A brief statement of purpose

There are already about a billion food blogs, so what might be a justification of yet another one, and who am I to do it?

What I aim to do in this blog is more than simply provide recipes. While recipes of my own will, in fact, be posted, some of the blog will consist of a variety of comments about restaurants and their practices, food preparation tips, personal annoyances (such as loud restaurants and the epidemic of misspellings on menus), and whatever else pops into my head relating to what we put in our mouths (and swallow, I hasten to add). The whole thing is meant to be somewhat provocative. I hope, if nothing else, it won't be boring. I, of course, solicit reader participation.

As for who I am and why I think I might have something to contribute to public discussions on this essential and pleasurable activity - eating - you'll have to click here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Scallops in a Chipotle Sauce with Chanterelles and Carambolas

This is a very easy recipe and, I think, an exceptionally tasty one. Dried chipotles, chipotle powder, and pasilla powder are increasingly available at even modestly sized grocery stores. Pasilla powder (also called ancho) is the dried and ground form of the poblano chile, although south of Texas, it comes from another chile called the chilaca. It barely registers on the heat scale. Chipotles, however, can clear out one’s sinuses. Know what you’re doing here. If there’s one nearby, a Mexican merdado will have these items. Chanterelle mushrooms can be quite expensive in either fresh or dried form. Morels would be a wonderful and even better fungus for this recipe because of its many nooks and crevices which trap the sauce. Regrettably, they also command a monetary premium. In the accompanying photograph, I used fresh shiitakes; the dried form is too intense for this preparation. As for the carambolas (aka starfruit), they aren’t dependably available even at the larger stores here in the Minneapolis-St Paul area, but their sweet-tart flavor is an excellent counterpoint to the sweetness of the scallops and the slight heaviness of the cream sauce, so they’re worth a search. Their light yellow color is aesthetically rather nice, too. In a pinch, kiwi fruit can serve a similar purpose.

Sea scallops, 12 oz dry packed, not bay or calico ¹
Butter, 3 Tbs, unsalted
Dried chipotle, 1,  or chipotle powder, 1 tsp
Leek, 1 medium, white and pale green parts, cleaned, sliced
Heavy cream, 1 c
Dried chanterelles or morels, One 1 oz. pkg., or fresh shiitake mushrooms, several (stems
Smoked paprika, 1-2 tsp ²
Carambolas, 2, sliced (also known as star fruit) ³
White pepper and salt
Rehydrate the chipotles if using, discard the seeds, and mince.

Melt 1 Tbs of the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and saute the leeks. Do not brown.

Add the cream, chipotles (or chipotle powder), the mushrooms, and the smoked paprika to the leeks. Continue to cook for another three or four minutes. Add the sliced carambolas, the white pepper and salt, cover, remove from the heat and keep warm.

Pat the scallops dry with a paper towel, then grind a bit of white pepper on them and some salt. Melt the remaining 2 Tbs of the butter over medium-high heat in another saucepan large enough to prevent crowding the scallops. Before the butter begins to brown, put in the scallops. When one side is browned, turn and brown the other side. The scallops must remain somewhat undercooked inside. Overcooking scallops is one of the worst culinary sins.

Pour the sauce on plates and place the scallops on top. For an aesthetic touch, sprinkle the scallops with cilantro and sprinkle the rims of the plates with smoked paprika .

1. Purchase only sea scallops that are called “dry”. This means they have not been soaked in a sodium tripolyphosphate solution, which prevents browning.
2. Smoked paprika is increasingly available. It has a much deeper flavor than regular paprika. Make every effort to find it.
3. Carambola is a fruit carried on a very unpredictable basis by stores. Substitute kiwi, orange segments, papaya, or mango, if necessary, all of which will change the taste of the final dish but will still be good.

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