never, ever, say no to a dinner party

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I am a fusser. I am going to just, get that out there now so you guys aren’t surprised down the line.

I am a planner (sort of). A detail-picker. A folder of garments both small and tricky. (But I will never fold a fitted sheet, that’s just bonkers.) I really can’t stand the feeling of being rushed, and even more so, the feeling of being unprepared. Anyway, you get it. Do I forget about things sometimes? Yes. Do I lose stuff all the time? Somehow, yes. Mostly socks, hair-related items, and for some reason, beach towels? The point I’m getting at is that I am still trying to embrace the art of   i m p r o v i s a t i o n.

It was my roommate’s mother’s birthday yesterday and we decided the night before that we would cook her….something. “Scallops! Let’s make scallops!” I said, so confidently. Forgetting completely that I had a full day of work to do before dinner, a TON of errands, and most of those tasks would have to take place a half hour from home. Oh, also our fridge was practically empty save for 7 bottles of wine and some questionable yogurt. No good.

Guys, I totally freaked out. Thinking “Maybe we should just go to a restaurant…”, “How am I going to get anything in time?” “We’re going to end up eating so late and I have work the next day!”

Stop it! These are your friends. This is supposed to be fun. Stop being such a baby. So we did the only thing we could do…buy a TON of fresh produce, our beloved scallops, a healthy grain, a bunch of Blackfish and I just started cooking without a plan. What came out of this was the BEST scallop thing I ever made.

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The Best Scallop Thing I Ever Made

Fresh sea scallops, 3 per guest, patted dry

Snap peas, 5-6 per guest (de-stemmed)

3 Heirloom tomatoes, 1/4″ dice

Wild mushroom of your choice, 3 per guest, sliced very thin

2 sprigs fresh lemon balm, picked

Extra virgin olive oil

Extra Virgin Olive Oil infused with lemon zest

Balsamic glaze

1/2 cup clarified butter

1 Tbsp All-Purpose flour (for one dozen scallops)

1.) After patting your scallops dry, season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the flour on, and make sure all sides are coated. Surface should be feel dry and not tacky.

2) Dress your diced tomato in just a little salt and extra virgin olive oil.

3)  In a large frying pan, heat 2 Tbsp of clarified butter over medium heat. Saute your mushrooms quickly, just until they are soft and slightly browned. Set aside.

4) In the same frying pan, add another Tbsp clarified butter and saute your snap peas. Add some salt and pepper while they’re cooking. Do not let these beautiful veggies get soggy! We are cooking them just to soften the texture a teeny bit. They should still be a little snappy when they come out of the pan.

5) Get your plates set up. Spoon a little of that lemon EVOO on the plate, followed by balsamic glaze. Arrange the warm mushrooms, and a healthy pile of tomatoes and snap peas. There is no right or wrong way to do this as long as you don’t overdo it on the balsamic.

6) The scallops: get your tongs ready! Heat the remaining clarified butter in the large frying pan over medium-high heat. Test the pan by just placing a small corner of a scallop down, it should sizzle. If it does nothing, wait. If it goes CRAZY and pops and freaks you out…turn the heat down and wait. Having the perfect heat is the key to perfect scallops. Arrange scallops in the pan so they have an inch around them at all times.  Scallops, like pasta, hates crowds. They take about 30 secs to a minute per side, but if you start to turn one with tongs and the side has not browned, give it a little more time.  When scallops are finished, plate them artfully and garnish with picked lemon balm leaves.

So I’m thinking, that you’re thinking, what the heck is clarified butter?

The answer is: your new best friend.

Butter consists of two parts: Fat and milk proteins. Clarifying butter removes the milk proteins so you have pure, lovely, butterfat. Why do we want this? Because it is the milk proteins in the butter that burns rather quickly. In case you have been trying to cook with butter and find that you are having a smoke problem, that’s your reason. By removing the proteins we raise the smoking point, and can now cook EVERYTHING in butter. Clarified butter is also known as ghee, and originated in South Asia. Can you buy it at the supermarket? Sometimes! Look for it as ghee in the “foreign foods” section and you can save some time. If you are making your own, here is a great step-by-step with photos.

The dinner continued on swimmingly despite the fact that I went from cooking for 4, to cooking for 7. Everyone pitched in by washing some dishes, prepping some ingredients, and really the most important task…making sure my wine glass was always full. I went to bed well-fed, a little drunk, and wondering why the heck I worried at all in the first place.

xo. alicia.

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