Slapdash Gourmet: All in the timingWritten by Amy Campbell | | email@example.com
I’m not the only one who has trouble having the whole meal ready at the same time, am I? Can I get an “amen”? I continue to be amazed by cooks who can get all the dishes to the table hot, at the same time, and when it’s all tasty, too — well, then they’re just showoffs.
I have a long way to go on this score, and I never correctly anticipate which item will trip me up. The other night I made seared scallops and rice — Rice-A-Roni, to be precise, because that’s the slapdash way — and I, of course, thought the delicate and expensive scallops would be the tricky part, even though I had cooked them successfully once before. But no. I messed up the Rice-A-Roni.
“Messed up” may be too strong a term, but it was definitely not the loose, saucy side dish that my mom used to make. Probably because I have a big, honkin’ professional stove — from the days of the resident chef, you know — the recommended cooking time on the package had no bearing on the results at my house. It turns out “cover and simmer for 15 to 18 minutes” will yield a sauceless, somewhat sticky pan of rice even when the heat is as low as it goes. So, the rice was ready too early, already dry and had to wait on the stove. Oh, and did I mention that, except for the green salad my 10-year-old made, it was the only side dish? But it wasn’t inedible, so we ate it. My daughter even had seconds. I should probably focus on that.
The scallops, on the other hand, were wonderful. I found these flash-frozen sea scallops on sale a month or so ago and I’ve been really impressed. I know there are people who scoff at frozen scallops, and I’ll use fresh ingredients whenever time and money will allow, but we don’t live at Fisherman’s Wharf and cooking isn’t my only job, so I was glad to find these.
One bag equals one meal for me and my daughter, or two for me when she’s not home, and I paid $9.99. Considering I paid $11-plus for the two of us on a rare visit to McDonald’s recently, that seems like a pretty good value and it sure is a nice change from chicken.
Anyway, I seared the scallops in butter, and here’s the part that sort of redeemed the rice: I watch enough cooking shows to know that when you cook protein you’ll leave a lot of flavor in the pan if you don’t deglaze it and make a little sauce. So, when I took the scallops out of the pan I immediately poured in the liquor from the scallops plus some chicken stock, scraped the brown bits loose, and when the liquid had reduced a little I stirred in a pat of butter.
It was like a textbook example of a pan sauce, and it tasted great!
So, overall, dinner was a success. The rice was ready too early, and overdone, but the scallops were as perfectly done as I could have hoped for and really delicious.
Maybe I should give myself points for choosing a side that doesn’t make you want to cry when it comes out a little dry. Ruining the scallops would have been a lot worse than sticky Rice-A-Roni.