Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

Seared sea scallops with bacon, spinach, tomatoes, shallots, garlic, parsley and wine – a special treat for your sweetie on Valentine’s Day or any other special occasion.

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The last time I went to the seafood market, I had it in my mind to get some fish. But the first thing I saw were a bunch of big beautiful scallops. They were dry-packed scallops from the mid-Atlantic harvested by North Carolina fishermen (or maybe women) out of Wanchese, NC.

If you’re wondering about the difference between dry- and wet-packed scallops, here’s a good explanation from Alaska-based seafood company FishEx. When you buy wet scallops, you’re paying for water. Dry scallops are more expensive but worth it. I wince a bit inside whenever I buy scallops, but I don’t buy them that often, maybe once every few months, so I can live with the expense. Besides, oh my god, they’re so good!

I didn’t feel like making another trip to the store once I got home so I figured out a recipe using what I had. In the frig, I had tatsoi from our farm CSA – tatsoi is like the love child of spinach and bok choy. I immediate thought about bacon. Then I checked my regular scallop recipe and saw shallots, garlic, tomatoes, dry vermouth and parsley. That was it – I had the ingredients, I just had to think it through to get the sequence right for a recipe.

This is definitely a special occasion dinner, perfect for Valentine’s Day next week if you’re staying in for dinner. And while we’re on that topic, you should definitely stay in. Dinner at home is much more romantic than dinner in a busy restaurant with stressed-out staff because instead of having four or five four-tops to wait on, they’re waiting on eight or ten deuces (two-tops). Of course, if they’re professional you won’t notice their stress, but I still prefer a nice dinner at home. I just can’t bear being out on that night.

I can only imagine that kids might make a romantic dinner at home challenging. Not having kids, I don’t have any credible suggestions for you, except – can you send them over to someone else’s house for the night? Not mine, I’ll be busy.

Sea Scallops with Bacon and Spinach | Grabbing the Gusto

Sea Scallops with Bacon and Spinach | Grabbing the Gusto

Sea Scallops with Bacon and Spinach

You’ll need a large pan.

  • 2 pieces of bacon, chopped
  • 4 cups chopped spinach, chard or tatsoi
  • Olive oil
  • 1 pound sea scallops
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons (or more) butter – clarified butter is best
  • 1/4 cup diced shallots
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup sliced grape tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup dry vermouth (or white wine)
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • Parmesan cheese for sprinkling

In a pan over medium-low heat, cook bacon until nearly done. Add greens to pan. Add olive oil if there isn’t enough bacon fat in the pan. Cook until the greens are wilted. Remove greens from the pan and set aside.

Meanwhile, remove the tough abductor muscle from the side of each scallop. Pat the scallops dry – any moisture will hinder browning.

Sprinkle scallops with salt and pepper. Add butter to the pan. Turn heat up to medium-high. When butter is hot, place scallops in the pan and let them sear undisturbed for about 1-1/2 to 2 minutes on each side, until they’re browned but not overcooked. Remove them from the pan and set aside.

Add shallots to the pan and cook until tender and translucent but not browned, a few minutes. Stir in garlic, cook 1 minute. Add tomatoes and cook until they’ve melted a bit, a few more minutes. Pour in the vermouth, scrape up the bits on the bottom of the pan and let the sauce reduce for a few minutes. Stir in parsley. Taste for seasoning.

Arrange spinach on a plate and top with scallops. Sprinkle with Parmesan.

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