Monday, June 21, 2010
Cast Iron Cuisine: Drunken Scallops
All of my cookware is non-stick coated. I know this certainly isn’t a pro chef’s first choice. Good thing I’m not a pro chef, because I love my Analon. Non-stick is perfect for cooks who shy away from using a lot of fat in their cooking and clearly, I’m that cook.
I used to coat my non-stick pans with a light spritz of Pam cooking spray. Not any more! That stuff is horrible. When heated to high temperatures, it can fuse to the cooking surface and ruin the coating on your very expensive pans. Eventually your non-stick cookware will end up sticking. Sticky non-stick frying pans are not only an oxymoron, but completely useless! A warranty on non-stick gear is actually void if you’re using cooking spray at all.
The benefit of using a cooking spray is that the product claims to be fat-free. Upon further investigation, the first ingredient on Pam’s ingredient list is canola oil. I don’t know how the FDA can list a canola oil product as “fat-free” on their labels, but they do. If it’s going to “add a trivial amount of fat” to my meal anyway, why not just stick to no-frills olive oil? I have a pump-action spray bottle that leaves a fine mist on the cooking surface. It’s certainly not a significant source of fat in your diet and my pans stay in pristine condition. Problem solved!
With that rant out of the way, some foods just don’t play nice with non-stick surfaces. At the top of the list would have to be scallops. Any time you want a crusty sear on something, cast iron is the way to go. I was poking around an antique store a few weeks back and bought a cast iron skillet circa 1922, but still in perfect shape. Cast iron needs to be seasoned (heated to high temperatures with fat rubbed into the surface) to develop a non-stick coating. This pan already had almost 90 years of someone’s Granny cooking on it, so I just needed to come home, clean off the antique store dust, add a little of my own fresh oil to the surface and get cooking.
I tried this recipe for SEA SCALLOPS IN WHITE WINE SAUCE. Apparently I’m becoming addicted to lemon juice, because I gravitate towards any recipe that includes it. The white wine sauce was very bright and fresh tasting. It was more of a “broth” consistency than a sauce, which was fine with me. Scallops are so sweet and delicate on their own. You don’t want some gloppy sauce to spoil the taste. This was just a nice little accompaniment. Be sure to pat the scallops dry and get the oil smoking hot to achieve the perfect sear. I also learned that you can’t crowd the pan. If the scallops release too much liquid, they’ll steam instead of searing.
I served 4 large sea scallops per person along with a side of PASTA WITH CREAMY ASPARAGUS SAUCE. I thought this was a pretty genius idea that unfortunately I can’t take credit for. I did make a few changes to the recipe, so I’m posting my own recipe card. A creamy pasta sauce is made from the pureed asparagus stems and parm cheese. It feels like a rich side dish without actually being very rich at all. I’m such a carb freak, I never think of pasta as anything but a main course. But here, you have a small amount on the side to satisfy the need for all things macaroni.
To sum up this rather long post, I think you’ll really enjoy this. The hum drum fish and veggie dinner has been kicked up just enough to make it special occasion worthy. It looks beautiful on the plate and the two dishes really compliment each other. Oh yeah, and Pam is awful.
* Get cooking. Let me know what you think. Love it? Hate it? I’m interested in hearing your feedback and suggestions..