Blade & Board: Gabriel Balderas

In this series, I'll have a chef come cook at my kitchen, compose a dish that means something to them & their career, and have a drink or two while we are at it. I'll be taking a few elements and ingredients from their dish to create my own bite sized spin as well. And in between, we will get to know just who it is making these epic dishes & what drives them to keep on cooking.

In 2015, i cooked next to one of the most passionate chefs I had ever seen. In a head to head battle. It was almost difficult to stay focused on my own work. He had professionalism I really had not seen at that level yet. Confidence and precision. There is something about competitive spirit that really shows someone’s heart. We both walked away without any hardware that day. But if there was ever a feeling that you knew you’d see someone again- and see them doing something amazing- then I can definitively say this was one of those feelings. So it was an easy choice to call up my next chef for this series, a chef I’ve respected for year. That is Gabriel Balderas, owner and executive chef of El Cabo Verde.

 Chef Gabe in action.

Chef Gabe in action.

I try to get a good feel for someone’s career early on in these interviews, as I’ve noticed I get a better idea of how they became the chefs they are today. The pedigree here is impressive, each part of his journey building on the next. From taquerias in Chicago; a stop to a small town in Kentucky that went on to become a little arts mecca. An extended stay in Birmingham that led to time in a Thai Kitchen- where he learned to rethink some of the ingredients he was familiar with from his roots. And even more time under great names in Birmingham, learning how to and how to NOT run a high end kitchen. Gabe even ran a kitchen for a huge barbecue operation. We’re talking down home, potato salad and beans, ribs and pork butts, ice box pie kinda barbecue joint.  The type of batch cooking that I can only have nightmares about, but yet they still had a commitment to doing everything from scratch. And that focus on integrity of product is something that kind of ran throughout our night.

So all of that to tell you how we ended up with the Balderas fam in Shreveport! Gabe was all set to move from Birmingham to open up a new seafood restaurant in New Orleans…in the fall of 2005. Katrina happened, and the Balderas crew, with two young kids, decided it wasn’t a good time to make that move in to the unknown. So his company sent him up here to Shreveport- and the rest is just our good fortune!

I have since had a friendship with Gabe over the last few years, but its always been in the context of our own restaurants. So it was really great to get to learn more about the kinda guy he is. I found my interview and cooking time with Gabe to be focused. Every question was met with a thoughtful and even inspired answer about where he has been & where he is going. And even more importantly, where he hopes WE are going.  

 The finished dish.

The finished dish.

GABE’S DISH

From humble beginnings, i can’t paint in words the lush tropical setting he laid out. Fresh water streams with rainforest tilapia and river clams. Low hanging guavas, mangoes, bananas and plantains- all out in the wild. And all of this shines in his philosophy of food. Every fruit, veggie, meat, and fish that comes in to his shop is inspected like a hawk. So many in our business sell a tagline that only the finest ingredients make the finest foods. But very few hold dearly true. It was refreshing to hear from him his thoughts on foods role in community and identity. I truly hate to bastardize his eloquent words, but his heart is in educating- his staff, his kids, his customers- and focusing so much on bringing this commitment of quality real foods to everyone. He has spent so much time with Slow Foods spreading the good truth on real grub. Helping schools build farms and teach each of them how to grow their own food. Even the coolest little urban garden right outside his restaurant. Everything about his food is centered on integrity.

Which makes this dish such a heartfelt decision. He prepared for us lentils. Organic green ones to be precise. Packed with onion, bacon, plantains and cooked in an instapot. This was the dish of humble origin. He remembers the comfort tied in to it, made by his mother and grandmother. Smoky and salty and sweet. You could see how it felt like home. This was a base for dishes to come, and he wanted to finish off the dish. Grouper was the choice.

 butter & grouper. all i need :)

butter & grouper. all i need :)

Each medallion cut on the bias in about a 2 oz piece. Flame on high, he worked the fish over and over with hot butter, ladling over each piece quickly until each small filet was perfect- and i mean perfectly- cooked. It was such a rhythm cooking that fish, intuitive from years of repetition. And what dish is complete without garnish rounded up from your own garden- like these sun gold tomato blooms, thyme and red serranos (not to mention the best pickled red onion I’ve ever had.) The dish was homey. Delicate and robust at once. Warming but not over powering. The definition of balance, which is just hard to find these days. Like a true craftsman, he pointed out the flaws. I wouldn’t have known any different, but you have to respect anyone that serves as their own biggest critic.

