and when the butter has melted and just stopped foaming add the shallots. Cook the shallots for about one minute, stirring them to prevent burning then add the wine to the pan. Allow the wine to come to a boil and cook until the wine has nearly evaporated leaving only a few tablespoons of liquid.

Add the cream, whisking to combine and continue whisking steadily until the sauce returns to boil. Cook, whisking continuously until the sauce has reached your desired thickness, whisking in the Dijon mustard at the last minute. Test the sauce for seasonings and add salt & pepper to taste.

To serve, plate the crab cakes individually resting in a small pool of the cream sauce or serve with the sauce in a small dish on the side.

If you have leftovers do try Crab Cakes Benedict for breakfast the next day!

Photo by KathyHuntPhoto.com

Simply reheat the crab cakes in a toaster or conventional oven until warmed through then serve them on a toasted English muffin topped with a poached egg and a little Hollandaise sauce. These are simple, elegant, and truly a great way to treat your loved ones to something special!

Enjoy!

Randy

“Absolut” Fish: Pan-Seared Fish with Vodka Lime Butter Sauce, Capers and Fresh Dill

Photo by KathyHuntPhoto.com

This has long been one of my favorite fish recipes. I love the taste of the lime and the capers and the vodka is always an interesting ingredient; together these flavors compliment the fish perfectly. The fresh dill brings a nice finishing touch by adding a fresh bite as well as an attractive visual component. Once you’ve had a little practice it only takes 10 minutes or so to prepare and it’s an impressive and tasty enough dish for company.

Pan-Searing 101

There is really nothing complicated about pan-searing. You may have noticed already, I use the technique a lot. It really is a very convenient way to cook fillets, steaks, or chops when you don’t have hours to spend in the kitchen. What makes pan-searing even more appealing to me is the browning really gives whatever you are cooking a real boost of flavor. Called the Maillard Reaction, this crust of caramelized goodness is the secret behind many delicious restaurant dishes.

With just a couple of key things in mind most anyone can use the pan-searing method, in most any kitchen…

Moisture prevents browning – You will often hear me preach about getting the surface of your fish (or any other protein) dry before searing it. When pan-searing it’s especially important to remember that moisture will inhibit browning. Oil on the other hand promotes browning.

How hot is hot? – Ok, as well as I can describe it; when you heat a pan and add olive oil, then leave the oil to get hot, there is a point just before the oil begins to smoke. At this point the molecules in the oil have loosened or thinned about as much as they are going to and the surface of the oil takes on a shimmering look. That is the right heat for pan-searing.

Wow! That’s really hot! – Always remember: you can move that pan off the fire. Any time you feel your pan might be getting too hot the first step is to simply move it off the burner. Never panic! Be careful and be confident.

Notes: Firm white fish is ready when the fish flakes easily with a fork and the flesh in the center is almost solid white showing very little if any transparency. Remember, fish will continue cooking for a minute or two after you remove it from the heat so be careful not to overcook it. Depending on the thickness of your fillets it should take no longer than 5 to 7 minutes in the oven to finish cooking through.

Side notes: Yes, this recipe contains butter…possibly as much a 1 tablespoon (or pat) per serving which if you think about it really isn’t that much. Once in a blue moon I do allow myself the pleasure and I hope you will too!

Pan-Seared Fish with Vodka Lime Butter Sauce, Capers and Fresh Dill

2 to 4 – (6 Ounce) Firm white fish fillets at least 1” thick. (Such as Mahi-Mahi, Grouper, or Halibut)
¼ Cup – Premium vodka, unflavored
1 Ounce – Fresh squeezed lime juice
2 Tbsp – capers
2 Sprigs – Fresh dill
4 Tbsp – Butter, well chilled, cut into 16 equal cubes
Olive Oil
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 400 and use a paper towel to dab the fish to dry it very well. Season both sides with salt & pepper then heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Swirl the pan to evenly coat the cooking surface and carefully place the fish, skin side up / flesh side down, in the pan. Cook 3 minutes (without moving) then gently turn over and cook 3 minutes more. Carefully remove the fish to an oven-proof dish and place it in the oven to finish cooking through.

While the pan is still hot, pour out any excess oil and with the pan still off the heat add the lime juice. Swirl the sizzling juice for about 30 seconds then add the vodka and return the pan to the heat. Simmer, swirling the pan from time to time until the liquid begins to thicken, about 3 minutes. Add 4 of the butter cubes and swirl the pan as they melt.

Reduce the heat to medium and when the first 4 cubes of butter have melted swirl or whisk in 4 more while alternately moving the pan on and off the heat. (Note: The pan should stay hot enough to keep the butter melting but not so hot that the butter burns or separates from the sauce.) When the butter has melted, add the capers along with 4 more butter cubes. Continue gently whisking as the butter melts, finish the sauce by melting the last 4 cubes of butter and set the pan off the heat while you plate the fish.

