With Christmas already over (how did that happen?!) and new years fast approaching, it’s a busy time of year for all of us. Now add into the mix the fact that four of my best friends are visiting from the States (!!!!!!!) and we’ve got me in pure roadrunner mode. Fortunately, I have great friends to step in and give me a hand – like Erina from Shut up and Cook! The Attainable Gourmet. (You may recall that I did a guest post over there not too long ago.) It’s perfect since the friends visiting went to college with Erina and I – it all feels very full circle. Anyway, Erina has brought us some amazing looking scallops to ring in the new year, which is perfect since scallops are one of the foods I miss most from home! Without further ado, I give you Erina:
The week between Christmas and New Years is one of my favorites. It’s as though everyone in the world takes a deep breath, a sigh of relief for having gotten through the Holiday Whirlwind, and looks forward to the last few days of calm before we all hit the ground running again in the New Year.
It is a time for late mornings and calling quits early in the afternoon. For jeans when you should be wearing suits, for a second cup of coffee when you should only have one, and for last bursts of indulgence before 2013 resolutions kick in.
It is ironic, though perhaps perfectly fitting, that I am finishing this guest post for Katherine, while en route from Boston to Seattle. As sandstorms tapped at her windows, snowflakes fell against mine. As I kept my oven open to warm my mother’s chilly New England kitchen, Katherine closed hers against the heat. I searched out winter lobsters, while she enjoyed succulent, juicy strawberries and yet, around the globe and quite literally worlds apart, we were somehow together.
While being with Katherine in spirit gives me endless joy, there is nothing quite like the dinner party, to really bring friends together. Admittedly however at this time of year the thought of throwing or attending another event can almost be more than one can bear. And yet the eve of the New Year, as we sit on the edge, dangling our feet over the ledge of possibility and hope, is one of my most coveted meals.
My kind of dinner party begins with dear friends and delicious champagne, is followed by great food and even better conversation, and finishes with that perfect glass of wine that ties it all together. Things needn’t be fussy, but they must possess that wow-factor that leaves a dish lingering on someone’s tongue and memory in the hours and days that follow. It must be special, but not presumptuous, and must require no more than an hour in the kitchen, as these fleeting days are too full to be spent over a hot stove.
This scallop dish is the ultimate New Years Eve soiree appetizer or dinner. Everything but the scallops can be prepped in advance, and the visual beauty coupled with the flavors makes it undeniably one of the greats. If you’ve been afraid of scallops in the past, don’t be. You need nothing more than a hot skillet, some oil, and a little bravery to flip these delectable morsels as they spit and spatter their way to golden excellence. Serve these as the beginning of a multi-dish meal, or as the pièce de résistance of a one-course-wonder. Either way, you won’t be disappointed. And in some moment of it all, allow yourself a deep breath; a recognition of all that you’ve accomplished and all that still awaits, for surely if we don’t do that, there is no reason for doing any of it at all.
- ½ lb orange carrots, washed, scrubbed, and cut into large dice
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ cup whipping cream
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1 red carrot, made into ribbons using a vegetable peeler
- ¼ cup rice wine vinegar
- 1 lb sea scallops, allowed to dry on paper towels
- High Heat Vegetable Oil
- ½ cup packed fresh Italian parsley
- ¼ cup packed fresh basil
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- Pinch of Salt
- Add carrots and salt to a medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 – 15 minutes until very tender. Drain the carrots and add to a blender with the cream and pinch of pepper. Blend until mixture is very smooth. Remove to saucepan and set aside on low heat to keep warm and allow flavors to mingle.
- Meanwhile, place the carrot ribbons in the rice vinegar and toss to coat. Marinate for at least 20 minutes. Drain, reserving vinegar for another use, and set carrots aside.
- To make the winter pesto, combine the parsley, basil, oils, and salt in the blender and puree until very smooth and vibrant green. You want the herb accent to be silky, so puree longer than you think until no individual leaves or parts of leaves remain.
- To prepare the scallops heat a heavy skillet (cast iron works well) over high heat until very hot and add vegetable oil. Wait until oil is nearly smoking and carefully add scallops to the pan, being sure not to crowd them or get covered in hot oil (a splatter guard is a helpful addition). Let well alone and cook two minutes on one side, without moving, or until they are golden and caramelized, then flip and cook on the other side for just a minute more.
- To plate, drizzle Winter Pesto on each plate. Add carrot ambrosia dollops with a regular dining spoon, and gently set the seared scallops atop.
- Serve immediately.
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