A mostly successful dinner
July 9, 2016
This just barely missed being a Swee
t Baby Jesus meal. I mean, it was close enough it was definitely contending for sainthood.
My Memphis Guinea Pig was coming for a visit, and this weekend is his birthday, so I wanted to have at least semi-special meals for him. Balancing against that is the fact I still get tired and get into achy territory when I spend too much time on the bum leg, so I needed semi-special meals that didn’t require a great deal of time in the kitchen.
Working within those parameters, I came up with the above: Scallops, over just about the best grits I ever made, with sides of cucumber and tomato salad.
Certainly sanctification-worthy. The only thing that made it miss being a complete Sweet Baby Jesus meal was the paucity of the scallops, which, as you see above, look somewhat skimpy in comparison to the rest of the plate.
Some while back, I had cooked scallops from Schwan’s. They were relatively small scallops to begin with, and having never cooked a scallop, I went religiously by instructions from one of the posters on the food forum I follow, which involved brining them, cooking them in the sous vide bath, then just browning very briefly in a hot skillet.
These scallops were from Sam’s, because I recalled seeing them at a reasonably good price there, and they were larger scallops, up in 2-inch and larger territory. About half of a $30 bag yielded what I thought would be adequate scallops for three of us, so I set them to thaw in the brine, then rinsed them, then sous vided them, then drained and dried them, and then browned them.
Except these scallops shrank dramatically in the sous vide process. As in, a 2+-inch scallop became a 1.5-inch scallop. The flavor and texture were excellent, but they sure left me wishing I had more scallops.
If anyone has a sous vide circulator and wants the details, here they are. Brine in a combo of 3 cups water, 5 1/2 tbsp salt, 3 tbsp. sugar; stir until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Add a half-cup or so of ice to cool the brine, and then soak the scallops for 30 minutes. Drain off the brine, soak in clear, cold water for 10 minutes, and then transfer to the sous vide bag. Cook at 122 degrees F for an hour for 1-inch scallops; 80 minutes for 1.5-inchers; 100 minutes for 2-inchers. Remove from bag and dry scallops between layers of paper towels, then brown in hot skillet filmed with oil for about 30-45 seconds on a side.
People. This produces absolutely the most excellent scallops you have ever eaten, although I do reserve judgment on just how much more wonderful it would be if you were where you could acquire fresh, never frozen scallops. I can only dream.
I was a touch apprehensive because these scallops had a fairly strong fishy smell. But when cooked, there was not a bit of fishy taste or smell.
The grits were a huge success, which is a good thing, because I seem to be able to make grits only in two quantities: not enough, or enough for two armies. This batch fell into the “two-armies” category.
I made regular grits, with the exception that part of the liquid consisted of about a cup of leftover creamed corn, pureed into the water with a shot of cream. Spiced them a bit with ancho chile powder and smoked paprika. Then I finished them off by stirring in another half-cup of corn, along with some butter and some St. Andre brie to finish them off.
I am here to tell you they were right close to the best grits I’ve ever made, and I’ve made a lot of grits.
The other sides were sliced cucumbers in a dressing of ginger, mirin, soy sauce, rice vinegar and sesame oil, and chopped tomatoes dressed with white balsamic vinegar and basil olive oil, topped with homemade ricotta. Good stuff, both of ’em, and raised in my very own yard.
In any event, they made a pretty doggoned good birthday eve dinner for the Memphis Guinea Pig. But if you and y’mama ‘n ’em try it with Sam’s scallops, use more than you think you’ll want.