MY DISH

My dish went in a different direction, based on that same hominess and paralleling a few of his ingredients. I settled on a custard that ultimately I loved to hate and hated to love. Sweetened with maple and turbinado, I just couldn’t get it to where i wanted sweetness wise.

The custard was predominantly egg yolk, coconut milk, maple syrup, turbinado and a touch of bacon grease- as well as minced bacon. The salty smokey was on point and just missed that extra sweetness. I fried the plantains on top and dusted with cinnamon sugar. Now those plantains I could have snacked on for days! Super ripe plantains are definitely the way to go on something like this. Overall, I’d make this again, but I’d probably sweeten the custard with sugar as opposed to natural sweeteners.

 My dish, Bacon Coconut Custard & Caramelized Plantains.

My dish, Bacon Coconut Custard & Caramelized Plantains.

It was time well spent learning from a friend. He mentioned on the way out how impacting it is to cook for someone in their own home. And I think- caught up in the day to day of restaurant life- I forget how much heart goes in to cooking for one another. A meal not soon forgotten with years of friendship ahead.

Blade & Board: Jacob Mouser

In this series, I'll have a chef come cook at my kitchen, compose a dish that means something to them & their career, and have a drink or two while we are at it. I'll be taking a few elements and ingredients from their dish to create my own bite sized spin as well. And in between, we will get to know just who it is making these epic dishes & what drives them to keep on cooking.

 

There is a certain level of expectation for the rising culinarians these days- mainly conceived from countless shows profiling the compelling stories of accomplished chefs and restauranteurs. Yes, there are plenty of guys and gals on these shows that still go grind it out in the kitchen, day after day. But so many of these chefs are on the celeb circuit, being flown from one food & wine fest to the next to throw out a composed but concise history of their careers in one single bite. They have earned that right, but who is left running the kitchen?

For every one influential and familiar name in the food biz there are thousands that are sweating over a six-top, yelling about mis-labeled pans in the walk in, and hoping that last two-top decides desserts would be better eaten else where.  I wanted to spend time building those stories, starting with the guys in our own backyard. And I felt like this first guest chef was an excellent start, Jacob Mouser.

Jacob is currently the Sous Chef at Frank's Pizza Napolitano & brings more to the table than just grub. He has a hearty laugh & some smooth saxophone skills and a heart the entire size of his home state of Texas. Off the cuff answers to rapid fire questions gave me a laugh, including his first culinary job as a cashier at KFC, and his brush with his future destiny in the kitchen.

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THE CHEF

Now i could give you a bio or Q & A here but I felt particularly compelled to tell you a story of what really drove home my time in the kitchen with Jacob.  "My father & I, in our good times, they looked at us like peas & carrots. Brothers." A strong sentiment of a man who recently lost someone dear. When I asked him about his dish, he gave me this, "the dish is green eggs & ham. Its a memorial dish to my father, he died October 23, 2017. And headed back home I started wrestling through all of the old family heirlooms, knick knacks & such, and you start thinking about your childhood. i don't know where it came from but green eggs & ham just stuck with me. With music and art and cooking, most of the time i source my inspiration from pain. so it came out & had to make it... this dish, its deconstructed and reconstructed. And i like that, because our family was so broken that it was a beauitful thing that we had become so deconstructed and I wanted to reconstruct us, bring us all together back again... Through all the aches and pains, it brought a scattered family back together."

