Thursday, May 19, 2011

Eat: Tarragon and Bacon Scallops on Crispy Polenta Cakes

I love to eat out, but over the years I've find many a foreign object in my meals: a pencil-top eraser in a Greek salad, a twist tie in a chicken sandwich, an eyelash on an Egg McMuffin, a disturbingly short and curly hair on a cheeseburger, and flies, so many flies.

Since I had kids, my restaurant discoveries have dropped off significantly, maybe a stray hair here and there but nothing really exciting.  I doubt this is because food handling has become so much more sanitary since 2003.  It is much more likely because eating out with my children simply doesn't allow for leisurely contemplation (and inspection) of my food.

The possibility of unseen eyelashes and erasers, the overpriced kids' meals that are pushed away after two bites, and the extra-large tips we must occasionally offer in apology to our server have taken some of the joy out of restaurant dining, and so we've cut back.  Every once in a while, though, I manage a meal that is restaurant quality, free of unfamiliar hairs, and can be enjoyed without worrying whether we're going to exceed the time limit on our restaurant manners.

Last weekend I managed this with a meal of Tarragon and Bacon Scallops on Crispy Polenta Cakes, arugula tossed in balsamic vinaigrette, and brownies a la mode with homemade chocolate sauce.  The scallops are surprisingly simple to prepare and the polenta cakes are made easier by using a pre-cooked roll, and all of it is delicious.


Polenta Cakes

  • 1 tube of pre-cooked polenta (I used one flavored with garlic and basil.)
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350.

Slice the polenta into half-inch thick rounds.

Heat the olive oil in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat.

Brown the cakes in the olive oil.  This took me about three minutes per side.

Place the cakes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for about 20 minutes, about the time it will take you to prepare the scallops.

Tarragon and Bacon Scallops

  • 2 slices of thick cut bacon, cut into 1 inch bits (Kitchen scissors work well for this.)
  • 10 sea scallops
  • 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter 
  • juice of one lemon 
  • 1/4 cup of white wine
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
  • Salt and pepper

Pat the scallops dry and season them with salt and pepper.

Cook the bacon until it is crispy but not overdone.  Remove it to a paper towel-lined plate.

Add the butter to the pan with the bacon grease and melt it over medium heat.

Sear the scallops over medium-high heat for about 2 1/2 minutes a side. 

Remove the scallops from the heat, slice them in half lengthwise, put them on a plate and cover them.

Add the wine and lemon juice to the pan and bring to a simmer as you gently scrape up any bits of bacon and scallops that remain stuck to the pan.

Once the wine and lemon juice mixture has reduced by about half, add two tablespoons of water and allow that to reduce a bit.

Return the bacon and the scallops (and any juices they've released on the plate) to the pan and add the tarragon.  Stir together, allowing all of the components to heat up and mingle together.

Season with salt and pepper to taste, and then serve over polenta cakes.

This served two adults with left overs and some for the kids to try.

Quick Baby Arugula Salad

Combine two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, one tablespoon of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste in the bottom of a medium salad bowl.  Whisk it all together, add a bowlful of baby arugula, and toss to coat.

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