Summer Scallops Alfredo

One of the things I love best about summer is the produce. Curly sous & I have gone berry picking at a local farm.  My husband hits the local farmer’s market many Saturday mornings, and this morning he brought back some beautiful sea scallops. Fresh basil, ripe tomatoes, and grilled corn cut through the richness of the Alfredo sauce to make a brighter and less heavy dish.

You will need:
1 lb sea scallops
1 onion, chopped fine
3 cloves of garlic, minced with a little salt & olive oil.
2 large, ripe tomatoes, chopped (about 3.5 cups)
2 ears of fresh corn
1/4 of chiffonade basil
10 ounces of squid ink linguini (or pasta of your choice)
1 cup heavy cream
whole milk
4 TBSP butter
3-4 TBSP flour
1 cup shredded parmesan
lemon pepper seasoning OR lemon zest (opt.)
red pepper flakes (opt.)
salt & pepper

Start by putting a pot of salted water on to come up to a boil.  Then preheat your grill all the way turned up. If you don’t have a grill, you can do this under a broiler.  Shuck your corn while you wait for that grill to get hot, then toss the corn on the grill, turning occasionally, to get even cooking, browning & maybe even a little bit of charring. If you’re lucky like me, you might get your partner to do it, while you’re chopping your vegetables. Once the corn is finished, set it to the side to cool.

This is a dish that comes together quickly, so you’ll definitely want to chop all of your vegetables ahead. Lightly salt your chopped tomatoes. Once the corn is cool, cut it from the ears. If you haven’t done this before, hold the corn vertically by the tip, then cut along the cob down to your cutting board. You won’t get perfect pieces of corn, but that’s okay.

In a large, heavy bottomed pot, melt your butter on medium-high heat. Once the butter is hot, add the onion, sautéing until it’s translucent. Add the garlic, cooking briefly, as well as a little salt and pepper.  (Go light on the salt, since the cheese will add a fair bit of saltiness as well.) If you’d like to make this a bit spicy, add some red pepper flakes here as well. Probably a half teaspoon or more, depending on how spicy you like things. Sprinkle 2-3 TBSP of flour, then whisk vigorously.  You may want to go lighter on the flour to start, to avoid clumps. If you want, you can remove the onions first.  I just tap them out of the whisk when they clump up, then go back to whisking.  Cook your butter & flour together until it thickens and becomes a pale golden color.  Then turn the temperature down to medium-low and pour in your heavy cream, whisking constantly, until you have a smooth sauce.  If the sauce becomes too thick, add additional heavy cream or milk.  Then add the parmesan cheese, again, whisking until smooth.  You’re aiming for a fairly thick sauce, since the tomatoes will thin it out again.  As a note, while I have made “lighter” Alfredo sauces, I very specifically chose heavy cream for this one, because the higher fat content makes cream more resistant to curdling from acids (such as the tomatoes).  Once the sauce comes together, stir in the corn, then turn the heat down as low as possible.  Keep stirring the sauce occasionally to keep it from burning.

Now, we turn to the scallops and pasta.

Depending on the cooking time of your pasta, you’ll want to adjust when you start cooking it. Heat a neutral flavored cooking oil with a high smoke point in a frying pan.  Lightly season the scallops with lemon zest, salt & pepper, or lemon pepper seasoning. Then sear your scallops on top and bottom, working in batches. I did three batches, starting with the largest scallops, and working to the smallest. Once your scallops are seared on both sides and feel close to done, add them to the Alfredo sauce. (If your scallops are slightly undercooked, they’ll finish cooking in the warm sauce.) I started cooking my linguini at the same time as my last batch of scallops went into the pan, since it only took three minutes to cook to al dente. This is also when you’ll want to add your tomatoes.  You want your tomatoes to just be warmed through, but still retain their raw flavor.

Toss your cooked pasta in with the sauce, scallops, and vegetables, along with about 2/3rd of your basil. Garnish your plates with a sprinkling of the remaining basil and additional parmesan. Enjoy with a crisp white wine.

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Pomegranate Chicken (Rumman mukhaththar)

One of my hobbies is medieval recreation and cooking. Medieval recipes aren’t like modern recipes.  There’s no temperature settings, no cooking times, and no measurements (most of the time).  This comes from Scents and Flavors: A Syrian Cookbooka 13th century source.

Strip seeds from fresh pomegranates. Wash, dry, squeeze, and strain. Add sugar & a bunch of mint & put on the fire. Add fried chicken & cook until thick. Add pieces of gourd if you wish.” (Perry, Charles, trs.; Scents and Flavors: A Syrian Cookbook; 2017 p.59)

This is all we’ve got for this one. That said, it’s fairly straightforward if sparse. I added a little of a spice blend used in many other recipes from this cookbook. Since the recipe called only for “fried chicken,” I decided to lightly dredge in chickpea flour & spices before pan searing. Regular flour would be just fine, but I wanted to keep this gluten-free.