There was a moment in there where you feel someone's words so much that you pause. You assess whats going on.  And for a brief moment you see what's important beyond the daily grind. This is a man who uses his canvas, whether on the stage or on the plate, to be himself. At a point in our conversation we touched on where that line or art & money cross. I gave my own story of cooking for money versus the cooking for love, the difference in quality of those products. But Jacob struck something that I hold dear. Its not just for art, its for purpose. Not just telling a story for yourself, but telling it for others. For what good is art without explanation?

 Green Eggs & ham

Green Eggs & ham

JACOB’S DISH

Green Eggs & Ham is about as iconic of an imaginary dish that i can, well, imagine. And this Seuss driven brinner dish is how I will always imagine the dish as I read that book to my child. There was a warmth that just screamed home for me. Perhaps having breakfast for dinner on a sunday (an old jackson fam classic) or maybe just knowing the heart that went in to the dish. I just felt in the cockles and subcockels of the heart and belly that this dish was a soul on a plate and you can’t replicate that anywhere.

a breakdown….

Green Eggs: Sample Farms Green Eggs. the whites separated and beaten with pureed spinach, the yolks reintroduced and then poached. I for one can say i’ve never experienced the texture this made. the white (well, now the green) with so delicate and just pure velvet.

Ham: Star Anice & Szechuan Pepper Braised Pork Belly. in an unfiltered sake bath, removed, cut and seared. that crisp outside reminiscent of incredible char sui. salty and spicy and natural pork sweetness, it was everything i really want from a pork product.

Starch: Pommes Paillasson: fine shredded potato squares. imagine, if you will, jacques pepin took over McDonald’s breakfast menu for a day and this was his spin on the hash browns. pressed in duck fat, then refrigerated, then deep fried. crispy outside and creamy inside. bravo.

Sauces: Green Barbecue. let me ramble about this one, because i left in love and wanting to make this for every dish. intense dry heat from serranos immediately followed by a smoky punch, as both the chilis and garlic were all deeply smoked before being whipped in to a luscious housemate aioli. ugh, i could bathe in this stuff. Ginger Carrot Puree added sweetness and another asian touch, in addition to the sweetness of the Green Pea Puree.

all plated on dehydrated hot pepper sauce, which is just about as legit as you think it is. very.

BLAKE’S DISH

 Another great one of CHef Blake Jackson from ANdrea mouser

Another great one of CHef Blake Jackson from ANdrea mouser

The Scotch Egg has always eluded me throughout my culinary career. I’ve coached myself through it, step by step, and every time i have one little glitch that goes wrong. Overcooked egg. Undercooked Sausage. So I wanted to utilize Jacob’s ingredient list as a chance to go out there and try again. The final product was definitely a new spin and a good research project for me to develop more in the future!

Sample Farm’s Egg, Soft Boiled at 5 minutes cased in Rosé & White Miso Sausage, housemade, a Falafel Breading, all deep fried.

Served over Roasted Garlic & Lemon Crème Fraîche and a Sake Serrano Salsa Verde

The flavors were playful to say the leasts. The falafel was a little saltier than I had hoped so Ill be reworking the dish to make use something a little less strength to highlight that sausage. The sauces were tangy and had their own character and i’m excited to work that that combo again! And most importantly, I’m really sorry if the idea of falafel and pork offended anyone- i know that I would lose a hand over this dish in half of the world’s cultures. But I’ll be damned if thats not a great combo!

IN CLOSING

I want to be very clear that I am doing this series for extremely selfish reasons. I want to cook and break bread with my fellow chefs. I want to learn from them and push myself with them- and nothing brings out the best in us than a tiny bit of pressure of cooking alongside a passionate culinarian. But I do hope the side effects are useful. I hope this helps to build and empower our growing culinary scene. I hope it pushes other chefs to keep moving forward. And most importantly- I hope it inspires and motivates as it already has done for me.

If you have a chef you’d like to see profiled, or you are interested in having a seat at our chef’s table- please reach out at drakecatering@gmail.com. We are hoping to capture some of this on film and might sell a few seats to help pay for that (wink wink foodies who know video production!)

bon appetite amigos,

blake

 Chefs Blake Jackson & jacob Mouser photocred to Andrea Mouser

Chefs Blake Jackson & jacob Mouser photocred to Andrea Mouser

ChicaBro

Ah to be young, as they say. I'll be frank, this article is going to be written from as much recollection as I can muster. As Chicago treated me fair to above average, but not without an abundance of libation.

