For the last few days I’ve been wracking my brain trying to think of the first “impressive” meal I ever made in answer to a series of interview questions I’ve been asked. Those questions led me to a memory that I hadn’t thought about in years…
I must have been about 10 or 12, watching a cooking show on public television with pen and paper in hand. Although I couldn’t begin to tell you who the chef was, the dish being made was some sort of breaded scallop dish. Since this was a time before I could go online and simply reprint a recipe, I wrote furiously trying to get all the ingredients and techniques down. For some reason, I had selected this way-out-of-my-league-dish as the one I would make for my parents a few nights later. As I recall, there was no special occasion…I just had a bug that I was going to make breaded scallops. Thankfully I had parents that indulged me…
I definitely have clear memories of breaded scallops and cooking the meal by myself, but whether or not it was impressive is anyone’s guess. My bet is that the scallops were probably so overcooked that they resembled rubber, but apparently everyone was nice enough not to point that out. In any case, I suppose that a pre-teen kid making that kind of dish deserves some credit for trying and at least a point or two in the “impressive” category, regardless of the outcome.
Side note: there have been several instances lately where I’ve called on my parents, hoping that they could fill me in on some hazy specifics of a forgotten memory. Again, I called them to enlighten me, and in classic Dad-form was met with a guffaw and, “You’re asking me? Ask your mother…she might remember.” (I’m sure as soon as he said it he regretted it, knowing that it would go down here on record. Sorry Dad.) So I tried with Mom. She vaguely remembered “something like that happening.” Not exactly the confirmation I was looking for, so if any of this is embellished, I’m citing creative license.
In the years since that meal, I think it’s safe to say I’ve grown in the kitchen. Scallops are not even a little bit intimidating, but I do think they have a certain impressiveness about them. Seared scallops are just gorgeous with their brown crusts and tender middles but take only minutes to prepare. Throw them on top of a little salad, add a pretty garnish and you’re getting “wows,” guaranteed.
Seared Scallops with Tangerine-Honey Glaze
1/3 cup fresh tangerine juice (or orange juice)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons minced jalapeno
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 sea scallops
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra to coat scallops
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
In a small saucepan combine first 7 ingredients over medium heat. Whisk to incorporate honey. Let mixture come to a simmer. Simmer for about 15 minutes until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, prepare the scallops by removing the side muscle, if necessary. Rinse and pat dry. Coat very lightly with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper.
Once glaze is reduced, heat butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pan over high heat. Sear scallops for about 1 1/2 minutes per side, until a brown crust forms.
Serve scallops on a bed of arugula and spoon glaze over the top.
There’s not a lot to say about this dish that you can’t see from the photos. Perfectly seared, sweet and savory, with flavors of citrus, honey and spice. This is one dish I’d pull out to impress.
Since I’m not one to toot my own horn, I’ll let Andy do it for me. His reaction, and I quote: “Hands down, the best meal you’ve ever made.” (I even wrote it down so I’d remember.) Now Andy is not one of these people to just dole out compliments because he thinks it’s what I want to hear. He’s honest and knows that he can criticize a dish with no repercussions. Otherwise, who else will tell me if it’s awful? So I trust him and his opinion, and you should too. That said, after I stopped tearing up in appreciation, I don’t know if I agree completely. It was a fantastic dish, to be sure. But best ever? That’s quite a statement. I like to think that I’m always working towards a “best ever” dish. In the meantime, maybe this can be a placeholder…