The fish should be done about the same time as the sauce. Check to make sure the fillets have cooked through, leaving it a little longer if necessary. Carefully (it’s hot!) remove the fish from the oven and place each fillet on a plate. Spoon some of the sauce and the capers over each fillet then use a pair of kitchen shears or scissors to snip a sprinkling of fresh dill over each serving. Serve with a little sprig of dill and a slice of lime on the side.

Enjoy,

Randy


Mmm…Turkey Stroganoff

(or What to do with all that Chicken Stock – Part 3)

We’ve been eating a lot of plain non-fat yogurt lately and I have been using it more and more in my cooking. I started out utilizing it in place of sour cream on baked or twice baked potatoes, then we started mixing it with a little sugar-free fruit preserves and a touch of agave nectar for a guilt-free dessert. Nowadays I use non-fat yogurt in everything from cornbread and pancakes to French onion dip.

To boost the acidity to more closely resemble sour cream, I nearly always add a little lemon juice to the recipe. When using plain non-fat yogurt in a sauce remember to remove the sauce from the heat before incorporating the yogurt. The reason for this is because with no fat to assist in thickening or emulsifying, plain non-fat yogurt will separate or curdle if you boil it.

You can lessen the chances of your sauce separating by using Greek yogurt which is thicker by nature or by straining your plain non-fat yogurt to thicken it. This is done by draining the yogurt through a fine sieve, cheesecloth, or coffee filter to remove the whey (the watery stuff) and thicken it. This results in a thicker more flavorful “yogurt cheese” that is delicious in dips and cold sauces like Tzatziki. There is a great article here that explains better how to do this.

This Turkey Stroganoff is a “lower” fat recipe that is a good example of using plain non-fat yogurt in a savory recipe. It is also another way to use that good homemade chicken stock I’m always preaching about. Reducing the stock with the turkey, mushrooms, and onions creates a rich sauce with a depth of flavor that would fool even the pickiest of eaters in your house.

Turkey Stroganoff

1 Lb – Ground Turkey
1 Lb – White Mushrooms, sliced in 1/4 inch slices
1 – Med Onion, chopped
3 Cups – Homemade (or low sodium) Chicken Stock
1 Cups – Plain non-fat yogurt
Juice of ½ Fresh Lemon
1 Tbsp – Dry Rubbed Sage
1 Sprig – Fresh Rosemary
1 – 16 oz Package Whole Wheat Extra Wide Egg Noodles
Kosher Salt & Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Olive Oil
Fresh Parsley, chopped

Add 2 Tbsp of olive oil to a very large (12” or more) sauté pan over medium high heat. When the oil just begins to smoke, carefully add the mushrooms and cook them stirring constantly much as you would a stir fry. When the mushrooms begin to release their liquid slow down a little on the stirring but keep them spread out so the liquid will evaporate quickly.

As the liquid evaporates and the mushrooms begin to brown, stir in the onions, sage, rosemary, and a few good grinds of black pepper. Continue cooking and stirring one more minute, then lower the heat to medium high. If the pan seems dry add one more Tbsp of olive oil then add the ground turkey and continue to cook stirring often and gently breaking up the turkey until the meat is mostly cooked through.

Meanwhile, fill a large pot with 2 quarts of water and 2 Tbsp of kosher salt. Place the pot over high heat to come to a boil.

Stir in two cups of chicken stock into the turkey mixture, scraping up any browned bits that may have stuck to the pan, continue to cook stirring only occasionally. Allow the stock to come to a boil and cook stirring from time to time, until most of the stock has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Add one more cup of stock and return to a boil cooking about 5 minutes more. Turn off the heat and stir in the lemon juice.

When the pot of water has come to a full boil, stir in the noodles, reduce the heat to medium high, and cook according to the package directions.

When the noodles are done drain them in a colander and while the noodles are draining remove the turkey mixture from the heat. Gently (so as not to break up the mushrooms) stir the yogurt into the mixture to form a sauce. Now gently add the noodles to the same pan, folding the noodles and sauce until well mixed. Garnish with the fresh parsley and serve hot.

Enjoy,

Randy

Menu – Pan Seared Pork Chops with a Dijon “Cream” Sauce, Roasted Sweet Potatoes, and Sautéed Kale with Caramelized Onions and Garlic

Oh, but I do love pork! Granted, as we have grown both in age and in wisdom my wife and I eat much less pork than we used to. The old “everything in moderation” certainly holds true here and while I do eat more pork than beef, I also believe it’s all about balance and I try not to overdo it. No really…I do!