I was tasked with helping formulate our excursion to Chicago on request of two of my oldest friends in honor of their upcoming nuptials. That's right, it was time for a good old fashioned bachelor party... for two. And not just any two. One to be wed in October- an esteemed whole animal butcher,  lover of  tequila & breaking bread over stellar meals. The other taking the plunge next year- a rising physician, no stranger to the finer things, an above average Karaoke singer and always having, what the french call, a damn good time. So we all set about crafting an unforgettable weekend, that we, collectively, don't remember all of. While we experienced so much, I'm going to focus on grub & beverages.

 the bali bali at three dots & a dash

the bali bali at three dots & a dash

Friday

Once we were able to corral the 16 attendees in to one direction after arrival, we made our way to Peqoud's Pizza. Iconic? Yes. Line from here to Indiana? You Betcha. Worth it? Absolutely. The ambience is loud and divey, the perfect way to get a group fired up for the weekend ahead. Give yourself 2 hours from reservation to exit, if not a little extra for a large group. Its no fast food joint.

I have had several deep dishes, correction, 'attempts' at deep dish pizza, in my life time. Most of which are mediocre amalgamations of doughy, over-sauced blobs with a stack of processed "mozzarella" that flakes off. But this was something entirely different from previous failures. A balanced amount of sauce, not overpowered by seasoning or sugar, has a surprisingly fresh tang- paired up with cheese that would string from two stories up. Toppings are up to you. But that caramelized halo. girl. GIMME DAT HALO. Perfectly browned from what I assume is more cheese, this the true piece de resistance. The recommended pizza drinkin beer was Half Acre Brewery's Pony Pilsner.  And they were entirely right. Clean drinking beer without the frills. Great by the pitcher and easily one of my favorite beverages of the trip. 

My only picture was of our table, knocked over beer pints, single slices left in pans, and crumpled up napkins. The wife suggested i just forgo the pic and let you know its a damn good pie and you should go. We finished the night at Kingston Mine's. College style well drink- but two blues bands playing on two stages back and forth all night made it worth the trip. Some really great music!.

Saturday

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A day in Wrigleyville was also completely in order. Our slow moving bunch stumbled our way to the brown line and hopped off at Southport, and made the block to Crosby's Kitchen for brunch. Im not a die hard for sweets in the AM, but this monkey bread made me a believer!

Traditionally, the monkey breads i remember had tear-apart pieces of high yeast dough like french bread and cinnamon rolls. But these little detachable pillows were more the stuff of angels. And brioche. Lathered in cinnamon sugar, baked in cast iron & finished off with housemade cream cheese icing.

The eggs dishes were fair to middlin, but i'll take that monkey bread and this bomb bloody mary (comes with a free pony of high life, because they know you're hurtin.)

 

 hangover be gone!

hangover be gone!

Just 3 blocks northeast we found ourselves in the heart of Wrigleyville. And fortunately we came fully prepared! We decided that, with a group of 16 but no diehard cubbies fans, tickets to one of the rooftops was more in order. We used wrigleyrooftopsllc.com and I truly had no complaints with the whole experience. The view was similar to any outfield seating at one of today's larger stadiums, and 3 floors of open beer & wine, and unlimited brats, burgers, nachos etc; Standard fare for a ballgame- nothing to blow your socks off but plenty to soak up the free suds! Just good all around fun for a ball game, and an experience you can't really get at other parks. If you're with just adults & the cubbies win on a weekend, stick around for a great time. Every bar was packed!

 Deuces Dug Out, a great place to watch drunk Cub's fans jump in to a pool fully clothed...

Deuces Dug Out, a great place to watch drunk Cub's fans jump in to a pool fully clothed...

