A Cooking Adventure in a Foreign Territory

November 2011

I very recently explained my seafood virginity after skipping the much talked about Point Brugge brunch mussels option, so you can imagine my own surprise when I found myself really craving scallops while menu planning (which I have eaten and enjoyed a fair number of times despite my overall lack of seafood experience).  Make my own?  As if offering moral support, the issue of America’s Test Kitchen, through which I have been faithfully working my way, featured an approachable pan-seared scallop recipe.  With the added pressure of a dinner guest, I willingly voyaged on a cooking adventure in a foreign territory:  the sea!  I would say so myself, but my dining partner said it for me:  success!  Merci dining partner!  The full menu featured a few parallel flavors:  lemon, sage and overall autumnal palette.  My landlocked roots added a bit of turf to the menu in the form of Merguez in a side dish.

The Foreign Territory Menu

Pan Seared Scallops with Lemon Butter
Roasted Acorn Squash with Sage Butter
Brussels Sprouts with Apples & Merguez
Lemony Pear & Sage Bourbon

Pan Seared Scallops with Lemon Brown Butter Sauce
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Review Magazine, March 2011

Pan Seared Scallops

~1 pound dry sea scallops (about 10 scallops)
Salt and pepper
2 Tablespoons peanut oil
2 Tablespoons organic, unsalted butter, cut into 2 pieces

Lemon Brown Butter Sauce

4 Tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) organic, unsalted butter
3 large pearl onions, diced
1 Tablespoon minced parsley
Juice from one lemon
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme

For the Scallops

Place the scallops on a rimmed baking sheet lined with a paper towel.  Place a second paper towel on top of the scallops and press gently on the towel to blot liquid.  Let the scallops sit at room temperature for 10 minutes while the towels absorb the moisture.

Remove the second towel and sprinkle the scallops on both sides with salt and pepper.

Heat 1 Tablespoon of the oil in a 12-inch non-stick saucepan or skillet over high heat until just smoking.

Add the scallops in a single layer, flat side down, and cook, without moving, until browned, 1 ½-2 minutes.

Add 1 Tablespoon of the butter to the pan.  Using tongs, flip the scallops and continue to cook, using a large spoon to base the scallops with the melted butter, tilting the pan so the butter runs to one side, until the sides of the scallops are firm and the centers are opaque, 30-90 seconds longer (remove smaller scallops from the pan as they finish cooking).

Transfer the scallops to a large plate and tent loosely with foil.

For the Brown Butter Sauce

Add the butter to the pan over medium heat and cook, swirling the pan constantly, until the butter turns dark golden brown and has a nutty aroma, 4-5 minutes.

Add the pearl onions and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Remove the pan from heat, and stir in the parsley, lemon juice and thyme.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve warm on top of the pan-seared scallops.

Roasted Acorn Squash with Browned Butter and Sage

Ingredients

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium acorn squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
6 medium fresh sage leaves, chopped

Directions

Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Brush the oil on the glass baking dish, and poke holes in the sides of the squash.

Roast until soft, about 40-50 minutes.

When the squash is almost done, melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat.

Add the sage and cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until the butter is golden brown and the sage is crisp, about 4 to 5 minutes.  Remove the skillet from the heat.

Remove the squash from the oven and turn cut-side up.  Pour in the sage butter sauce, and use a brush to butter the sides.

Serve immediately.

Brussels Sprouts with Apples & Merguez

Ingredients

1 satchel* of Brussels sprouts, rinsed and sliced in half
2 local merguez sausages, casing removed, cut into chunks
2 small local apples, chopped
2 Tablespoons organic, unsalted butter
cinnamon
nutmeg

*I say satchel because I bought a little mesh bundle of Brussels from Whole Foods and didn’t bother to quantify it.  About one sauce pan’s worth of sprouts?  This isn’t a science.

Directions

Bring a saucepan of water to boil.  Add the Brussels sprouts and boil until slightly soft and bright green in color.

Remove from heat, and drain water.

Add the butter to a skillet over medium heat.  Once the butter is melted, add the merguez sausages.

Once the sausage has begun to brown, add the Brussels sprouts, stirring frequently.

As the sprouts start to brown, add the apple chunks, and continue to stir.

Add the cinnamon and nutmeg to taste.  Stir to combine, and then remove from heat.

Serve immediately.

The Sour Wisdom Bourbon Cocktail
There was wine for dinner and bourbon cocktails for dessert!
(Makes two cocktails)

Cocktail Ingredients

½ cup fresh pressed pear juice
1 cup fresh pressed lemon juice
2 shots of bourbon
dash of angostura bitters
4 Tablespoons sage simple syrup*
2-3 dashes of angostura bitters

*Sage Simple Syrup Ingredients

1 cup turbinado sugar
1 cup water
5-6 sage leaves, plus 2 for garnishes

*For the Sage Simple Syrup

Combine 1 cup turbinado sugar with 1 cup water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved and add 5-6 sage leaves.

Simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Let cool.

Strain sage leaves from liquid and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

For the Cocktail

Divide the juice between two mason jars.

Add a shot (or two!) of bourbon, followed by 2 Tablespoons of the simple syrup to each glass.

Finish with a few dashes of bitters in each glass.

Stir each glass and add 1-2 ice cubes.

Serve!

Note:  Because I used fresh juice I made myself, the texture was thicker than the average cocktail, making the experience a bit like sipping on a deliciously boozy slushy or a smoothie. 

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