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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Nantucket Bay Scallops in Tabasco Butter with Parmesan Cheese and Croutons


  
The American Hotel.
A must stop in Sag Harbor whether for
Bay Scallops or not
         I can’t tell you how proud I am of this recipe.  It is really one time when I can genuinely claim authorship of a dish. I’d tried a recipe for something similar several weeks ago.  It was a way of using the absolutely delectable tiny scallops that are native to the waters around the Hamptons on Long Island and even more renowned when they hail from Nantucket.  These wonderfully sweet morsels are in season and we look forward to every delicious bite.   But what a disappointed the recipe was!  The topping was made with those breadcrumbs that likely live in most pantries for years.   The scallops were drowning in them and bland as all get out. Disappointing is an understatement.  Especially after having had the most tender, deliciously flavored Peconic Bay Scallops at a holiday dinner at Sag Harbor’s wonderful American Hotel.  I vowed to make them again and started working on ways to create this dish.


Chef Rajeev Basak in The Culinary Arts Center
aboard Holland America's Zuiderdam
           Now, my recipe's influences are certainly other dishes I’ve had.  I owe a debt to a chef aboard Holland-America’s Zuiderdam.  I took the cruise specifically to write about the Culinary Arts Program for a magazine. Almost daily cooking demos featured Chef Rajeev Basak, who hails from Mumbai but who was introduced at every Culinary Arts presentation on board as being from “BOMB BAY, INDEEEEAH”. He is responsible for the Tabasco connection.  In one of the demonstrations I attended, the chef gave about 4 tablespoons of butter a good dousing with Tabasco sauce, melted it, then strained the butter from the skillet into a bowl and cooked shrimp in a Tabasco coated non-stick pan. The resultant shrimp, dipped in to the Tabasco butter were one of the highlights of the whole experience. Thank you Chef Basak!

Marcella Hazan, formerly
of Venice Italy, now of
Naples, Florida
         Then there’s the matter of the cheese.  I know we’ve had this discussion on these pages once before but as anyone who has ever lived in Italy will tell you, there was a well-known prohibition of eating any kind of seafood with any kind of cheese.  So strong was this belief on my part that I stated it very clearly in the post.  This provoked one of my cousins in Canada to write me a very pointed email about how he and his wife were in the midst of writing a cookbook on Adriatic cooking.  Their recipes were riddled with cheese!  So off went a message to my Facebook friend Marcella Hazan.  La signora is truly one the great authorities on Italian cooking in this country.  So you can imagine my pleasure at receiving the following message back from the chef herself. “ Monte, I used to be very dogmatic about that, but living in Venice for 20 years, I found that it was possible and even desirable to use both butter and cheese, as in baked scallops, for example, on in risotto with scampi. There are limits, however. Sprinkling cheese on pasta with clams is and always will be a crime against nature.” –Marcella Hazan. Keep that in mind next times your reach for the Parmesan to season your linguine in clam sauce. But it was license for me to add the glorious cheese to my recipe. 
         The other major invention here was the use of croutons instead of bread crumbs.  I cut pieces of a fairly old loaf of Ciabatta bread the same size as the scallops. I toasted these very briefly in the toaster oven.  They were magnificent!  The perfect contrast to the softness of the scallops, they were sprinkled with garlic and onion powders for flavor.  Their crisp, crunchiness picked up some of the butter.  The whole thing worked brilliantly if I do say so myself.  I served this as an entrée. I couldn’t help but think how very good half size portions of these, in the scallop shells Andrew bought last summer, would be as a first course at a dinner party.  If you’re very lucky, you’ll be there. But personally, I wouldn’t wait.  This is just too good to pass up. Here’s the recipe:

Recipe for Baked Nantucket Bay Scallops with Tabasco Butter, Parmesan Cheese and Croutons (Serves 2 as an entrée, 4 as a first course)

6 Tablespoons Melted Butter
12 oz. of Bay Scallops *
2 cups of croutons made from any good country bread cut into ½ inch cubes, toasted briefly.
½ tsp. Onion Powder
½ tsp. Garlic Powder
1 tablespoon Fresh Italian Parsley
6 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Pour melted butter into individual gratin dishes or any small casserole.
Add 6 dashes of Tabasco sauce to the butter and stir.




In a bowl, put the croutons and half the cheese. Scatter the onion and garlic powders over the mixture.  Toss to combine.  Add the fresh parsley.




Distribute the scallops evenly in the gratin dish.  






Arrange the croutons in the gratin dish filling in between the scallops.  Sprinkle the remaining parmesan cheese over the scallop crouton mixture. 




Bake for 20 minutes until top is brown, cheese is melted and scallops are cooked.
Serve at once with a side salad.




*Much to my horror, one of my local markets was offering Bay Scallops, farmed in China, and selling for half the price of our local variety.  Now I’ve come to understand virtually everything from my iPhone to my eyeglasses is made in China but I draw the line at eating scallops that have flow 12,000 miles to get here.

4 comments:

  1. Please make this for me when I visit. It looks delicious.

    I agree about not using using cheese with seafood. Who decided this and why? We have used cheese before on fish and I felt like I had committed a sin and didn't want the Seafood Police to find out.

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  2. I have no clue where the prohibition on cheese and fish began but I do remember heated arguments about it. At one lunch two men I worked with practically attacked each other on the subject. But I'll take Marcella's word for it: It's okay in this case!

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  3. The cheese adds such a creamy loveliness, I say what they don't know will not hurt them. C: This looks soooo yummy, and I will gladly be one of the faux pas folks. Now the Tobasco, I never use as it has too much vinegar for my taste, however, I will substitute. And blessings to Bomb Bay Indeeeeah!!! funny.... C:

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  4. Ana, this is really so good. My nephew made it with sea scallops that he quartered if you cannot find the little bay scallops. As to the Tabasco, it is just to give a little kick to the recipe. Do you use hot sauce....I can't think how you don't....that would certainly be a good substitute.

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