Thursday, April 25, 2013

Pan-Seared Scallops with Bacon-Braised Chard

I've never made scallops at home before.  I guess I just never got around to it back in my lonely bachelor days, and the wife told me she didn't like to eat the Kingdom Animalia, phylum Mollusca, class Bivalvia, order Ostredoida, family Pectinidae.  And then she experienced the Scallop Crab Motoyaki, prepared by Chef Shin Thompson at the late Bonsoiree.  Her scallop-hating world was turned upside down.  That dish was the star of many over the course of our tasting menu, and soon afterwards I declared Bonsoiree my favorite restaurant in Chicago.  We dined there a couple other times before it closed, bringing friends and much more wine, both key moves.  My second favorite dish they often served was called Duck Duck Goose- duck confit, seared duck breast, and foie gras with gooseberry, saffron gastrique, black mission fig, and vidalia onion jam.  Thompson's new venture is opening soon- Kabocha, and is rumored to have DDG on the menu. 

More recently, celebrating an anniversary, we loved a scallop dish during the chef's tasting menu at Takashi.  That chef would be Takashi Yagihashi, who you might know from Top Chef.  So after two scallop experiences the young lady found tasty, I decided it was time to make them at home.  The recipe I centered on is from Stephanie Izard, who also gained fame through Top Chef and is head girl at her Goat enterprises.  Izard also used to cook at Scylla, which occupied the space before Takashi opened.  The scallop is indeed a circle.

Among minor adjustments, I halved Izard's recipe as this should be a meal between just you and your lady friend.  Or a man friend, if that's your thing.  Everybody gots to eat.  To really impress, find diver scallops, which simply means they are harvested by hand, obviously a person in the act of 'diving' for them.  Wild scallops are preferred over farm-raised, which is what I procured at my local fishmonger.  Whatever you get, be sure they do not have any trisodium phosphate added for moisture retention.  Do you really want to consume something that is also used to clean the walls of your house prior to painting?

Cooking scallops is pretty simple, only a couple key elements- First, season well with S&P, let it rain from high up to spread evenly.  Secondly, get that skillet ripping hot...a cast iron is preferred, you want a nice brown crust to contrast the tender interior.  And lastly, if you have an exhaust fan, use it!

Pan-Seared Scallops with Bacon-Braised Chard2 servings

2 thick slices of bacon, cut into 1/4"pieces
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 small plum tomato, seeded, diced
1 lb rainbow chard
1.5 ts soy sauce
kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
6 large sea scallops, about  3/4 lb total
1 TB unsalted butter

Rinse the chard and shake any excess water.  Cut off the stems and slice them into 1/2" pieces.  Cut the large (any over 5" across) leaves in half and then into 1" strips.  Set aside.

Fire up a large, deep skillet over medium heat.  Add a TB of EVOO and cook the bacon until crisp, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.  Spoon off (and save, of course) any more than 2 TB fat.  Add the onion and cook until soft, stirring often, about 4 minutes.  Add the garlic and stir constantly to avoid burning, for 30 seconds and then introduce the tomato.  Cook for about 2 minutes until the tomato breaks down, then add the chard stems.  After those soften at 3-4 minutes later, bring in the leaves and turn up the heat a bit to medium-high, cook until the chard is wilted, another 3-4 minutes.  Add a couple healthy dashes of soy sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Keep warm over low heat while you cook the scallops. 

Season the scallops well with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper.  Fire up a heavy skillet over high heat, and once very hot add a couple TB's of EVOO.  Add the scallops and sear for 30 seconds, then turn down the heat to medium-high.  Cook for about another 2.5 minutes, until a nice golden crust develops.  Add the butter and turn the scallops, cook on this side for about 3 minutes, spooning the butter over them often.  Remove from the skillet when the scallops are just white throughout.

To serve, plate the bacon-braised chard with a slotted spoon and then top with the scallops. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Orecchiette with Pistachio Pesto

If you are a BLT regular, you know my fondness for orecchiette.  We loved this recent dish, jumping on the kale bandwagon.  Orecchiette with veal and capers is eaten 4-5 times a year, it's so tasty and can be enjoyed whatever the season.  When I came across this recipe, I knew 2 things- it would be a quick and delicious weeknight meal, and it definitely needed some tweaking (more garlic, more onion, double the cheese please).  If you like pistachio and you like cool pasta shapes, give this one a go.  Did you know orecchiette means 'little ears' in Italian? Maybe I love this pasta so much because I have little ears??

My preferred way to eat pistachios, if not right from the shell, is when they are decorating the protruding cheesy ends of a cannoli.  Modern Pastry, in the very Italian North End neighborhood of Boston, makes the best cannolis on the planet.  Want to argue that? Leave your comment!

Here is another pistachio and pasta dish, highly recommended for your summer dining pleasure.  And I even give you pistachio in cookie form. 

