Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I'm No Harold McGee

But man, do I work hard with what I have.  

On Monday, I walked down to one of the fish markets on 30th Avenue, looking for bay scallops.  The first market I happened upon was selling the baby scallops, for a paltry $5.99/lb.  Yes, you read that right.  I paid a scant $3.00 for my half pound of bays.  

Next door, I hit up the vegetable market, allowing myself to succumb to whatever looked fresh.  That afternoon, it was baby bok choy, tiny yukon gold potatoes, green beans, fresh shitake mushrooms, and one hearty leek.  

At home, I made foil packets and chopped the veggies (minus the green beans, which I steamed separately, and the potatoes, which I boiled until fork-tender) and tossed them with toasted sesame oil, salt, pepper, ground ginger, tamari, olive oil, and rice wine vinegar.  I sliced the cooked potatoes and added them to the mix.  Finally, I seasoned the scallops, divided them between two packets, and added them to the veggies with a healthy pour of sake.  I sealed the pouches and put them in a 400 degree oven for just under 30 minutes.  

Here's the thing: the veggies steamed perfectly and the scallops were cooked through and just short of turning rubbery.  And the veggies tasted good, though I should have added more salt at the start.  But the scallops?  They were terrible.  Inedible.  So fishy that I couldn't understand why I hadn't noticed it before I'd cooked them.  

Bay scallops are generally sweeter than divers, but these reeked of bad and still salt water.  I had to throw the half pound away to salvage the vegetables, which, now lacking protein, didn't provide as satisfying a meal as I'd originally hoped.  

Well.  You can't win them all.  Last night, I opted for foods that were already in my refrigerator.  I mixed ground chicken (leftover from last week's stuffed peppers) with worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, minced onion, and minced garlic and formed them into two patties.  I cut two russet potatoes, skin-on, into thick fries and tossed them with olive oil, kosher salt, and fresh-ground pepper.  I put the patties and the fries on a baking sheet and in a 400 degree oven and left them for 15 minutes.  In the meantime, I sauteed wide rings of Spanish onion in a little olive oil, allowing them to char on the bottom.  Then, I added ketchup, Frank's hot sauce, and molasses.  Cooks beware: tomato products burn on high heat, but this was what I was looking for, a variation on a barbecue sauce replete with the burnt taste of actual barbecue.  

I flipped the chicken burgers and fries and kept them in another 10 minutes or so, long enough for the juice to run clear from the burgers' center (you can't cook ground chicken to medium-rare; it has to be cooked through).  I ate the burger atop a whole-wheat English muffin with those ketchupy onions and a half-sour pickle. 

I'm not blaming myself for the fiasco that was scallops-gone-bad.  I honestly believe it was quality of product that marked this dish's failure.  Next time, I'll hit up a different fish market.  As for the chicken burgers, I'll keep that fly-by-night recipe for later low-fat use.  

1 comment:

ramster said...

i am digging your faux barbecue tactic, got to try that myself soon.