Sunday

I can honestly say I've become a smokehouse skeptic. Too many times i've felt the excitement of trying a new bbq joint- you know the one's that have so much age and character that they can't possibly be bad- just to see them come up short. I was hesitant to follow one of our crews need for some q with a reccomendation to visit Green Street Smoked Meats. And boy howdy do I stand corrected.

The entrance to this place is so subtle but entirely on point. An alley lined with a shed roof on one side, string lights guiding you to the rear entry. Inside, an eclectic open hall, rustic and naturally lit (accompanied with more string lighting) and the vibe of forgotten meatpacking districts of old. The vibe is spot on for a Sunday mid-morning.  Won over by the charm of the interior and a solid margarita from our bartender- I decided I would drink the drink, and ride the ride. I went big on my menu choice, and I don't regret it one bit.

 

 sweet entrance at green street meats. cool neighborhood to wander through

sweet entrance at green street meats. cool neighborhood to wander through

You know those gimmicky menu items they put in their own little box above the rest of the menu board.  The "hey, you, guy who isn't sure yet. yeah you. try this" menu item. Well, I signed myself up for the full smoked beef short rib at $25. Coming in a little over a pound and a half, this bad boy was unwrapped from the parchment to release a cloud of peppercorn steam. Incredibly well seasoned in what I assume was their blend reminiscent of a Montreal mix, the attendant slid out the bone and sliced four thick strips of the short rib, each one I made in to redneck taco (folded in white bread and drizzled in their house q sauce). The sauce was tangy and not too sweet, which I appreciate. But little was needed. The meat had balanced smoke and salt and was cooked perfectly. This is an example of a local joint utilizing their own local products to do what they do best. They know beef, and they nailed it. 

It wasn't until we left that I realized this place was part of restaurant guru Brendan Sodikoff's Hogsalt- including Au Chevaul, Bavette's & a few other of Chicago and NYC's finer new joints. Bravo on this one- I would recommend that short rib to any Texan, Memphisian, Kansas Citian, and all the other folks that think they own the right way to barbecue.

Stuffed to the gills, we took a solid walk through the city and sobered up a bit. Something we just couldn't have! So we made our way to the highly recommended tiki bar- Three Dots & a Dash. Okay. This place will hold a special place in my heart. Forever- or until the next tiki bar. The walk down to the basement floor was highlighted by an enormous wall of blue lit skulls. Like the call of the sirens to every Gilligan and Skipper-too who have made their way down to the rum filled concoctions below. Each signature cocktail comes in its own signature cast glass. Bamboo, tiki heads, skulls, coconuts. Garnished with cherry laden swords and purple orchids, these cocktails are no bathtub-amateur-hour-colada. No, these are craft cocktails made by people who really care about their skills and upholding the tiki vibe.

 tiki time!

tiki time!

Oh, and big group rollin in deep? No worries, they have the most legit group cocktails for up to 12 that one can fathom this side of Easter Island. We may have indulged in... a few. Seriously, it is hard to make a flaming skull taste that delicious. But they did. Kudos to them. (see first pic!)

A few places we ventured to didn't make the list. Some of our more fine dining ventures, while excellent at service and technique (and even quality of ingredients), just missed the mark on flavor. Perhaps too much hype from reviews, or perhaps my own preconception was over-inflated. More on that in another post. I'm up for giving the finer restaurants of Chicago another shot on a return trip, so any recommendations on steakhouses and Michelin I am totally up for.

Chicago, we salut your classics & applaud your newcomers. Now if i could just remember where I left my damn shoes...

San Diego Power Trip

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For two years straight, let’s say 2005 through 2007, I spent 60% of the time, every time, speaking in the Ron Burgundy dialect.  Yes, Anchorman was an epic part of my college years. The life style, the hair, everything. I wanted to immulate all things Burgundy. So it is only natural that going to San Diego was the penultimate Anchorman Fanboy experience. After all, it truly is the whale’s…

I digress. While we had a planned agenda with the fam for the first two days, my wife and I had the opportunity to take in some incredible eats on Saturday & Sunday. The highlights are, in this chef’s mind, a great representation of west coast grub.