Orecchiette with Pistachio Pesto
4-5 servings

6 oz. roasted, salted pistachios, shelled (0.75 lbs with shell)
1/2 C EVOO
3 TB mint, chopped
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
4 scallions, green part only, cut into 1" pieces and julienned (sliced thinly lengthwise)
freshly cracked black pepper
1 C pecorino romano, freshly shredded
1 lb orecchiette

Pulse the nuts in a food processor until finely chopped, you don't want giant chunks and you don't want to make a paste.  Add the mint and garlic, pulse a few times to combine.  Add the olive oil and pulse to combine, then season with freshly cracked black pepper.  Transfer the pesto to a small bowl and stir in the scallion and 1/2 C of the cheese.

Cook the pasta according to directions in a large pot of boiling salted water.  Reserve 1 C of the cooking liquid while draining when the pasta is al dente.  That's firm to the tooth, if you don't understand the Italian language.  Return the pasta back to the pot, add the pistachio pesto and 1/2 C of the cooking liquid.  Cook over low heat, stirring, until the little ears are well coated.  If you need to loosen things up a bit, add a bit of the remaining starchy water.  Serve with the remaining 1/2 C of cheese. 

Wine pairing?  Something white, dry, and crisp, with a bit of minerality.  We washed this down with a A to Z pinot gris, which is a great weeknight ($9) wine.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Garlic Toast

The good thing about having a food blog is there are plenty of tasty recipes to reference when I'm not flush with new ideas.  Which is what we've been eating lately, those old favorites while we patiently wait for the spring weather to get here and bring some inspiration.  Which means you're not getting any new recipes.  I've got a couple coming soon, but in the meantime here is the best and simplest way to make garlic bread.

Preheat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat.  Cut a freshly baked, crusty french baguette into 1" slices.  Drizzle each side lightly with EVOO, cook for about 2-3 minutes per side.  Watch carefully to avoid burning, cook until desired doneness.  While hot, rub both sides with a split garlic clove, especially the crustier edges.  Served best with spaghetti and meatballs.  

Friday, April 5, 2013

Pork Tenderloin with Belgian Ale Marinade

Last year's garden was very generous due to the string of warm sunny days in early spring and the intense heat throughout the summer.  The tomato plants and peppers especially loved climate change.  The growing season this year has started colder and wetter, so those guys are getting a head start indoors.

I'm looking to expand my green thumbs and grow lettuces, spinach, arugula, carrots, and peas in addition to the cucumber and squash we enjoyed last year.  The spinach and arugula are up first, as they can stand a bit of of cold weather.  I hope I can keep the rabbit away that lives under the deck, that could be an ongoing battle.  In the fall the plan is to get some garlic and onion bulbs in the ground.  Should have lots of basil, oregano, rosemary, mint and thyme by then.  Are you planting anything new this year?  I hope you're doing something...if you only have a balcony to work with, herbs will thrive in a small space and even a small container of tomatoes will taste lovely on that BLT sammich.  At the very least, put some basil on a window sill that gets some rays. 

Until that warm weather hits, we're still eating dishes like this.  You could use either a darker amber Belgian ale for this recipe, or a lighter blonde.  As you'll only need one cup for the marinade/sauce, I assume you'll know what to do with the rest. 

Pork Tenderloin with Belgian Ale Marinade
3 servings

1 C Belgian Ale
1 medium carrot, chopped into 1/2" pieces
1 celery rib, chopped into 1/2" pieces
1 medium onion, roughly chopped into 1/2" pieces
3 medium cloves garlic, halved
1-1.25 lb pork tenderloin, silverskin removed
2 TB canola oil
S&P (Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper)
2 ts cornstarch
1 ts cold water

Place the pork in a large resealable plastic bag.  Add in the beer, carrot, celery, onion, and garlic.  Get everything distributed somewhat evenly and close the bag, squeezing out the air in the process.  Refrigerate for 12-20 hours.  Feel free to shake the bag and mix things up every couple hours if you can. 

Remove the pork from the marinade and let come to room temp.  Pour the marinade and veggies into a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Bring to a boil for a minute, then turn down the heat to low, cover and simmer until the veg are tender, about 18 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.  

Fire up the oven to 375F.  Pat the pork dry with paper towel and season generously with S&P on all sides.  Fire up a heavy, ovenproof skillet to medium-high heat.  Once hot, add the canola oil and then sear the tenderloin on all sides until nicely browned, 3 minutes per side on the fatter sides and 2 minutes each on the thin sides.  Transfer to the oven and roast until internal temp reaches 145F at the thickest part, about 10 minutes.  Let rest for 10-15 minutes loosely covered with aluminum foil on your cutting board.  Put the hot skillet back on the stovetop, add a splash of beer to deglaze and scrape up the tasty bits, add that to the pureed sauce. Any au jus from the resting meat should also be added to the sauce or spooned onto the plated dish. 

While the pork rests, pour the now cooked marinade and veggies into a blender or food processor, alternatively you could use a stick blender.  Puree until you have a smooth sauce.  Pour that into a small saucepan over medium-low heat.  Make a slurry with the cornstarch and water and add to the sauce, it will thicken a bit as it cooks gently for 5 minutes or so while you slice the pork.  Season to taste with S&P. 

Slice the pork and serve over the plated beer sauce.  Pair with some haricots verts and a once-baked-once-broiled potato loaded with yummy broccoli and cheese.  

Do you remember where you were 19 years ago today?  I was sitting in the back seat of a car on a highway outside Boston.  Here's a tribute