Thursday, June 24, 2010

Martini Scallops

I am a sucker for seafood, we all know that, but it's not very often I get wowed by sea scallops. I enjoy eating these mollusks, but sometimes I feel they are over priced, at the grocery store and restaurants, and oftentimes people tend to overcook them. But when I went to the Balboa Park Food and Wine ooking school last week, the chef showed us how to make this dish and it blew me away. He did not use any salt or pepper whatsoever, and they were wonderful. You want to use large sea scallops (8 to 12 per pound) and don't go buy fancy diver scallops. Just good quality, fresh sea scallops will do. This serves 4 to 6 people, depending on how many scallops you get on the pound and this makes a fabulous first course or pair it with a salad and it makes a pretty good darn meal.

  • 8 ounces large sea scallops
  • 3 ounces clarified butter (you have to use clarified butter or ghee. Don't use regular butter or olive oil)
  • 1 chopped shallot
  • 1/2 cup gin
  • 2 tablespoons dry vermouth
  • Garnish of lemon twists or lemon zest


Heat the clarified butter in a saute pan. When hot, add the shallots and saute until golden brown. Add the scallops and saute until firm, about 3 to 5 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the gin and dry vermouth (be careful with the open flame) for another minute. Serve immediately with some of the sauce and garnish with lemon twists or lemon zest.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Gin and Tonic Wilted Spinach Salad

I finally was able to get out of the house and go to a cooking class. Not that I don't love being home with my baby, but since I'm solo parenting it's tough leaving my girl without me not feeling guilty. I went to the Balboa Park Food and Wine school and this was a "cocktail cuisine" class; all our dishes had a cocktail theme to them and were even made with the hard liquor. A note about this recipe is to add the gin to the pan AWAY from the stove and open flame. The chef in our class did it right over the flame to give us a show, but he's a professional. This salad was so delicious, and you don't want to wilt the spinach too much. It's a great starter to any meal.

INGREDIENTS (serves 6)
  • 4 cups fresh, cleaned spinach
  • 3 strips thick cut bacon
  • 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 cup gin
  • 3 tablespoons tonic water

Cook the bacon in a large saute pan with high sides (3 to 4 inches). When bacon gets to your crispy likeness, remove from pan.  Cut bacon into 2" pieces. Leave bacon grease in the pan.

Heat bacon grease on high and add the mushrooms and sautee for 2 minutes. Lightly season with salt and pepper.  Add lime juice, gin (away from open flame)  and tonic water and reduce by half.

Finally, add the spinach and wilt. Spin the spinach around the sauce for a minute, then plate immediately and top with crispy bacon and serve.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Chunky Crab Cakes

Back in the day when Matthew was stationed on the USNS Arctic in New Jersey, I would make frequent trips from San Diego to visit him. The flight I took always had a layover in Atlanta before going onto Newark. I looked forward to arriving into the Atlanta airport because that was the only place that I was able to go to a pretty good restaurant with pretty good crab cakes: Phillips Seafood. And I always ordered the same order of crab cakes with the hush puppies and an iced tea. I know that there are probably better places in Maryland or Baltimore with incredible crab cakes, but the Phillips Seafood restaurant in ATL is the closes I've gotten to authentic style crab cakes. 

I have tried making crab cakes before but either there was too much of a mayonnaise flavor or too much of a fishy flavor because I wasn't using fresh crab meat. So after doing some experiments I've found that this recipe (which came by way of is probably my favorite. I did slightly alter it and I like to fry my crab cakes in ghee. I also I really like to serve them over a simple salad a little bit of a chipotle aioli on the side with them (I have to have a little bit of mayo somewhere, right?)

INGREDIENTS (makes 6 cakes)

  • 1 lb. fresh lump crab meat, drained
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. Worcestershire
  • 1/2 tsp. Old Bay seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp. dill weed
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
In a large bowl, combine the egg, onion powder, garlic powder, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, Old Bay seasoning, dill weed, salt and black pepper and mix well. Mix in 1/4 cup of the panko breadcrumbs, saving the remainder of the crumbs on a plate for coating the crab cakes. Add in the crab meat, and gently mix it in using a fork or spatula -- or better yet, your hands, coating the lumps with the mixture. Be careful not to pulverize the lumps when mixing - the idea is to keep the mixture chunky.

Place the mixing bowl with crab cake mixture in the refrigerator for about 15-20 minutes to firm it up. After refrigeration, drain off any excess liquid.

Gently press mixture into thick patties (slightly smaller than hamburgers) and lightly coat them using the remaining panko breadcrumbs. Don't compact the cakes; keep them a bit loose. Use just enough pressure to make the mixture hold together. Fry the cakes in butter or ghee at low to medium-low heat in an uncovered fry pan or griddle, turning when the first side is brown, about 5 minutes per side.

Serve immediately with slices of lemon, chipotle aioli or good tartar sauce. Mmmm..