I am such a sucker for packaging. Seriously. It's pathetic. A few years ago, the wine snob world was scandalized when a report came out suggesting people remembered a specific wine much better if there were a picture of an animal on the label, or if the name of the wine contained an animal (this isn't the original article, but talks about a similar theme. I have to admit: I am that person. It's not just animals, mind you, but whenever Husband says "you've had that wine," and I can't remember, I ask what is pictured on the label. I just love a whimsical picture such as a bird in hand (Finca Sandoval) - it's worth twice as much as a bird in - oh, never mind. And just for the record, a cute name goes a long way, too. The other day, a wine rep had visited Husband and left a printout of all the wines they had tasted. One was called Lady Bug. "How was the Lady Bug?! Did you order it?" So, I'll admit it: I'm a self-loathing packaging whooer. Ah well. Now all of you wine reps know how to get to Husband (or at least try. It doesn't really work that well; he just rolls his eyes at me). I will say that, knowing this about myself, I usually do steer clear of these cutesy labels, I know they're almost always going to be bad. I remember at a portfolio tasting a few years ago, the people from Barefoot Cellars poured me a taste of their sparkling wine, and I nearly did a spit-take in their faces, it was so horridly undrinkable. And yet, peopler buy it, because it has a footprint on the label.
And so it is that I found myself in Weiland's today, standing at the fish counter, when I knew we had a perfectly good skirt steak at home for dinner, drooling over bay scallops, still in the shell:
Seriously, who could resist these guys? Now, these are bay scallops - tiny little guys. For this reason, I would only recommend buying them in the shells if you are planning to serve them on the shell. If you are going to, say, make scallop ceviche or something, then by all means, buy them out of the shell. But if you're feeling adventurous, are having a dinner party, or, like me, are simply seduced by pretty things, then buy them in the shell. While I'm at it, please visit a reputable fishmonger, and ask questions. I aked a few questions about these scallops and the guy at Weiland's happily showed me how to shuck them and gave me some ideas about how to cook them. He did the same thing for the woman in line after me. Any good fishmonger should happily do the same.
I decided to make these in a
Rockefeller style - I bought arugula and bacon yesterday and the market, afterall, so it seemed only natural. Why the strikeout? Well, I thought it was in the Rockefeller style, but after googling the Rockefeller recipe, I realize the two aren't even close. So we'll just call these, Scallops Waitress. Working class scallops - they don't have any butter, so they aren't "rich enough for a Rockefeller." Sound good to me.
Scallops Waitress - for 8 bay scallops
8 bay scallops in the shell
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 strips bacon, cut into very small cubes
1 medium shallot, cut into small dice
2 cloves garlic, smushed with garlic press
1 large handful arugula
salt & pepper
two slices white bread, crusts removed, torn into chunks, and processed into fine crumbs in food processor (or 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs)
freshly grated Parmesan cheese, about 1/2 cup
Cook the bacon in a large, nonstick pan over medium heat until crisp, then remove to paper towels. Drain most of the fat off the pan and add the shallots; sweat for about 5 minutes, or until soft, then add the garlic and turn the heat to low. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until the garlic smells sweet. Add the arugula, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss everything as it wilts. Add the bacon back into the pan, and add about a third of the Parmesan, just to help bind the mixture, and stir as it melts. Remove the mixture from the pan and set aside. Wipe the pan with a paper towel and heat it over medium heat; add about 1 tbsp olive oil, and then add the bread crumbs. Sprinkle with salt and give everything a good stir, to be sure all crumbs are evenly coated in olive oil. Toss the pan continuously as the crumbs brown - this takes about 4 minutes. Once they begin to brown, they can go from golden to burnt in a flash, so keep the pan moving. This also ensures even browning. When the crumbs are toasted, remove them from the pan and set aside.
Scrub the scallops with a potato brush under cold running water. Then, take each scallop and pry off the top shell with a thin paring knife or an oyster knife (I couldn't find our oyster knife for the life of me). Scallops, it turns out, aren't nearly as difficult to pry open as oysters. They pretty much pop right open. Clean the scallop by carefully removing the nuggest of scallop from the liver sac. Rinse with water, and rinse the shell with water. Pat both dry and set aside as you continue with the rest of the scallops. Squeeze lemon juice over each scallop and set aside. Allow to sit for 5 minutes. The lemon juice serves 2 purposes: it gives the entire snack a little acidity to match the richness of the cheese, bacon and scallop, and it helps denature the proteins in the scallop (aka, cooks the scallop). This is good because the scallop spends so little time under the broiler that it doesn't really cook all the way by heat alone. If you are really scared of eating a medium-rare scallop, toss the scallops in a little olive oil in a saute pan for no more than one minute, and then assemble as follows.
Preheat your broiler (if you don't have a broiler, you could use a blowtorch). Arrange each scallop shell and scallop on a baking sheet and top with about 1 tbsp of the arugula mixture, then top each with a pinch of Parmesan and press bread crumbs over to cover. Add a pinch more Parmesan (which will help hold the whole thing together). Place under the broiler for about 2 minutes, rotate the pan, and broil for one more minute - keep the door open and a watchful eye on the scallops, because they will burn in a hearbeat. Remove when they are nice and golden on top. Serve immediately.