Thursday, September 18, 2014

Coquilles Saint Jacques

There is something so utterly visceral about eating a mollusk.  They are nature’s original hand-held eats.  Dining on some clams or oysters, I feel a kinship with the primitive peoples that probably polished off a plethora of them as they sat along the seashore.  (although how they ever figured out that an oyster was anything other than a rock I’ll never know). 

Of all the mollusks of the sea, the Scallop has to be the beautiful white swan to the oyster’s ugly duckling.   Its shell is graceful and symmetric; its flesh white and uniform—a marshmallow of the sea.  It can be served simply on its own or gussied us fancy.

In this dish, we’re gonna go with gussied up fancy.  (It is a French dish, after all).  Dining on Coquilles Saint Jacques is the opposite end of the spectrum from primitive, however.  This dish takes an already elegant foodstuff and raises it to even greater heights of elegance and allure.  This dish ranks right up there with Lobster Thermidor and Pheasant Under Glass for high end haute cuisine.  I can’t help envisioning the staid, wood paneled walls, white tablecloths and fine china of a three Michelin star restaurant when I make this dish, one that the great Julia Child herself might be seen sipping a nice white Graves or white Burgundy. 

Yes, this dish sends my mind on flights of fancy.  But it also does a number on one’s taste buds.  Here’s how:

Coquilles Saint Jacques

1 lb Bay Scallops, Washed
6 Tablespoons Butter, Divided
8 Oz Fresh Mushrooms, Cleaned and Chopped
1 Cup Chopped Onion
1 Cup Dry White Wine
2 Tablespoons Flour
1/3 Cup Milk
1/2 Cup Heavy Cream
2 Egg Yolks
Fresh Tarragon, Minced
Salt and Pepper
1/2 Cup Grated Gruyere
1/4 Cup Breadcrumbs
Squeeze of Lemon Juice
6 Scallop Shells or Small Ramekins

If you’re going to go to the trouble to make this dish, go the extra mile and get the scallop shells.  They are cheap, just a few bucks at a kitchen supply store, and you will truly wow your guests with the presentation. 

To start, melt three tablespoons of the butter in a skillet.  

When this is good and hot, add the (well-drained and dried) scallops and allow to sauté for 60-90 seconds undisturbed.  

Then use a spatula to roll them over and sauté on the other side for another 60 seconds.  Use a slotted spoon or similar to remove the scallops and reserve.  

Now, I know you’re thinking, they can’t be finished cooking yet.  Well, you’re right.  They are not.  But we’re going to be broiling them later, so if we fully cooked them now, they would get overcooked in the broiler.  And we don’t want that.  Overcooked scallops are tough and rubbery. 

After you’ve reserved the scallops, reserve the white scallop broth that has rendered out into the skillet as well.  Lot of flavor in that liquid that we will use later. 

Add the rest of the butter to the skillet, and when it is melted add the onions and mushrooms.  

Cook these for 8-10 minutes until the onions clear and the mushrooms are cooked.  Remove both with a slotted spoon and reserve. 

Add the white wine to the pan 

and scrape the bottom with a spatula to break up the browned bits.  Add the reserved scallop broth to the pan.  

Let this cook a minute, then sift in the flour.  After this has cooked a bit, add the milk and stir frequently for a few minutes.  

Then turn off heat to the pan. 

Meanwhile, mix the heavy cream and the two egg yolks in a bowl.  

Mince your tarragon 


and add it to the cream egg mixture and blend thoroughly.  

To this, add the mixture from the wine/broth/milk mixture from the skillet and blend again.  

Return this concoction to the skillet and heat through, but do not boil. 

Return the mushroom onion mixture to the skillet, 

then add the scallops.  

Turn off the heat. 

Butter your scallop shells on the inside, then spoon a portion of the scallop concoction into each of the six shells. 

Grate your gruyere 

and mix it with the bread crumbs.  Sprinkle this mixture on the top of each scallop shell.  

Dot with a very small pat of butter if you like. 

Turn on your broiler and get it hot.  Broil the shells about 6 inches from the broiler for about 4-5 minutes, a little longer if necessary to melt the cheese and get the top golden brown.  

