Written and Photographed by Ingrid Keizer
There is something about a man that can cook. Cooking it seems to me, is a highly creative expression, not unlike writing, music or art. It is an outlet of experiences, a reflection of culture and environment and sometimes a vulnerable leap into sharing something very personal. I have made the observation that men that cook are adventurous, they are thinkers and they are sensitive, all of which is very sexy.
I love the sense of community that cooking offers. It brings people together in a very intimate way. Cooking together is a wonderful bonding experience. Some of my fondest memories are of cooking with my brothers or cooking while a loved one sits by and visits. Perhaps the most precious legacy left by my mother was her cooking and the way that her children and grandchildren regard cooking today.
Last night my husband prepared a nice filet for our kids and himself. I am a bit of a challenge in that I have stopped eating what my husband calls, land meat. Last night we put a “spin” on one of my brothers Erik’s recipes and created a really beautiful, delicious dish.
Shallots are really under utilized in American cooking. The shallot originated in central and southwest Asia. It is similar to an onion but grows in a clustered bulb more like garlic. The flavor of a shallot is more robust than that of an onion while also milder. It is a really lovely addition to egg dishes, pastas, meats and vegetables. I grew up eating them in Indonesian foods. Deep frying or caramelizing them brings out a rich, deep, sweet flavor. In this dish we deep fried them and used them to garnish the pasta. Shallots are readily available in most supermarkets.
Peeling, slicing and frying the shallots is probably the most time consuming part of this recipe. I prepare the shallots first so that I can be less rushed and more attentive to them. I used 4 medium size shallots. Peel and slice the the shallots thin to prepare for cooking.
Frying the shallots until they reach a golden brown is key. They can go from golden to burned very quickly. When they become too dark they take on a bitter flavor. I fry them in small hand-fulls over a medium high heat in about a half inch of canola oil. I prefer to cook on a gas cook -top. I find it easier to regulate the heat accordingly. I’m pretty paranoid about that hot oil. I am vigilant about keeping pan handles toward the inside of my stove- top so that children or pets don’t bump into it. When I finish cooking I put the pan and hot oil inside a cool oven until it cools.
Use a slotted spoon to remove the fried shallots from the oil and place them on a plate lined with a paper towel to absorb excess oil. If you like, sprinkle a bit of coarse kosher salt on the fried shallots. Resist the temptation to sample them. You won’t be able to stop until you’ve consumed all of them. Or consider making extra. I’m not joking. Though they look a bit like the fried onions that your grandmother put on green bean casserole, there is no comparison.
Grate about 3/4 cups of Parmigiano-Reggiano. We always keep a good chunk of a nice Parmigiano-Reggiano in our deli drawer. It is a staple and something one should never be without. The pre-grated stuff that you can buy in the store does not compare. You can buy a very decent Parmigiano-Reggiano at Costco for about $8.50 a lb. If you wrap it up well it will keep for months.
This is a good time to start the water for your pasta.
I try to buy local foods. My earlier articles about local farmers opened my eyes to the importance of supporting these hard working people who produce free range and often organic foods. I believe strongly that supporting local business builds a strong local economy. That said, there are no local producers of scallops. I buy mine at Costco. Costco was built on a business model that I respect. Costco is also working to provide organic and free range meats. They of course are not local.
Scallops are a bit of a financial investment and poorly prepared scallops are a tragic waste. The secret to cooking scallops begins by rinsing them so that they are free of sandy particles or tiny pieces of shell. After rinsing gently pat them dry and place them on a paper towel to absorb extra moisture. Season them with a coarse salt and freshly ground, black pepper. Set them aside.
Heat a mixture of about 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter. I set my burner between medium high and medium. When the mixture is heated add a few scallops. They should never be crowded or touching.
Depending on the size of the scallop cook the scallop about two minutes on the first side. Resist the temptation to lift them to peek at their progress. It is necessary to allow them to cook undisturbed so that they caramelize. Cook the other side for about one minute. Remove them from the pan and allow them to rest of a paper towel lined plate.
Hows that pasta water coming?
We keep a pot of fresh basil growing during the summer months. It is a must for tomato dishes, pastas, salads…you name it. It is a simple ingredient that adds a lot. We picked about eight to ten basil leaves and cut them into small strips. I use kitchen shears.
By now your pasta should be cooking.
In my brother’s version of this dish, he uses diced Roma tomatoes uncooked. I always have grape tomatoes in the refrigerator because my kids eat them by the handful. If they get a little past their prime I throw them into a pan and saute them and toss them into pasta. In this dish I cut them in half, add ground black pepper and saute them briefly in olive oil at a high heat, it brings out a lot of flavor.
Your pasta should be cooked and drained. Coat the bottom of the pan with a bit of olive oil or butter. Put in the cooked pasta, tomatoes, basil and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Using tongs put a portion on a plate, top with a few scallops and a generous helping of those glorious fried shallots. We like to add a dollop of pesto. Enjoy with a cold beer or a glass of sparkly water.
12 to 16 Large Scallops
1 package quality pasta
8 fresh basil leaves
2 cups grape tomatos
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
4 large Shallots
Canola Oil for deep frying shallots
Pesto if desired
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