Ok, I admit it; I did pick up this lovely package of chops just last week and last night was the second Tuesday in a row that we enjoyed them. It will however be quite some time before we have them again as they are a fattier cut of pork. Even though there is still some debate regarding the health benefits of pork I do try to pick the leaner cuts if I am going to cook it.

So while you will see it here once in a blue moon I hope you can appreciate that we consider pork an exception to our otherwise healthy diet, a special treat if you will. The same holds true for beef. Some may call it rationalization but I firmly believe that eating whole grains, lower fat foods, and fresh vegetables as the major part of my diet gives me a little leeway. It allows me to enjoy myself from time to time and cook something a little less good for me without feeling guilty. And it tastes oh so good!

As a nod to that healthier diet this sauce is my lower fat answer to a Dijon cream sauce. There is no butter and there is no cream. I think the non-fat yogurt adds a nice creaminess to this sauce and in such a small amount that it doesn’t overwhelm the other flavors. Adding the yogurt at the last minute, off the heat, keeps it from separating or curdling in the sauce. You can use plain non-fat yogurt in many dishes in place of sour cream, milk, or cream just be sure not to let it boil.

This recipe is written as a menu for 4 and it comes together in 1 to 1-1/2 hours depending on the size of the potatoes. Although I did not do it this night, I often sprinkle Italian Seasoned Bread Crumbs over the kale as a garnish. Try it, you’ll like it!

Menu – Pan Seared Pork Chops with a Dijon “Cream” Sauce, Roasted Sweet Potatoes, and Sautéed Kale with Caramelized Onions and Garlic

For the Sweet Potatoes…

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Rinse and dry 1 Sweet Potato per person. Using a paring knife carefully pierce each potato once, at least halfway through (from the side). Rub potatoes thoroughly with olive oil and bake 1 to 1-1/2 hours until cooked through.

For the Kale…

4 Cups – Fresh Kale, trimmed and chopped into bite sized pieces
1 – Medium Onion, quartered then sliced thick
2 – Cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 Cup – Homemade or low sodium Chicken Stock
McCormick Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder
2 Tbsp. – Olive Oil
Malt Vinegar (Optional)

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions and lower the heat to low. Add 4 good grinds from the Herb Grinder (about ¼ Tbsp) and cook slowly, stirring occasionally until the onions begin to turn golden. Stir in the garlic and continue cooking and stirring occasionally until onions begin to brown (about 30 minutes over all).

Add the kale and toss to coat well with the olive oil, raise the heat and sauté for 1 minute. Add the chicken stock and cover. As soon as the stock comes to a boil lower the heat and stir once more. Cover and cook on low 10 minutes more, stirring now and then. Remove lid, stir and continue cooking uncovered to allow most of excess stock to cook away. Stir in the vinegar (if using) and serve.

For the Pork Chops…

4 – Center Cut Bone-In Pork Chops, about 1/2” thick, trimmed of excess fat
1 cup – Chicken Stock
1 Tbsp – Dijon Mustard
1 Tbsp – Plain Non-Fat Yogurt
1 Tbsp – Whole Wheat or Unbleached Flour
3 Tbsp – Olive Oil
McCormick Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder

Sprinkle the pork liberally with the Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder then with kosher salt and set aside (at room temperature) for 20 minutes.

In a large skillet heat 3 Tbsp. of olive oil over medium high heat until shimmering. Gently lay the pork chops into the oil and reduce the heat to medium. Cook chops 3 minutes to brown then turn the chops and cook 3 minutes more. Move the chops to a foil or parchment lined sheet and place into the 350 degree oven to finish.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in 1 Tbsp. of flour. Continue stirring until the flour is blended with the remaining oil then return the pan to the heat. Cook, stirring for one minute more then add the chicken stock. Using a whisk, stir the stock until well blended then allow the sauce to come to a boil, stirring occasionally.

When the sauce has thickened somewhat, whisk in the mustard and continue cooking and stirring until the sauce becomes quite thick. Remove the pan from the heat and turn off the burner. Remove the chops from the oven and place on plates or a platter. With the pan still off the heat, whisk in the yogurt until well incorporated then spoon the sauce over the chops.

Serve with the cooked greens and sweet potatoes.

Enjoy!

Randy

Menu for Two – Pan Seared Sea Scallops with a Fresh Herb White Wine Sauce, Oven Roasted Potatoes and Asparagus Spears.

Last week my wife Kathy had a rough week fighting the cold that I probably gave her when I had it the week before. Since she was feeling somewhat better by Friday I wanted to cook her something special so I went browsing at Costco for something out of the ordinary. With a crispy salad and some crusty bread, these scallops fit the bill perfectly!

