Table for Two

23 Feb

HVD Dinner & Dessert

From the looks of my blog stats, we all had the same idea about making a special Valentine’s Day dinner.  Those scallops from Jacques Pepin got even more traffic than usual on the 14th.  Luckily, that is a recipe that you can pull together at the last minute. And from the look of Wegman’s Saturday afternoon, there was a lot of last minute happening.  Even I was not immune to lastminuteitis and found myself standing at the seafood counter for scallops.  But I had another, equally easy, recipe in mind for them…no offense to Jacques, of course.

Valentine’s Day was brought to us courtesy of Gourmet Magazine and Mark Bittman.  And while it would have been way cooler if someone from Gourmet, or Mr. Bittman himself, had shown up on my doorstep and done the cooking for me, I think I did a pretty good job following their instructions.  Because really, the instructions were as easy as 1,2,3.  I know I say that a lot, but it’s only because those are the kinds of recipes I love the best.

Our table for two Valentine’s Dinner featured Paprika Dusted Scallops with Pea Puree topped off with a Chocolate Souffle.  Sounds pretty daunting doesn’t it?  Let me tell you, the key to this meal is working backwards and preparing the souffle to the point where it is ready to go into the oven BEFORE you start the scallops.  Bittman’s recipe is a lifesaver here because it can go from fridge to oven to table.  Executing this menu is nothing more than a dance.  One, two, cha, cha, cha.  And even those of us with two left feet can get the steps right.

So start off by getting the souffle together and have it chill out in the fridge.  Then move onto the pea puree.  Once this is all blitzed together in the food processor, it can stay there till the scallops are done and you’re ready to plate.  Preheat your oven for the souffle and start on the scallops.  In the time it takes the scallops to cook, your oven will be ready and the souffle can go in just as you sit down to eat.  Thirty minutes later, your dinner plate will be empty but your dessert plate will be piled high with warm chocolate love.

Enjoy it while it’s hot.  The dishes can wait till morning.

Chocolate Souffle

Mark Bittman – The New York Times

This is NOT the South Beach Friendly portion of the meal.  For a special occasion, I think it is completely appropriate to not try and rework this for SB.

  • About 1 tablespoon butter for dish
  • 1/3 cup sugar, plus some for dish
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 2 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate, melted
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 2-cup or one 4-cup soufflé or other deep baking dish(es). Sprinkle each with sugar, invert it and tap to remove excess sugar.

Beat egg yolks with all but 1 tablespoon sugar until very light and very thick; mixture will fall in a ribbon from beaters when it is ready. Mix in the melted chocolate until well combined; set aside.

Wash beaters well, then beat egg whites with salt and cream of tartar until whites hold soft peaks; continue to beat, gradually adding remaining tablespoon sugar, until they are very stiff and glossy. Stir a good spoonful of whites thoroughly into egg yolk mixture to lighten it; then fold in remaining whites, using a rubber spatula. Transfer to prepared soufflé dish(es); at this point you can cover and refrigerate until you are ready to bake.

Bake until center is nearly set, 20 minutes for individual soufflés and 25 to 35 minutes for a single large soufflé. Serve immediately.

Paprika Dusted Scallops with Pea Puree

Gourmet Magazine

This originally appeared in the December 2007 magazine as Curry Dusted Scallops.  I like sweet paprika much better.  Cumin would probably work really well here and compliment the lime juice that comes through in the pea puree. You use whatever spice you like best.

With a minor substitution, this is the SB Friendly part of the menu. The recipe calls for butter in the peas but a butter blend would probably work well here.  But to be honest, I broke out a stick of Land o Lakes.

  • 1 (10 ounce) package frozen baby peas (not thawed)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 scallions, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 1 1/2 pound sea scallops (I used 1 pound for 2 generous servings, the recipe says it serves 4)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Cook peas on stovetop with 1/4 cup water, do not drain.  Pulse in a food processor with cooking water, butter, scallions, lime juice (to taste), and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a coarse puree.  Season with salt.

Pat scallops dry and season with paprika.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot, then cook scallops in two batches, turning once, until browned and just cooked through, about 4 minutes per batch.  If your scallops are smaller, they will need less time.  Transfer with tongs to a clean plate and serve over pea puree.

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