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Monday, November 24, 2008

indulging with flair

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I've made no secret (EVER) of the fact that I love food. I love eating at home. I love eating out. I love it when other people cook for me.

I just plain love food.

And as much as I love reading about self-perpetuating scary economic headlines (i.e., the goverment says we're in for tough times for people stop spending money and hence cause the economy to come to a grinding, screeching halt), maybe it's time to eat out a little less and eat in a little more.

That does not, however, mean that eating in has to be a chore, or has to be second best. A nice simple meal shared with loved ones can be just as fabulous at home as it would ever be out in a restaurant. Snazzy kitchens are nice, but you don't really need one to create something fantastic.

I took my inspiration for Friday's dinner from two things I had on hand - a frozen bag of giant sea scallops and my container of quinoa of dubious age. The scallop techique is VERY simple, and it's one that works equally well with shrimp, chicken, fish or beef. You can't make a more simple or more wonderful sauce.

scallops and quinoa

The quinoa recipe yielded a LOT, but it's yummy. Next time I might halve it, but it's super delicious, so maybe not.

Saffron Quinoa Risotto
saffron on quinoa

For quinoa
2 cups quinoa (12 ounces)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2T olive oil
2T butter
freshly cracked black pepper
3 cups sliced cremini mushrooms
1/2 large red onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 t ancho chile powder
1 cup dry white wine

6 cups broth (I used chicken, you can use whatever you like)
3/4 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
1 c finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano


Prepare quinoa:
1. Wash quinoa in 3 changes of cold water in a bowl, draining in fine-mesh sieve between changes of water. Return quinoa to bowl.

2. Bring your broth to a simmer with the saffron threads.

3. Heat 2 tablespoons butter and 2 T olive oil in pot over moderate heat until foam subsides, then cook mushrooms, onions and garlic, stirring and scraping up any brown bits from bottom of pot, until mushrooms are softened and exude liquid, about 5 minutes. (If mushrooms do not exude liquid, add 1/2 cup water to help scrape up any brown bits.)

creminis

4. Add quinoa and cook, stirring, 5 minutes. Add wine then simmer briskly, stirring constantly, until wine is absorbed, about 5 minutes.

risotto in the making

5. Add 1/2 cup broth to quinoa and simmer briskly, stirring constantly, until broth is absorbed. Continue simmering and adding hot broth, about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring quinoa frequently and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next, until quinoa is tender and its germs separate from grains, about 30 minutes total. (There will be some broth left over.). At this point, add the ancho chile powder, as well as a hefty amount of salt (I didn't measure, because I kept adding fleur de sel by large pinches, but I would guess this recipe needed almost a TABLESPOON of salt to give it proper flavour. Taste it, and keep adding salt, a half teaspoon at a time, until YOU are happy with the taste.

6. Stir parmesan into risotto and season to taste (more pepper is always good).

This recipe was great when I made it (I used a couple of saffron threads as garnish) and it's also been great as leftovers. Unlike regular risotto, the quinoa doesn't seem to get gluey and nasty so it's a great option to make ahead. :) And also unlike real risotto, quinoa does NOT get starchy and creamy. If you want a more risotto like appearance, you can add heavy cream, but I really don't think the recipe needs it. It's quite yummy as is.

quinoa risotto

Seared Scallops with White Wine Cream Sauce

scallops

1.5 lbs sea scallops (big scallops, not teeny bay scallops)
fleur de sel
pepper
1.5 T olive oil
1.5 T butter
2 finely chopped shallots
1 t butter
1 c dry white wine (I like chardonnay...something with lots of flavour)
1 c heavy cream
salt, pepper to taste

1. Heat a cast iron pan over medium-high heat (you'll get MUCH better results with a cast iron or stainless steel pan than with a non-stick...non-stick will be okay, but the true flavour of this recipe comes from the sticky little brown bits...so it won't be as yummy if your pan won't stick at all).

2. Pat the scallops dry and season BOTH sides with some fleur de sel and fresh black pepper.

raw scallops

3. Heat the butter and olive oil together until the foam from the butter subsides. Add the scallops to the pan. Cook each side until it's nicely browned (about 3 minutes) and then flip. Scallops are done when they are opaque - you don't want to overcook them, and in fact, it's okay to even undercook them a weeeee bit.

seared scallops

4. Remove the scallops from heat and place them on your serving platter. Add the remaining butter and the shallots to the pan. Cook until the shallots JUST start to stick and turn brown at the edges.

the beginnings of sauce

5. Deglaze the pan with the white wine. Scape up all the good stuff with a metal spatula. The wine will bubble away furiously, then will stop bubbling as much (i.e., when the alcohol finishes evaporating). At this point, stir in the cream. Let the sauce bubble away until it's a more "sauce-y" consistency. Then pour over the scallops.

seared scallops in white wine cream sauce

YUM.

Piccata variation (excellent with chicken) - I made this the next night to have with the quinoa leftovers (piggies that we are, we scarfed down all the scallops). Sear 1.5 lbs pounded chicken breasts as with scallops. Keep warm in 350F oven. To shallots, also add 3 T chopped capers. When you add the wine, also add the zest of one lemon. Reduce amount of cream to 1/2 c and also add juice of one lemon. Season to taste with salt and pepper. It's very important to use 35% whipping cream or the lemon will curdle your sauce. This is also SUPER yummy.

These recipes are both keepers!!! I swear, you'll think you're at a cute little bistro when you dig into these. Enjoy and thanks for reading. :)

6 comments:

Marissa D said...

I will be adding this to the list of must make recipes... After becoming addicted to your sundried tomato cream sauce from a past post, I am sure that this will be delightful :)

Deborah said...

I'm always looking for new ways to make quinoa, and this whole meal looks amazing - better than most things you can get a restaurants in my parts!!

Psychgrad said...

This is torture. No more looking at foodblogs when I'm hungry. Thanks for the information on scallops. I've never tried to make them, but I would like to. The white wine sauce looks plate-licking worthy (or maybe a more sophicated version of plate-licking).

Not So French Girl said...

My quinoa is mushy! I'm glad I viewed this as a practice, because I missed a few details and didn't use the spice that's more expensive than gold! What can I say, I'm just not Leslie :)

Foxy Renard said...

Oh man, Leslie, you are good. I just made the scallops with sauce at dinner (we did rice as a side due to lack of saffron) and it was to.die.for. Even with broth replacing the wine as I forgot to pick the latter up! This is definitely going on the long-term faves list.

Lorraine said...

This recipe is making me drool and I can't wait to try it.....I have one question though...would this recipe work with shrimp instead of scallops? Would I have to change anything?

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