Saturday, August 29, 2009

Mastering My Domain (My Kitchen)

A couple months ago, I was lucky enough to snag a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking at the Book Barn before all the Julie & Julia hype hit full force. Last night, with all my good CT friends tied up with other plans and not really feeling great enough to go out (getting over a nasty summer cold), I decided to cook myself and Noe a restaurant-quality meal at home.

This was my first Julia entree. I've dabbled with some of the soups and side dishes, but this was my inaugural main course. I selected Coquilles St. Jacques a la Provencale for several reasons, not the least of which was it did NOT have a note anywhere commenting that it would take approximately three hours to prepare (it was actually a fairly short forty-ish minutes). I also picked it because the only thing I had to go purchase was the scallops - everything else (butter, herbs, cheese, etc) were more or less staples that I had on hand.

My chosen recipe

After swinging by Thames River for wine tasting (even though my senses were definitely still compromised from the cold) I picked up the fresh sea scallops and a baguette (this recipe looked pretty butter-rific and I figured the baguette could soak up some sauce) and headed home to work.

Of course, I started by pouring myself a glass of wine. I chose my current favorite white wine, the 2008 Chateau La Rame Bordeaux Blanc. Not only is this sauvignon blanc extremely tasty to sip; I was planning on using some of it in the recipe. I had seen further down that the scallops would be simmered in "dry white wine", and I thought the minerality of the La Rame would add some nice flavor and the citrusy acidity might cut through some of that butter.

A great thing about Mastering the Art of French Cooking is that it breaks down recipes into sections and lists the ingredients you need for that section by the instructions - so you know what you need, when you need it. I began chopping a yellow onion, shallot, and garlic clove in preparation to heat them with some butter (I think every step of this recipe called for butter) in a small saucepan.

Onion, shallot, and garlic

After setting aside my fragrant stove top mixture, I dried my scallops (just patted them with a paper towel), seasoned them with some salt and pepper, and dredged them lightly in flour, shaking off the excess (cheater's note: I did NOT sift the flour as the recipe instructed. It was the only step I skipped).

Seasoned scallops

Lightly dredged scallops

While I was dredging, I was letting a skillet with some butter and olive oil get hot on the stove. After the final dredge, I threw the scallops in the screaming hot skillet and let them get a light sear on each side (this took maybe two or three minutes, tops), at which point I dumped in the aforementioned wine, some thyme, a bay leaf, and my onion mixture, threw a cover on the skillet, and let the whole mess simmer down for about five minutes.

Simmering on the stove top

When the five minutes were up, I took the cover off the skillet, brought the whole mixture to a quick boil to thicken up the liquid, then divided the scallops and liquid between a couple oven-safe Pyrex dishes. I covered each dish with some grated Gruyere and dotted them with pieces of cut up butter, then through them under the broiler until the cheese began to brown.

About to be broiled

WOW. Noe and I were knocked out first by the smell - this dish is heavily aromatic. But the flavor was out of this world. First of all, that much butter can never be bad. The wine's flavor had cooked down and concentrated, and it complemented the butter and seafood exactly as I had hoped. We had thought the dish might have a strong onion flavor with all the onion and shallot I had included, but it was a subtle, delicious flavor. The herbs added a delicate finishing touch.

The scallops themselves? Slightly sweet and not at all tough - in a word, perfect.

I didn't even make a side dish for this meal -we ate it with a simple salad and some cut-up baguette to soak up the excess butter mixture (which was almost as delicious as the scallops). I served it with more Chateau La Rame Bordeaux Blanc.

Tumbler of wine; sliced baguette; finished scallops

This was quite possibly the best meal Noe and I have eaten in the past six months. He even gave me a high five when he was finished eating it. If you are intimidated by Julia's recipes, or by cooking seafood, or by the thought of eating six tablespoons of butter, I highly recommend getting over it. You won't be sorry.

1 comment:

Decorations By Design said...

Looks amazing, and I agree, you can never go wrong with butter, seafood and white wine! I see you're putting your Art Fair find to good use too!