Am I A Fucking Chef or What

 ...or what isn't a real option, by the by.

Coming back to the cooking section here in a big way to share my most recent success, where I made a restaurant quality dinner for a third of the price - and with real portions! Honestly going somewhere where you order scallops and they give you a big ass plate with three fat suckers on it is offensive. Like how am I paying you a dollar per scallop? Why did Yelp lie to me? Can I please have my money back, sir?

I'd always wanted to make scallops and risotto, but two things stopped me: price (for the former), and effort (for the latter). I circumvented the first by finding some great looking day boat scallops at Whole Foods one day that were the same price as a giant frozen pack, and the latter I dealt with by pulling up a great show on my iPad (currently rewatching Leverage since I know you care). With those issues resolved, this was a dinner with a pretty quick turnaround and loads of compliments.

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With that, prepare to impress your significant others, wannabe in-laws, wannabe significant others and, I don't know, your bosses? If for some reason you're hosting a fancy give-me-a-raise dinner party? Actually that's not a bad idea - anyway, prepare to impress the world with simple seared scallops and risotto.

 

Serves : 4

Total Time: 50 minutes

Ingredients

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  • 2 pounds scallops - I went fresh, with day boat scallops that looked great, but feel to grab bigger or different ones depending on what's available that day
  • 1 knob, as the British say, of butter (maybe 1 1/2 tbsp?)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 bunch asparagus, broccoli, or green veggie that can roast well
  • 1 cup white wine - I just used what I was drinking 🙃 
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • Chicken stock  
  • salt & pepper for seasoning 

Instructions

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  1. Rinse under cold water and thoroughly - like with plenty of paper towels - dry each scallop. I like to legit put two paper towels on each hand and press my hands together after the initial dry. Lay on a sheet of paper towels to dry more (otherwise your sear will be worthless; is my point coming through yet?) and then sprinkle well with s&p.
  2. Using your hands (duh), hold each end of an asparagus stalk and bend, until the old shit breaks off. Put all the good stuff in a foil pan for zero cleanup and zero shits, add a little bit (maybe a teaspoon) of olive oil and salt and pepper and shake together, and preheat the oven to 400°.  
  3. Dice the onion - I always hold off on this as long as possible to save my house from the smell. Remember to start closing bedroom doors before you cook it! 
  4. Start the risotto; I like to prep everything else first since this needy sucker is going to need almost all my attention for the next 30 or so minutes. Take half of your butter and half a tablespoon of olive oil, and heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and sauté for about four minutes, until they start to appear translucent.
  5. Add rice to pan, stirring for about three minutes so the rice is toasted but not burnt, then add wine and stir to combine. The trick here, as with the British scrambled eggs Gordon Ramsey taught me how to build, is start to continuously stir the pot with small movements. Get ready for strong arms!
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6. Add asparagus to the oven for 20 minutes, shaking halfway through to give every spear some time to shine! 

7. Pour chicken broth into a small pot and heat through on medium, then add a cup of warm broth to your risotto. Keep that rapid stirring up, adding another cup of broth every time all of the previous pour has been absorbed. You’ll end up doing this for about 25 minutes, until the rice has fully absorbed the vino and broth and has been stirred enough that the proteins or enzymes or whatever - I’m not Bill Nye - have thickened the rice to a glorious risotto.

8. About fifteen minutes into your broth-pouring, heat up a nonstick pan to medium-high and add the remaining butter and olive oil. Salt and pepper each side of your now very dry scallops like you’re Salt Bae, then when the oil/butter combo is so hot a drop of cold water flicked in sizzles, add your scallops in an even layer with some room between each. Keep up with your risotto and leave those scallops alone so they have time to sear! Smaller scallops may take two or three minutes each side, but my day boat puppies needed more like four to five. 

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9. When you've snuck a peek and like the color on the bottom of a scallop, use tongs to gently lift and flip. Try not to lift directly up - I found that ripped some scallops; instead, pull from one side of the scallop first, sort of a left to right wrist action. Then give them the same amount of time on the other side, keeping a bit of a closer eye for those smaller ones. 

10. Hopefully your asparagus is ready, and your risotto is plumped up from stock and ready to rumble. I added just a *bit* more butter along with some sea salt and stirred to combine, but since this is the super simple version maybe you’re throwing in a shit-ton of cheese, peas, bacon, or something else right about now. Whatever you’re up to, start to plate, with your scallops set up so the first seared side is facing upward,any residual pan “sauce” on top, and start reeling in those compliments!

Thoughts on how to make risotto easier or better? Any easy pan sauces to elevate scallops?

Mussels for a Weakling

I mean, I'm not THAT weak. Although I was never able to pull myself up on the handlebars in gym class. 

Water in the glass, wine right from the bottle. Hashtag classy feels appropriate.

Water in the glass, wine right from the bottle. Hashtag classy feels appropriate.

Mussels! A restaurant-quality dish that you don't have to spend 1 spend a lot of money at a restaurant and 2 can make pretty quickly at home. There are all sorts of fun recipes for mussels - fra diavolo, in a cream sauce, in beer (not for us!) - but my favorite is just some simple mussels in a white wine sauce. Not only does this save us from having to use a cart at the grocery store, so we don't have to fight other pushy people in a cart battle-to-the-death/checkout lane, but it means we have some leftover wine that you must drink from the bottle. Don't waste a glass!

Serves: 4 

Total Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 lb mussels (1 lb per person)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups dry white wine for recipe
  • Remaining dry white wine for you (and a guest or two if you're feeling generous)
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 diced or minced shallots (dependent on how lazy you are)
  • 2 tablespoons minced parsley
  • Black pepper
  • Red pepper flakes (I use a little sprinkle, use what you can handle!
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock (gluten free) or water

As you may have noticed, the ingredients are a lot of "a little bit of this, a little bit of that" so I highly recommend jamming to this as you gather them. For the Monica, Erica and Ritas  that make your mussels so great.

 

Instructions

  1. Scrub and debeard mussels. This is honestly the most work you'll have to do. While debearding the mussels, I highly recommend using something stronger than your two fingers to try to pull that hanging string out - maybe a paper towel between your pointer finger and thumb? I'm really open to suggestions here so please comment with what you do! Discard any broken or lousy looking mussels.
  2. Add butter and olive oil to a large pot and turn on medium.
  3. Once butter and olive oil have melted a bit, add red pepper flakes, lemon zest and shallots until fragrant, about a minute or two. Add onions and cook, another 5 or so minutes, stirring throughout.
  4. Add wine (minding the potential for a splash near your moneymaker [face]!), stock/water and mussels, then cover your pot and let sit for 5 minutes.
  5. With both hands (and potholders!), hold either end of your pot and attempt to give a shake in one fluid motion. This is a bit trickier than it seems, since you don't want to shake too hard and break any shells, but you do want to try to cook everything evenly. Practice in front of the mirror if you'd like, but this seems to be a skill acquired only through true practice. So I hope you like eating mussels every day kids. Cook for another five minutes or until almost all shells are open.
  6. Serve mussels in bowls with parsley on top and black pepper, discarding any broken shells or mussels that didn't open (shame on them). Enjoy with some g-free bread and all that wine you didn't use for your recipe. Honestly I am such a fan of mussel broth I could eat it with a spoon, so if that's what you resort to you're my kind of friend.