First Place- Leroy’s Burger, Leroys Kitchen & Lounge, Coronado

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It was our last day, with a flight out at 5:30 pm. We had about 2 hours to kill and no desire to eat. And this burger stumbled along and slapped me in the face with awesomeness. Topped with Holey Cow cheese, house bacon jam and house pickles, this burger was a 9.5 out of 10 all the way around. (I’m not a little  brat when it comes to messy foods, but tidy eaters out there would be a bit intimidated by the mess.) At 5 inches tall, the burger was a perfect medium rare. Crisp pickles and red onion added brightness and crunch. And girl, let me tell ya bout that Holey Cow cheese and bacon jam combo. Salty, creamy, smokey, sweet. Real deal Holyfield. Truffle parm fries & pomegranate ketchup. Sorry about the food pic or lack there of. I didn’t plan on this being a write home experience and I was graciously proven dead wrong. If you’re a burger guy or gal, then make this a planned stop.

Second place – The Cake Batter Donut, Donut Bar, Cortez Hill

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So I was super skeptical about this one going in. Extremely well known Donut Bar has a long line and a host of accolades, which in my head screamed tourist trap. I mean, how much can you really do to a donut? Consider me dead wrong. Hailey and I tried three different donuts, the champion being the near half pound Cake Batter Donut. I expected this donut to run me $7 or 8 bucks. Nope, just $3!

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And hot damn was it amazing. Its a dense donut, but still maintains a brilliantly soft texture and bite. I braced myself for sugar overload, but was  delighted to not have any instant cavities. But what made this joint a real treat? Over 20 beers on tap. I asked my Donut-tender to recommend a brew for the cake batter, and was pointed towards the Mosaic & Idaho 7 IPA from local Mission Brewery. Bitter citrus & piney tastes washed down the cakey, sugary treat like a graceful 1-2 punch to the tastebuds.  Long line, but worth the wait.

Third Place- Uni Bowl, Island Life Foods, Little Italy Farmers Market

Okay, so its not for everyone. If you love iron tastes, and you love things that literally taste like the ocean, then this is a homerun. First and foremost, fresh fresh fresh. The urchins were all lined up on ice in front of the booth. As the sun slowly melted ice, the urchin spines started to wiggle. These guys were definitely still alive and freshly caught.

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So after they’ve cracked the urchin and scraped the uni, they stuffed the bowl with ahi tuna poke. Fresh ahi chunks, tossed in a garlic shoyu, add fresh cucumber and red onion and light acidity. Watching the process gave this chef a knife-on for sure. You can’t get better than fresh seafood like this. Topped off with the uni and micro greens. For the adventurous eater, this is a treat to catch. The market runs every Saturday & is home to plenty of farmers, ranchers & popups.

Shout outs for tasty drinks! 

So there happened to be a wine festival. So we happened to go. And I happened to enjoy it. A lot. Maybe too much. (Don’t ask my wife, sore subject :D)

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But this rosé took home first prize from our trip. it was a nice 70 degrees with full sun, so this chilly rose hit the spot. La Chapelle from Chateau la Gordonne (see below). For what its worth, I like about one in every 10 rosés I try. And this one probably tops the list. I thought it was perfectly fruity, without teetering into the sugary zone, with a good amount of bite at the end. I asked the rep about distribution and she didn’t think it had hit Louisiana yet. But one can hope! Or buy it off the internet, which this particular individual has on a todo list. Hailey and I both gave this bad boy two thumbs up.

I took a recommendation from a good buddy who works at a local brewery at home, and he gave a hearty recommendation for Modern Times brewery. I was fortunate to try two brews, both of which made my list of keepers. Black House, an oatmeal coffee stout, was the best of the category that I have had thus far. Not that stale coffee taste like a few I’ve tried, just rich almost espresso-y flavor and a smooth, I mean real smooth, drinkin beer. Fortunate Islands, MT’s Wheat beer, was also a great drinker. Especially with my big body being warm from a good bit of walking, Fortunate Islands is hop-forward taste but it doesn’t drink like that at all- which I like. We didn’t get to the MT brewery, but their brews were featured at a lot of local places.

