Guest Post: Grilled Scallops & Fennel with Fresh Herb Fusilli
Today Chew on That brings you a guest post from one of the most entertaining food blogger/photographers out in cyberspace: Greg from Sippity Sup. He’s just as spicy as his blog, so look forward to enjoying his fantastic scallops and fusilli recipe that will have you salivating! More after the jump…
Take it away, Greg!
I’m Greg from Sippity Sup – Serious Fun Food and I have a seriously simple meal for you today: Grilled Scallops & Fennel served with Fresh Herb Fusilli.
It’s a great warm weather dinner because there is no hanging over a hot stove involved. The pasta “sauce” is no more than lemon, shallots, olive oil and herbs. It cooks by heat of the hot noodles alone!
The scallops are grilled a mere 2 or 3 minutes. The fennel gets nice and charred in about 5. That’s less time than it takes to boil the pasta. Two people working in tandem can get this meal on the table in 7 minutes flat once the prep work is done. But just because this is a quick cook meal does not mean you can get sloppy about the details. I am quite finicky about scallops. Scallops should be served rare; if you cook them all the way through you are destroying their delicate nature. An overcooked scallop is a rubbery waste of money.
Just because I won’t submit to an overcooked scallop does not mean I want it undercooked or improperly cooked either. In fact, I like quite a bit of crunchy crusty searing on my scallops. But how to achieve this on the grill? Choosing good scallops is the first step. Many scallops are artificially pumped up and waterlogged by a chemical called STP. If possible, get scallops without this additive. The proper term for an STP free scallop is “dry”. Ask your fish monger if you are unsure. I have a whole post devoted to scallops and STP here. Of course, sometimes you just can’t be sure if your scallops are dry or not, especially if they have been frozen. In that case, it is up to you to do the drying yourself.
Start with raw, unfrozen or thoroughly thawed scallops. Lay them on a plate lined with 3 or 4 paper towels. Lay more paper towels over the top and gently press down with the palm of your hand. (Quite a lot of moisture can be removed this way). You may have to repeat the process several times with fresh paper towels. Leave them wrapped in paper towels on the counter until they come to room temperature. It’s a good idea to start with scallops that are at room temperature. I never see recipes that say this, but I believe it is an important step… and no, you won’t get food poisoning and die. Provided, of course, that you buy quality scallops from a reputable source, keep a semi-clean kitchen and cook them in a reasonable amount of time after coming to room temperature.
The most important thing to remember when grilling scallops is to have very clean grates on the grill before you start. Scallops stick easily. You don’t want to rip them to shreds when you turn them. Make sure you oil both the scallops and the grill before placing them onto the grates. The other key to excellent grilled scallops is to get the grates good and hot and make sure you cook them over direct heat. This may seem counter-intuitive to the delicate nature of a scallop, but we want to achieve our char marks quickly so that the interior stays rare and succulent, and the scallop doesn’t stick. Don’t overcook them; they should not have to cook more than 2 or 3 minutes. Trust me, they will finish cooking on the serving plate if you can just keep your greedy paws off them for a few minutes.
If the individual scallops are particularly thick, it may best to cut them in half horizontally before cooking. You really want them to be about an inch thick to cook properly. That’s it. The only hard part about it is deciding what to serve them with. I have chosen the simplest of herb pastas with olive oil and lemon.
See how seriously simple this meal is?
Grilled Scallops & Fennel
• 24 sea scallops (about 1 1/4 pounds), tough muscles removed
• 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil plus more for the grill
• Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, as needed
• 1 fennel bulb core, trimmed and thinly sliced; reserve the fronds for the pasta
Heat grill to medium-high. Toss the scallops with 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a small bowl until they are well coated. Slide 6 scallops onto each of 4 small skewers. Season with salt and pepper.
Set a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining 1/2 tablespoon olive oil. When the oil is very hot, nearly smoking, add the fennel in (as close to one layer as possible). Let it sit undisturbed until it begins to brown. Then stir and cook until the fennel wilts, approximately 5 more minutes.
In the meantime, place skewers on grill over direct heat. They should sizzle. Grill on one side until the scallops develop golden brown grill marks, 1 to 2 minutes. Turn them once and continue cooking another 1-2 minutes longer. They should be just barely cooked through and still quite rare. Remove from grill and allow them to rest 2 or 3 minutes.
Remove scallops from skewers. Serve warm with the fennel and fusilli (recipe follows).
Fresh Herb Fusilli
• 1/4 cup shallots, minced
• 1 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more for pasta water and seasoning
• 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
• 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 2 cups packed mixed fresh herbs, such as Italian parsley, tarragon, thyme, sage, very finely chopped
• 1/4 cup snipped fresh fennel fronds, very finely chopped
• 1 pound fusilli or other pasta
• Lemon wedges, as needed
• 2 tablespoon almonds, roughly chopped
• Grated Parmesan cheese, to taste (optional)
Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Add plenty of salt and then the pasta. Cook until the pasta is al dente according to package directions, about 7 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the shallots onto your cutting board, along with 1-teaspoon salt. Using the side of a chef’s knife, crush the mixture into a paste. The grit of coarse salt will assist in the process. Alternatively you may use a blender or mini-food processor; I like the more varied/rustic texture that comes from doing it by hand.
Transfer the shallots to a medium-sized serving bowl. Add oil and lemon juice, whisking to combine, then add the chopped herbs and fennel fronds and mix well. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
When the pasta is cooked, move it to the serving bowl with tongs. It is good to let a little of the water come with the pasta. You may need to add additional pasta water, but do not let it get soupy. Just enough liquid to help coat the pasta with the herb mixture. Garnish with lemon wedges, chopped almonds and Parmesan cheese (optional). Serve warm.
Thanks, Greg! We hope you all enjoy this lovely recipe. We can’t wait to try it!
Until tomorrow, foodies!
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