In the end, this was delightful. The pomegranate and mint played well together. It was sweet but not overly so. I’d definitely make this again.

10 chicken thighs
18 ounces pealed long gourd or unpeeled zucchini,
(2 medium) cut in two inch by one inch pieces.
¼ cup chopped fresh mint
Olive or sesame oil for frying
⅔ cup chickpea flour
1 tsp mixed spices*
1 tsp salt
3 cups pomegranate juice
1 cup sugar
Salt

Mixed spices is a medieval Syrian spice blend.  We don’t have any sense of measurements.  I omitted nuts and spikenard.  So our spice blend for this is as follows:
2 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground rosehips
1 tsp ground long pepper
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground mace
1/2 tsp ground cloves
3 bay leaves, crumbled
Long pepper can be a bit difficult to find. You can substitute additional black pepper for it. If you don’t have rosehips, you can probably just omit it.

Combine 1 tsp salt, 1tsp mixed spices & ⅔-¾ cup chickpea flour. Dredge chicken in flour mix. I had Miss S. shake the thighs with the dredge mix so she could help. Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil or sesame oil in a wide flat pan. Brown the chicken pieces gently, working in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan.

Once your chicken is browned, remove and deglaze the pan with some of the pomegranate juice. Add the rest of the juice, the mint, a quarter tsp mixed spices, and sugar.

Add the chicken back to the pan, along with the long gourd or zucchini pieces.

Salt, Cover & bring up to a boil. Then uncover the pan and simmer twenty-thirty minutes, until the chicken is cooked through & zucchini is soft.

Beef Wellington

3 six ounce pieces of beef tenderloin
1 TBSP stoneground mustard
1 TBSP chopped fresh rosemary
4 ounces crimini mushrooms, minced
4 ounces chestnut mushrooms, minced (or others as you please)
2 TBSP minced, dried porcini mushrooms
1 shallot, minced
3-5 TBSP duck liver & chestnut pâté (or other of your choice)
2 TBSP brandy or cognac
2 TBSP butter
1 TBSP black truffle butter (optional)
4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
1 box frozen puff pastry
1 egg

Salt your tenderloin pieces the day before cooking, if possible, to allow time for the salt to penetrate the meat. Put butter in a pan over medium-high heat.  Add the minced shallot and fresh mushrooms.  Gently salt the mushrooms, while stirring occasionally.  If your prosciutto was sliced on the thicker side, err on under-salting the mushrooms. When the mushrooms are soft and well-cooked, add the brandy, truffle butter, and dried mushrooms.  The dried porcini will soak up the excess liquid given off by the fresh mushrooms, while giving their own flavor to the party. When the porcini seem to have rehydrated, remove the mushrooms (or Duxelles, if we want to be traditionalist about it) and set aside to cool.
Add a bit of butter back to the pan.  Sear each piece of tenderloin on all sides. Then set aside the meat.


Lay out a piece of cling film, then lay 2-3 pieces of prosciutto down, just overlapping, wide enough to cover the width of your meat. Rub your meat with the mustard. I went fairly light with the mustard, but you could go stronger if you like. Then sprinkle the rosemary on the mustard.  Put a spoonful of pâte on one side of the meat, then a spoonful of the duxelles on top of that.  Place that side down on the edge of the prosciutto, then repeat on the other side.  Using the clingfilm, tightly roll the prosciutto around the meat, then finish wrapping the whole thing tightly in the clingfilm. Put the first piece of meat into the refrigerator, then repeat with the other two.
Refrigerate your meat for at least thirty minutes.  This would be a good time to take out your puff pastry to defrost.  While you’re waiting, you can prepare any side dishes you’d like.  I made roasted potatoes and roasted brussels sprouts.
Preheat your oven to 425F.  When the puff pastry is just barely warm enough to work with, carefully roll it out.  One sheet of puff pastry will cover two pieces of meat, if you’ve rolled it out enough.  Cut the rolled out sheet in half, and set one half aside.  Carefully unwrap the meat from the clingfilm, and place in the center of the puff pastry.  Brush an egg wash around the surrounding pastry, then enclose the meat in pastry, making sure the bottom is sealed.  Place the Beef Wellington onto a roasting pan.  (I put a sheet of parchment paper down for easy clean up.) . Repeat with the other two pieces of meat. You will be left with half a sheet of puff pastry.  I made a quick and dirty galette, but feel free to be creative.
Make slits in the top of the pastry to allow steam to escape, then brush with the egg wash.  Bake the Beef Wellington for 40-45 minutes, until the center of the beef reaches 130F (medium rare) or whatever degree of doneness you prefer.


Overall this recipe was definitely a success. I’ve noted to get thinly sliced prosciutto, as ours was a bit thick and therefore added a bit too much salt to the party.  The use of the dried mushrooms, as well as chilling the meat added up to a crust that managed to be firm on the bottom instead of soggy.  The overall flavor was decadent.  While I’ve linked to the duck liver and chestnut pâté, in this case I actually used a chicken liver and chestnut pâtê variation of that same recipe.  Chicken livers are far easier to obtain.