Basically watch the process closely and just make sure the cheese doesn’t burn. 

Remove from the oven and admire.  Squirt with a bit of lemon juice if you like, and serve immediately as a nice first course of an elegant dinner. 

Until next time,

Come out of your shell, have some scallops!


Sunday, August 31, 2014

Corn, Zucchini and Cilantro Soup

Late summer and early autumn brings about one of my favorite times, corn harvest.  Though often considered quite common, corn, or more appropriately, maize, is one of the great culinary contributions of this continent.  I like noting better than to roast it in the husk and eat it slathered with plenty of real butter.  But corn can contribute to quite a few other culinary capers, including this a-maize-ingly simple yet a-maize-ingly tasty soup.

Corn, Zucchini and Cilantro Soup

3 Ears Sweet Corn, Husked and Silked
1 Yellow Onion, Diced
2 Large Zucchini, Diced into Half-Inch Cubes
48 Oz Chicken Broth
1 Clump Fresh Cilantro, Minced
1 Teaspoon Garlic Salt
1 Teaspoon Herbs de Province
1 Teaspoon Dried Thyme
Dash White Pepper
1 Tablespoon Light Olive Oil

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot and add the onion. Saute for 5-10 minutes until it begins to clear.

Meanwhile, tend to your corn.  Try to get the freshest corn you can find, preferably from a Farmer's Market or similar.  Corn is at its best right off the stalk, and it will lose its sweetness the longer it has been since it was picked.   The best corn I ever had was from a farmer selling it from the back of his pickup truck on a little road in Tennessee.  You could eat that corn raw it was so sweet.  Probably less than an hour or two since it was on the stalk.

Anyhoo, cut the corn kernels from the cob with a good sharp knife.  I usually do this by placing one end of the cob in a bowl and holding the other, then I run a knife down the side of the cob, taking off a couple rows of kernels, which fall into the bowl.

Make sure to cut in deep with the knife so you get as much of the corn kernels off as possible.

After the onion has finished sauteing, add the corn to the pot and allow to cook for a minute or two.

During this time you can add your garlic salt, herbs de province and thyme.

Next, add your chicken broth and bring to a soft boil, then reduce to a simmer.

Cook for 10-12 minutes, enough time to soften and cook the corn.

While this is going on, dice up your zucchini into half inch cubes.

After corn has simmered in the chicken broth for 10-12 minutes, add your zucchini to the pot.  Cook for an additional five minutes, but no more.  Any more time and the zucchini will become mushy.

After the five minutes, turn off the heat and add the minced cilantro.

Allow it to steep for a few minutes, then your soup is ready to serve.

Until next time,

Soup's On!


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Minestrone Soup

Last year we declared August ‘soup month’ here at An Eat’n Man, so I figured, here it is August again, so why not some more soup recipes?

To start off this month with a bang, here’s one of my all time favorite soups, Minestrone.  I first discovered this soup as a kid…yes, in a Campbell’s Soup can.  That was decent enough to pique my interest back then, and inspire in me mild dreams of an indolent, 1950s Italy where Dean Martin songs perpetually play, and iron cauldrons of hearty minestrone soups simmer away, ready to greet friends and travelers alike. 

I got closer to realizing that dream when I started making my own minestrone.  Here I was able to tweak things and adjust this or that to get the soup just like I like it.  If you’ve ever make it yourself, you’ve probably discovered that there are about as many minestrone recipes out there as there are stelline in the skies over Planet Pasta.  Well, nothing wrong with that.  Minestrone has always been a common person’s soup, something kept on the hob to feed the family throughout the day, or when extra guests arrived.  It was always made with whatever was in season or at hand.  For this reason, I go with a mix of fresh and canned veggies, but feel free to use all fresh if you like.  (or all canned)  Just give everything a long simmer and you’ll come out all right. 

