By Paul Suplee,
MBA, CEC, PC-3
Oh, the Last Hurrah; the fleeting moments of joy for the small group of us strange humans who enjoy this chilly weather. As we enter the throes of great heat and humidity, we cling to every morning during which frost adorns our lawn. I know. I know. It is strange, but I love all four of our seasons in Maryland.
Honestly, I’ve seen plenty of evidence to indicate that we experience quite a few more seasons than four, but I believe that you get my point. Chilly mornings will soon give way to balmy, ridiculously humid days, and most Marylanders will complain about that, but for me, this was literally the reason that I moved back to Maryland from San Diego in 1992.
As much as I loved Southern California, it is a bit of a “rinse and repeat” sort of state when it comes to weather. The ocean never truly warms up, once the fog clears every day is sunny, there is never a rainy season, and every day is just about the same. While it sounds entrancing, after three and a half years, it simply got old.
I remember on one specific trip back home, I was picked up at the airport by my parents. They had moved from Annapolis to Denton (or as I used to call it, ‘satanic Mayberry’) and as we crossed the bay bridge, it happened. I received my sign. I had a revelation that would be the cause for me moving back home: I witnessed a squall racing across the bay threatening every boat in its path.
A thick thunderhead, almost black and incredibly intense, built and grew out of nowhere and we witnessed the storm raging across the Bay and then dissipating as though it had never existed. I remembered those fast-hitting, violent storms as they would smack us sometimes as we sailed across the Magothy or the Chesapeake and they can be terrifying. But, seeing it on that particular day made me realize that California was a nice place to visit, but it was time to move back home.
And, here I am. And here I will stay, short of some trips down to Central America or The Keys.
Yep, I will take Maryland weather any day. And a part of that lends itself so well to hearty dishes such as this one; one of my favorites. Any seared seafood is a beautiful thing, but serving it with a roasted squash puree? It is to die for. And it fits this weather perfectly! Once the heat hits, this won’t be quite so apropos, but for now? It’s quite the last hurrah.
Seared Scallops, Butternut Puree
20 Dry sea scallops
Clarified butter, as needed
1 c. chorizo chips
4 c. Butternut Puree (recipe follows)
4 c. Sauteed wild mushrooms (recipe follows)
1 c. Bacon jam (recipe follows)
2 c. Garlic kale (recipe follows)
1. Pat scallops dry and set aside.
2. Heat the clarified butter in a good, heavy duty saute pan until it is just below smoking.
3. Season scallops on both sides and carefully place them in the butter.
4. Sear for about 3 minutes, or until you have a nice amber-brown sear.
5. Using a fish spatula, turn and cook for 2 more minutes.
6. Remove from heat so that you do not overcook.
7. Place puree in the center of the plate, surrounding it with little piles of bacon jam.
8. Place a scallop on each little mound of jam, and top with chorizo chips.
9. Top with mushrooms and kale.
Butternut Squash Puree
makes about 1 quart-ish
1 Butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced
1 c. Chicken stock
1/2 c. Cream
3 oz. Whole butter
S&P to taste
1. Place all of the ingredients in a small saucepan that has a lid.
2. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook until the squash is tender.
3. Use a stick blender, food mill or food processor to puree the goo until it is nice and smooth.
4. Season and keep hot until ready to use.
Sauteed Wild Mushrooms
makes 1 quart
2# Fresh assorted wild mushrooms
2 cloves fresh garlic, smashed
1 med. Shallot, fine julienne
Clarified butter, as needed
1/2 c. Chicken stock
Salt & pepper, to taste
1. Add mushrooms to heated butter in a hot frypan.
2. Eventually the heat will break down the mushrooms and they will release their water.
3. Add the garlic and shallots and cook thoroughly.
4. Add the chicken stock and leave it be, stirring only occasionally enough to let everyone get to know each other.
5. Season and keep hot until service.
Makes about a cup
6 strips bacon, cut into little bits
1/2 med. White onion, fine julienne
3 tsp. White vinegar
3 tsp. Brown sugar
1. Place bacon and onion in a pan and set the heat to medium or even better, low.
2. Pay attention to your family, and completely forget about your bacon jam, of course assuming that your stove setting is on medium or preferably low.
3. Once onion and bacon have an uber-roasted feel to them, pull off the heat and drain.
4. Add the vinegar and sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. You can make it a little loose at this point, as it will thicken as it cools.
—Paul Suplee is a Professor of Culinary Arts
at Wor-Wic Community College and owner of boxcar40.
Visit him at www.boxcar40.com.