Duck liver & Chestnut Pâté

8 Duck livers
7 chestnuts
2 onions or 4 shallots
7 cloves garlic
2 tsp herbs de provence (thyme, marjoram, rosemary, tarragon, lavender)
2 Tbsp brandy or cognac
4-6 Tbsp duck fat
4 Tbsp Unsalted butter + 4 more
1.5 tsp salt
⅔ tsp pepper

 

  1. Place duck fat in a skillet, and cook over medium to high heat for 4 to 5 minutes, until the fat has melted and some of it has browned.
  2. Add the chestnuts, and cook for about 30 seconds, stirring occasionally. Add the liver, herbs de Provence, and garlic, and cook over medium to high heat for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Deglaze with brandy & add salt and pepper.
  3. Transfer the mixture to your food processor with 4 TSBP unsalted butter, and blend until smooth.
  4. Spoon pâté into ramekins or jars and chill.  If you’re not planning on using it immediately, pour melted butter over the top to seal the pâté.  You can then refrigerate it for a few days, or freeze it for later use. This makes a fair bit of pâté.  I would recommend freezing some for when you are ready to make Beef Wellington.

Summer Scallops

A43AD7FD-D9AD-445D-97AD-40AC95E4ADF6.jpegWhile my housemate was away, I wanted to cook some things that were not to his taste for Joel and me. I also did not wanted to do something different for a change.  This experiment turned out quite good.

1 lb sea scallops
1 medium onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 ears of corn
1 lemon
1 TBSP fresh rosemary (chopped)
1.5 TBSP fresh basil
red pepper flakes
duck fat, bacon grease, or butter
heavy cream
salt & pepper

Grill two ears of corn & set aside to cool.  Sear scallops in duck fat & remove from pan. Add onion, sauté until soft, then add the chopped red pepper, one TBS chopped fresh rosemary, zest of one lemon, juice of half a lemon, a healthy amount of red pepper flakes depending on how spicy you like things, black pepper & salt. Stir until lemon juice is mostly gone & pepper softens. Cut corn from cobs, add to pan with scallops, 1.5 T fresh chopped basil, and heavy cream. Simmer gently until scallops are just cooked.  Serves 2-4, depending on what you have with it.

Chicken & Dumplings

059958F7-54DF-4528-9FA3-8EFE13B62FC0.jpegSoup base:
2 lbs chicken (boneless breasts or thighs)
3 small onions, diced
1.5 heavy glasses white wine
Flour
1/2 stick butter
2 large garlic cloves, minced
4 carrots, diced
3 celery ribs + any celery leaves, sliced thinly
8 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced (opt.)
1 lb frozen green peas (opt.)
2 tsp ground thyme
2 tsp smoked paprika
1-2 Bay leaves (opt.)
Salt
Pepper
6-8 cups chicken broth
1/2 bunch parsley, coarsely chopped
1 cup milk

Dumplings:
1 1/3 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup milk
1 TBSP olive oil or melted butter
1/2 tsp powdered thyme OR 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
1/2 tsp smoked paprika

I started with pre-cut chicken pieces. When dealing with ten pounds of chicken breasts, I tend to trim the oysters & put them aside. All of the trimmings wind up being about enough for a small pot of soup. You could also start with larger pieces & either cut them down or simmer them until they can be shredded.

Melt butter in a wide heavy-bottomed pan, then add your onions.  Sauté onions until translucent.  Dust chicken with a few tablespoons of flour, salt & pepper, then add to pan to brown.  (Or add chicken to pan, then dust, which is what I did because I was lazy.)  Once the chicken & flour has started to turn golden, deglaze the pan with the wine. Add carrots, celery, mushrooms (optional), garlic, thyme, smoked paprika, bay leaves, salt, pepper, and chicken broth. Use more broth if you’d like a soup consistency, less if you want something closer to stew.  Simmer until vegetables are soft and chicken is cooked through.  Meanwhile, mix up your dumplings.  Mix your dry ingredients lightly, then add bat & milk.  You’re aiming for a thick batter.

Once the chicken is cooked, add frozen peas, if you’d like, along with a cup of milk. (If you’re going to shred chicken, do it now & then return it to the pan.) When the pan comes back up to a simmer, drop your dumpling batter in by the spoonful over the surface of the soup. Cover and simmer 15-18 minutes more, or until the dumplings are finished.  Add the fresh parsley over the top to finish. The peas and mushrooms aren’t particularly traditional for chicken & dumplings, but adds some needed vegetables to balance out the dish.  The dumplings are usually relatively plain as well, but I like the complimentary seasoning.

For Science

Sometimes you need to spend some time with an ingredient to really understand it.  I recommend this article on bay leaves as an example.  The author approaches bay leaves like a scientist to understand how this fairly subtle herb affects food.

I’ve got at least two recipes in the queue to write up, and another to review.  Hopefully, I’ll get to those soon.