Minestrone Soup

3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
4 Oz Salt Pork, Diced
2-3 Celery Stalks, Chopped
3 Medium Carrots, Chopped
1 Large Onion, Diced
1 Large Zucchini, Chopped
8 Oz Fresh Green Beans, Cut
2-3 Garlic Cloves, Crushed
1 28 Oz Can Chopped Tomatoes
1 8 Oz Can Tomato Sauce
48 Oz Chicken Broth
1 14 Oz Can Cannellini Beans
1 14 Oz Can Kidney Beans
1 14 Oz Can Diced New Potatoes
1 Tablespoon Dried Oregano
1 Teaspoon Dried Basil
1/4 Cup Stellini Pasta
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Parmesan Cheese to Serve

Heat Olive Oil in Large Soup Pot.  Dice the Salt Pork:

Yes, it looks a lot like bacon, but it packs a lot more of a salty punch, so use with caution.

Simmer the Salt Pork for a few minutes until it begins to brown.  (You could substitute pancetta for the salt pork if you like)  Add the diced onions and cook until translucent.  Add the garlic and simmer a couple minutes more.  Add the Celery and Carrots and simmer for a few minutes more.

Dice and cut your Zucchini and Green Beans 

Add and allow to soften for a few minutes. 

Add the Chopped Tomatoes and Tomato Sauce.  

Simmer for a minute and then add the Chicken Broth.  

Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.  Cook for twenty minutes or so until the veggies have softened properly. 

Drain the Cannellini and Kidney Beans and add them to the pot, along with the New Potatoes.  Add the Herbs and the dried Stellini Pasta.  Allow the soup to simmer for another 20 minutes or so, then taste.  Add Salt and Pepper as necessary to taste. (Taste before you add any salt, the Salt Pork will have contributed a good bit)

Serve hot, topped with a bit of freshly grated Parmesan and perhaps a piece of crusty Italian bread on the side. 

Until Next Time,

Buon Appetito!


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Shrimp Rangoon

Yep, that’s right, shrimp.  Yes, of course, crab is the thing that one usually Rangoons, but the imitation crab usually found in Crab Rangoon is just not that exciting to us, and fresh crab is hard to find round these parts.  Not so with good ole shrimp, which are plentiful here so near the Gulf.  So we came up with this little variation on the classic Chinese/American dish that is sure to please. 

Rangoon, usually in its crab form, started showing up in Chinese American restaurants as well as Polynesian places like Trader Vic’s in the 1950s.  Its origins are uncertain, but it is most likely has its origins in Chinese American restaurants, just like Chopped Suey and many other dishes that are alien to authentic Asian cuisine.  But who cares, right?  This dish is quite tasty, so do give it a go. 

Shrimp Rangoon

1 Tablespoons Fresh Cilantro, Chopped
1 Tablespoons Scallions, Chopped
1 Teaspoons Fresh Ginger, Chopped
1/2 Teaspoon Sugar
1/2 Package Cream Cheese, Softened
1 Teaspoon Fresh Lime Juice
Salt to Taste
1/2 Pound Cooked Fresh Shrimp, Peeled and Deveined
15 Wonton Wrappers
Peanut Oil

Heat peanut oil in a deep saucepan or wok to 375F.

Pulse Cilantro, Scallions, Ginger and Sugar in a food processor until minced.  


Add cream cheese, lime juice and salt and pulse until combined.  Add shrimp.  

You can dice it before hand or just add it whole and let the food processor do all the work.  Pulse until the shrimp is chopped and well combined. 

Arrange a wonton wrapper on a work surface and spread a spoonful of the shrimp/cream cheese mixture in the middle.  

Next, dampen a finger with a bit of tap water (I usually keep a small bowl of water nearby for this procedure) and run your finger around the edges of the wonton wrapper.  Fold in half and press down firmly to seal.  If you have one of these handy-dandy wonton presses, you can use it.  

It will seal the wonton wrapper thoroughly 

and put a nice decorative edge on it. 

Repeat the procedure until you’ve got all your wonton wrappers filled.

Fry the rangoons, a few at a time, in the peanut oil.  

They will fry quickly, so keep an eye on them.  I usually fry them for about 60-80 seconds and then flip them and repeat.  Remove from oil and drain on a paper towel.  

Fry ‘em all up and serve ‘em immediately, perhaps with some Sweet Hot and Sour Sauce.

Until Next Time,