March 4, 2014

Seared Maine Diver Scallops

Inspired by a recent recipe in the Portland Phoenix about cooking restaurant-worthy scallops at home, I tried my hand at searing scallops the other night. I turned to this NPR story, written by local food writer Laura McCandlish, for the recipe. 

The only hiccup was ordering the scallops - I was under the impression that being local and in season, that the scallops would be a relatively inexpensive seafood to purchase. Like they're expensive in restaurants, but the locals all know a guy, so we make them at home for pennies on the dollar and laugh as tourists pay through the nose. No?

But stepping up to the counter at Harbor Fish Market, I realized they were $21.99/lb. and I was in the market for 3/4 of a pound (6 scallops since they were U8-10). So they were $16. Not quite the local, in season deal I usually walk out of Harbor Fish with. I guess you really have to know a guy! 

But at this point, I was committed, so I forked over my card and headed home to sear my scallops. To start, I heated up a cast-iron pan with about two tablespoons of vegetable oil on medium-high heat. I prepped the scallops with freshly ground black pepper on each side and placed them in the pan. And then I didn't touch them for about 4 minutes. I flipped them once and repeated the process. 

I'm sorry I don't have a reliable way to tell you when they're done - I was guided by the appearance of the sear. Really the only thing you can do to mess up a scallop is overcook it, so err on the side of less cook time, but make sure you get a nice crusty browning on each side. 

I served the scallops with sauteed spinach and fake risotto - which was just white rice cooked with chicken broth, sauteed mushrooms and onions, and topped with grated Parmesan cheese. I may never make risotto again. The scallops were delicious. Truth be told, I didn't used to love scallops, until someone said they're like the steak of the seafood world.

And just to torture you, something I had that you might not be able to: the Eventide Oyster Co. burger. 

Eventide's burger is amazing. Just the classic shredded lettuce, American cheese, a juicy patty, and pickled red onions, served with perfectly crispy fries and a Coke. This is, however, a sporadic special, and even a secretive one at times. A few hours after lunch last week, I saw an Instagram of the burger. Despite having already eaten lunch, I texted A. of the Cupcakes to meet me there for second lunch. 

I was nervous because the burger wasn't on the specials board, so we just had to ask if they had it. Fortunately, they did. I have no idea if they'll have it again, but if you see that they do, I recommend rearranging your schedule (and your stomach) to make room for it.

This burger hullabaloo stirred up the age-old debate about the best burger in Portland. I started my list with Congress St. Bar & Grill, Downtown Lounge, and Hot Suppa. Clearly, I love the soft bun, thin patty, classic style. I'd love to hear your opinions.