Last Friday, I got one step closer to crossing off #6 on my list: Master cooking up a five-course gourmet meal. It was the ideal scenario: my surrogate New York parents, Bads and Bong, invited a few friends over for a potluck dinner during what we thought would be a mini snowstorm. I took the opportunity to learn one course while holed up in an apartment with some chefs and captive diners.
Friends had a lot of different suggestions on where to go for good scallops in New York. In the end, I went with the wise words of my foodie friend Buddha who said, "If you can't tell if the scallops are fresh, just do Whole Foods." So off to Whole Foods Tribeca I went for a dozen of these beauties:
After shopping, I ran over to the Perezes where my teachers were waiting. You may recognize Mitch, the sexy pastry chef who guided me through the Molten Chocolate Magic-making session last June. Anton, who has worked in the kitchens of Buddakan and Tabla, got the doubtful privilege of being my scallop-searing guru.
He declared my store-bought scallops very fresh, and said all they needed was salt, pepper, butter, lemon and good loving (I may have made up the last bit). "When you have really good ingredients, you don't need to mess with them," he said. Fair enough. The less I do, the lower my chances of totally screwing up!
Since no tip is ever too basic for a clueless pseudo-cook like me, Anton generously dispensed them. Always salt with your hands. Only cook a few scallops at a time because you lower the heat in the pan every time you add something in. No, you don't need to buy a cast iron pan to do this. And my favorite: Put seafood into the pan in a forward motion so that the oil doesn't splatter towards you. Why yes, I do prefer the skin on my forearms blister-free, thank you for noticing, Chef Anton. He did one round of searing and basting for me to observe ...
... and then it was my turn. I managed to put the scallops in the pan without searing an arm. And I actually quite enjoyed basting scallops, though I'm not sure I still remember what perfectly scallops are supposed to feel like to the touch. What I do remember is that it's okay to cook scallops a little bit under. I can work with that. With Anton's guidance (and my constant, neurotic stream of questions), I somehow got through the entire process without hurting anyone or having to throw scallops into the trash. Based on that criteria, I deem our scallop-searing session a great success.
Et voilà! The finished product:
Pretty exciting to try out one more course for my soon-to-be-epic five-course meal! The true test, of course, comes when I attempt to pull this off on my own. God-willing, there'll be a few more snowstorms in the next couple of months so I can corner some people into being my guinea pigs!