In my time in the kitchens I’ve rubbed elbows with all manner of folk, the varied sort that inhabit that tumultuous underworld of the line cook. They are a calico mixture, even within themselves, sometimes part poet and philosopher, as well as bits of hooligan and delinquent. But it may surprise you that a good number of these gutter chefs know a thing or two about fine cooking, and it is by their example that I have any proficiency in the art.
It seemed strange to find that scallops featured as a staple menu item in more than a few of the slop shops and dive bars I encountered. There is a tendency for restaurants that have even the most tenuous connection to a nearby body of water to offer some seafood on their menu, with the implication that their nautical location ensures prime cuts fresh off the boat. The unfortunate truth is that much of this fare is far from fresh, and most likely shipped frozen from some far-flung corner of the world for minimal cost. It is an odd circumstance of modern times that we can acquire such things far cheaper from across the ocean than in our own backyard.
It happens that some of the less celebrated establishments will on occasion discover a local source of seafood that may not necessarily comply with the requisite local ordinances concerning such transactions, but that’s no reflection on the quality of their product. So it is that you may find some of the best scallops in these places of dubious reputation. Just be aware of possible health risks. Possible.
The scallop is an excellent meal. The elegant shellfish has a rich and versatile flavor that does good service both in a fancy linen-draped brass-trimmed dining room as well as off a soot-crusted backyard grill. Its meat is firm but tender, so that when cooked right it cuts like butter.
While the smaller bay scallop is a handy snack, the sea scallop is fit for a full meal. This fine feast cooks up quick, which makes it especially convenient for a man with a dearth of time on his hands, but somehow has easy access to fresh sea scallops. Here’s one of my preferred recipes:
-8 fresh, plump sea scallops
-bottle of Jamaican Rum
-1/2 stick of butter
Firstly, pour a thimble of rum into a bowl, or even a wide plate will do. Put the scallops in there to soak, no more than 5 minutes. Heat up a pan, medium to high heat. Drop the ½ stick of butter in there, let it melt. Trick here is to get the butter hot but not burnt. Throw in the scallops and let them cook, about two minutes on a side. You should see a nice dark brown crust form around the rim as the butter and the rum caramelize. Add a splash of rum as desired, to the cook and to the pan. Serve with some dark green kale sautéed up with some scallions in the same pan. If you’re feeling dandy, throw on some Dijon corn relish, which you can mix up the day prior with some sweet yellow corn, vinegar, a dollop of Dijon mustard, and light on the sugar, depending on your preference.