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My wife’s fave cocktail of the weekend was a blueberry mojito from Sally’s Fish House in the Sea Village. Although the abundance of kitsch that you come across in the Amity Island remake, the Sea Village is a must if only for the views. Sally’s has a very nice patio with great cocktails and a decent beer selection. The view of the marina definitely makes it worth while.

As far as some honorable mentions, we also had some great chicken bulgogi from 500 Gogi Korean BBQ, also at the market. We had some charbroiled oysters in Brigsten’s Seafood on Coronado with jack cheese and bacon that made for a nice afternoon snack. Overall, for a few days of eating and drinking, I’d say we did a good job of sniffin out some nice stops!

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You stay classy, San Diego.

Love & Other Mollusks

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So there I was, over served and casually under dressed at 22 years old, in one of my favorite Spanish restaurants. Its one of those places where you have your favorites, and you just blindly order. But after a less than successful start to a second date, I said to myself, “Self! Call an audible, change it up, go for something different!” So I did. I had honestly never tried one before. But enough bourbon changed my mind. And within 15 minutes, there they were, like tiny white snare drums radiating beacons of awesomeness, still sizzling on cold white china at the little tapas restaurant. Needless to say, I ditched the date and left with a true love of one of nature’s greatest bivalves, the scallop.

Now it is one thing to fall in love with a food, but it truly is another to learn how to cook it. And scallops and chefs have somewhat of a trying relationship. Especially in a busy environment. This delicious nugget of salty, ocean-y goodness is not one that can be left unattended. They require just the right amount of time. These jewels are not cheap, and an over cooked scallop can leave you crying in your sleep! But here are a few tips that can help you at home:

On Purchasing!

*dry- like many seafoods, slimy is rarely satisfying. Look for scallops that have been kept refrigerated/displayed out of their own juice.

*fresh- nobody wants the funk! Look for a fishmonger or market that market that is kind enough to let you take a whiff. If it smells like anything but a little saltwater, it may not be worth it.

*size- most mollusk & crustaceans are sold based on amount per pound. Scallops worth serving are normally at least 1 ounce, so look for U-16 or better (under 16 per pound).

On Cooking!

*trimming- sometimes there is a tendon still attached to the scallop. This is what connected the meat to the shell, but it definitely needs to go! Take a paring knife and cut it out.

*heating- when we look at searing, always have your pan hot and ready before you add your fat! Crank it up to medium-high to high heat. (Some stoves mean business when they are full speed!) Need to know if your pan is ready? Run to the sink, wet your hand & flick a drop or two in. If it disappears before you can say Dumbledore, in other words very quickly, she’s ready.

*seasoning- no need to over do here. A light sprinkle of sea salt is fine. If you feel crazy, maybe a touch of cracked black pepper!

*searing-we have butter at the ready, and a tablespoon or two is fine. Any fat or oil that doesn’t have an exceptionally low smoke point will work. Once our fat is good and hot, which will happen quickly, add your scallops flat side down. Sear for 2 minutes and don’t you dare think about moving it until then. The bottom will be nice and golden brown. Flip and let it cook for the remaining 1 minute. I use a regular spoon to bath the butter back on top after flipping.

Blackberry Brown Butter Scallops

 

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We love our classic seared scallops (pictured above). But if blackberry thyme scallops (title picture) tickle your fancy, it really is a no brainer!

*In addition to our butter in the skillet, we add one tablespoon fresh chopped thyme.

*Add one tablespoon minced shallot as well.

*We want our butter to brown up a little more than our basic scallop recipe. So give it a minute or two before we add the scallops, constantly stirring the sauce.

*After our same sear method, pull the scallops and plate them.

*Cut the heat and add a little blackberry jam to the melted butter, and spread around until it melts.

Drizzle that sauce on the scallops and be prepared to destroy your next dinner party!