When I cook, I like to push boundaries. When I was a kid, my mom and dad always encouraged me to try new foods. They thought that growing up a vegetarian would be difficult for their children and in some ways they were right. Mostly because it meant educating people what type of vegetarian we were, which is pescetarian. What does that mean? It means that my family is vegetarian, but we eat eggs, milk, cheese, byproducts and fish. I love fish.
As a reference to my one of my favorite “chefs”, Eddie Huang, some foods just remind you of mom. The recipes are always secret by the real secret is the memory they bring you back too. My mom’s seared Panko Scallops are one of those recipes. I grew up in the area outside Atlantic City. My childhood is peppered with the memories of seafood, the beach, and saltwater. Scallops was never a common dinner in my house, but when the weather starts to get warm, and the scallops are fresher than usual, my mom always makes them. My mom’s recipes always bring me back to summers and warm weather. Beach towns like mine are common, but the cuisine is always so fluid because
Beach towns like mine are common, but the cuisine is always so fluid because it’s a tourist area. The wealthy people are the doctors, lawyers and tourist industry owners and as the economies change over every few decades, you see a shift in cuisine based on where the wealthy are coming from. In my case, Philadelphia has always had a large influence and therefore, the cuisine is heavily based on Philly staples. But recipes like this take me back to my kitchen, where my mom is cleaning scallops and getting ready to place them delicately in a hot pan.
My mom’s scallops are really good just on their own. Actually, she has served these before at summer parties just as an appetizer and they always run out in a few minutes. But for dinner one evening, I thought we could combine forces and create a bright, early summer dish that would complement both the briny and delicate flavors of the scallops while adding something totally different to the mix. Enter Cavattapi w/ Brown Butter & Peas. I love brown butter and peas as a combination. Brown butter has the beautiful and rich aroma and flavor that melds ever so perfectly with the bright and supple flavor of peas.
As a spring/summer dish goes, I believe that a simple pasta, rally any kind (tbh this was simply what i had in the pantry so it doesn’t actually matter what you use) with peas and brown butter can compliment scallops in an untraditional manner. When I go out to a restaurant and see scallops on the menu they are too frequently now served with risotto. Why? Who decided risotto and scallops were the perfect matches? Not me, I am not a huge risotto fan because when I go out and have it, everyone seems to fuck it up. It’s not that hard to do, and yet 9 times out of 10, it’s overcooked and a heavy rice-y goop. No thanks. At home, I would rather stick with the pasta simply because we eat a lot of it which means my pantry is stocked with dried pasta waiting to be used. I’m sure many of you reading this are the same way. If you are willing to break boundaries and try something amazing and new, give this recipe a try at your next family dinner.
Panko Scallops x Cavattapi w/ Brown Butter & Peas
- 2 lbs scallop, washed and cleaned
- panko breading
- 2 cups milk
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 1 package spinach
- 1 lb Cavattapi
- 1 package frozen peas (fresh is better if available)
- 1 stick of butter
- salt, pepper
- place your cleaned scallops in a bowl with the milk and allow them to soak. This will help them adhere ( and my mom swears this helps them get rid of any extra fishy smell). Dip the scallops in the egg then in the panko and roll to coat. Set aside
- Boil a large pot of water and season with a very healthy pour of olive oil and enough salt to make it taste like ocean water. When the water begins to boil, cook the cavatappi according to direction on the package.
- While the pasta cooks, put the butter and frozen peas in a sauce pot on medium-high and swirl around. Make sure to not stop swirling the butter and peas until all the butter is melted as the butter will burn. When the butter is totally melted, turn the heat down to medium and swirl every minute or so. The butter will slowly begin to darken slightly and the peas will begin cooking. When the butter becomes a deep golden color, turn off the heat and move to a cooler area of the stove.
- When the pasta is done, drain it but making sure to keep a very small amount of the water at the bottom to keep the pasta from sticking. Pour the butter and pea mixture over the pasta and gently mix. Set aside.
- Heat a saute pan to medium high. Add a small amount of oil to the pan, just enough to barely coat the bottom. When the oil has come up to temperature (about 350*F), gently place the scallops in the pan, making sure not to crowd the pan. Sear the scallops for approximately 3 min. then flip and sear for an additional 90 seconds, then set aside.
- In the saucepan used to cook the butter and peas, place the spinach in the pot and turn on to medium-high and gently stir around to cook the spinach. When the spinach beings to wilt you may then plate it. Place 5 scallops over the spinach and serve with a large serving of the pasta.
I like to serve this dish with a healthy slice of semolina bread. My dad happened to bake this bread earlier this afternoon so I felt obligated to serve it. In retrospect, “obligated to” really should have been switched with “honored to” because this bread was delicious. The crust had a great crunch and the crumb (center) smelled like yeast and salt and was delicious. This dinner so went! Thanks mom for showing me your secret scallops recipe and I hope you don’t mind me sharing it with the internet! My advice is to talk to your mom (or grandmom or whoever cooked for you as a kid) and learn their recipes. It’s not just a great skill to have, it’s a great memory to have and sometimes food and memory have a stronger link than we care to admit.
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