3/21/10

Drunken Scallops With Black Bean and Bell Pepper Sauce



The inspiration for these Dunken Scallops came from a bottle of Tequila which has been patiently waiting in our cabinet for nearly 3 years.  Neither Spice or I are huge fans of this spirit despite living in Southern California for over 20 years.  My aversion may have something to do with an afternoon of one too many Margarita's.....but that's another story for another blog.  I had been trying to think of what I could do different with our Scallops, and woke up one morning and said to Spice "Tequila!"  He thought it was a little too early in the morning for this, but often my ideas come to me at night or even when I'm dreaming.  Onto the recipe.....

I'll start by saying that even if you are not a fan of Tequila, you will still enjoy this dish.  Just give it a try, and you'll learn about the sweetness that comes from the cactus juice, and makes for a wonderful flavor with the tender scallops.  And, you can prepare this entire meal in 20 minutes ~ check us out R.R.!!  

If you are serving this with rice as we did, you'll want to get that started first and bring to a par-boil.  Drain the water, and add 2 Tbsp. of butter, and aerate the rice by creating holes in the bottom of the dish with the end of a wooden spoon.  Cover the pot with 3 pieces of paper towel (this absorbs the moisture) and then put the lid on it.  Place back on the stove over low heat for 20 minutes.

For the black bean sauce, you can coarsely chop: 1/2 an orange bell pepper, 1/2 red onion, 1 jalapeno (sans seeds) and 2 tomatoes.  Add to your food chopper and blend to desired consistency; we chose to do ours as a sauce and pureed.  In a saucepan over medium heat, add one can of black beans, and 1/2 can of sweet corn.  Add your vegetable puree, and add your spices: 1 Tbs. San Juan Sazon Urban Accents, 1 Tbsp. of Old Bay, 1/2 tsp. garlic salt, and a pinch of coarse sea salt.  Stir well, and you'll soon be able to smell the warming vegetables and spicy blend.  It's fabulous!

For the star of the show, begin by laying your scallops out, and drying them, carefully.  This is a critical step, as important as remembering to season your food.  Add the scallops to a cold pan drizzled with a little olive oil.  Turn the heat to medium high, and cook the scallops for about 2-3 minutes, depending on their thickness.  The trick here is to leave them alone once you add them to the pan.  It's tempting to peek - I know, but the scallops will easily lift once they begin to caramelize so trust me on this one.  When you are ready to turn your scallops, add a healthy splash of tequila (is that an oxy moron?) to the pan, and let them cook on their other side, about 2 minutes.  The alcohol will quickly evaporate, and the scallops will drink up the liquid, hence the "Drunken Scallops."  You'll be surprised that you can now smell a sweet flavor emerging from the pan, and this will compliment the spicy black bean and bell pepper sauce.  The rice serves as a great neutral, and balances the entire dish.  

Ishteh Koob,

Sugar + Spice

3/14/10

Ode to Julia: Beef Bourguignon


This year we had the joy of visiting Julia's kitchen at the American Museum of History in Washington D.C.  My earliest memories of her are shared with my oldest brother, who is also a great cook.  He could sound just like her, and always found a way to make me laugh.  I had no idea that 30 years later, I would live near her Cambridge home and find inspiration in her resilient spirit.

So while the rain and wind have pounded our windows over the last 48 hours, Spice + I decided to embark on our Julia journey, and create her famous Beef Bourguignon.  We weathered 45 mph winds, pounding rain, broken umbrellas and leaky Wellington's to make this tonight.  And from the smell of our kitchen it was well worth it.

The ingredients are simple, and will yield 4-6 servings.  Julia recommends browning her beef in "lardons" which we opted out of, however, I did have a little pancetta in my refrigerator, and it performed as a nice substitute.  Begin by drying, and seasoning 1.5 lbs. of cubed beef chuck cut into 2 inch pieces.  I used kosher salt, and a chop house seasoning containing: dried garlic, pepper, sea salt, dill seed, corriander and chili pepper.  You may use your "fat of choice" for browning the meat, and to this add a little olive oil, ensuring it does not stick to your pan. Transfer the meat to a large dutch oven or casserole dish which can also go into the oven.  Next, lightly sautee 2 small onions, and 2 small carrots, then add to your meat mixture.  Next, get out the red wine; enough to also cook with.  We decided to use a Chilean cabernet sauvignon (Casillero del Diablo from Trader Joe's) and deglaze the pan with 2 cups of beef stock, and half a bottle of red wine.  Make sure to scrape up all of the bits from you meat, and mix well.  Pour the wine and stock mixture over your meat and vegetables, adding enough to just cover them in your pot.

Next, prepare a boquet garni of fresh herbs: rosemary, thyme, parsley.  You can include 2 cloves of crushed garlic here, and a pinch of red pepper.  Add the boquet garni to your meat, and into a 325 degree oven it goes.  You will want to make sure the meat is fully covered with wine and stock.  Plan on it cooking at least 1 hour and 15 minutes.  You should check the meat for tenderness after this time, and bring the dish back up to your stove-top.  Drain the mixture through a colander set over a saucepan, and return the meat and vegetables to your dutch oven.  Cook the liquid down until there are about 3 cups left.  Remove it from the heat, and whisk in a slurry of flour and butter which will act as your thickening ingredient.  Return to the heat, and simmer on low.  Add one container of diced mushrooms to your meat, and then pour the liquid over this.  Stir to blend well, and cook over low heat for another 15 minutes, warming the mushrooms through.

We served this incredible dish with some fresh bread, toasted in the oven and drizzled with a little olive oil, and drank the remainder of our red wine.  It was a silent dinner.  Our tastebuds were in heaven, and our pilgrimage in the rain and wind was now all worth it.  And even better, we managed to create a classic, French recipe, inspired by a wonderful woman.  Spice has already laid claim to our leftover's, and I can only imagine that the flavor will intensify overnight.  Thank you Julia for your "Kitchen Wisdom."

Ishteh Koob!

Sugar + Spice