I shop at Costco or BJ’s often as bulk stores are a great way to stretch your grocery bucks. For instance, while you might find nice fat Sea Scallops (nearly always pre-frozen) at a local seafood market or grocery for 12.99 to 15.99 per pound, these came in just over 9.00 per pound for a two pound bag. Two pounds are enough for 3 dinners for the two of us and that boils down to about $6.00 per meal or $3.00 per person. Just try to find that kind of deal at a seafood restaurant!

Speaking of buying frozen seafood; for a very long time I absolutely refused to buy frozen scallops or shrimp. While I wouldn’t consider myself a food snob…I simply did not care for the way the frozen ones tasted when compared to fresh. Then I came across an article about sodium tripolyphosphate . Sodium tripolyphosphate is a preservative that packagers will “claim” is used to “retain tenderness and moisture”. In fact it absolutely ruins the flavor and texture of certain foods, especially shrimp and scallops, giving the flesh a diluted, soapy flavor and an unpleasant spongy, almost waterlogged texture.

So why do seafood packagers use this additive, which is also used in household cleaners, laundry detergent, and paint? The simple answer is Sodium tripolyphosphate “can substantially increase the sale weight of seafood in particular”. Need I say more?

Fortunately, in the U.S., Sodium tripolyphosphate must be listed in the ingredients list on the package label. Also fortunately, Costco and BJ’s both carry frozen shrimp and scallops that do not contain Sodium tripolyphosphate! Do yourself a favor and read the ingredients next time you buy frozen seafood. For the same reason I also try to avoid the “fresh” scallops that are sold soaking in “their own” liquid.

Menu for two – Pan seared sea scallops with a fresh herb white wine sauce, oven roasted baby creamer potatoes and asparagus spears.

Note: Before I get started on the recipe there is one other tip that I must mention: WATER KILLS BROWNING! In searing and roasting the browning that occurs on the outside surface is where the flavor comes from. Searing your scallops while they are wet will prevent them from browning. To get the most flavor from your browned foods always be sure to pat them dry with a paper or dish towel before cooking.

For the Scallops you will need:

12 medium – Sea Scallops, thawed, rinsed, and dried well.
¼ Cup – Dry white wine such as Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc
Juice of ½ – Fresh lemon
3 Tbsp – Butter, Cut into 6 or 8 cubes, and kept cold.
2 Tbsp – Shallots, minced
2 Tbsp – Fresh basil, sliced in thin ribbons ( see http://www.basilbasics.com/chiffonade.html )
1 Sprig – Fresh rosemary
Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder
Olive Oil

For the Potatoes and Asparagus you will need:

12 – Baby Potatoes, I used half red bliss and half Yukon gold potatoes
12 Large or 16 Medium – Fresh green asparagus spears
Olive Oil
Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder

To Prepare:

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Rinse and dry the potatoes. Trim the stem end of the asparagus, rinse and dry. When the potatoes are dry toss them with just enough olive oil to coat, give them a good dusting of seasoning from the Italian herb seasoning grinder and toss again. Spread them evenly in a glass 9 X 12 inch baking dish and roast for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, toss the asparagus spears with just enough olive oil to coat, give them a good dusting of seasoning from the Italian herb seasoning grinder and toss again. Set the asparagus aside.

2. Warm 1 to 2 Tbsp olive oil and 1 sprig of rosemary in a non-stick pan over medium high heat swirling the oil occasionally as it heats. Dust the scallops lightly with the Italian herb seasoning.

3. After 15 minutes carefully remove the potatoes from the oven. Carefully tilt the baking dish so that the potatoes move to one side allowing room to add the asparagus spears. Add the asparagus and place the dish back in the oven for 15 minutes longer.

4. While the vegetables finish roasting, sear your scallops: When the oil in the pan is hot the rosemary will begin to crackle and pop. Remove and discard the rosemary then gently place the scallops, one at a time, into the pan. You should hear a distinct sizzling as soon as each scallop hits the oil. Sear the scallops for two minutes on the first side, gently flip, and sear one minute more before removing directly to serving plates. Cover each plate with a paper towel or foil to keep the scallops warm.

5. Remove the vegetables from the oven and set aside to rest.

6. As soon as the last scallop is removed, add the shallots and the wine to the pan. As the wine comes to a boil swirl the pan and, using a wood or silicone spatula, scrape any browned bits from the pan. Reduce until the wine takes on a syrupy consistency then add the lemon juice.

7. Turn off the burner and allow the residual heat to reduce the liquid by half. Gently swirl in the butter cubes 2 or 3 at a time letting these melt before adding 2 or 3 more. Continue swirling the pan until all of the butter has been incorporated, swirl in the basil and spoon the sauce evenly over the scallops.

8. Carefully place the roasted vegetables on the plate and serve.

Enjoy!

Randy