Religion class, eighth-grade. Confirmation was just a couple months down the road and Ms. Magruder, our masculine homeroom teacher, informed us that we would soon be seen as adults in the Catholic church (scary) and had to pick a saint meaningful to us for the occasion. As a burgeoning classical clarinetist, I was a bit predictable and chose St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music. I wish I could remember the names my classmates picked, because I'd be curious to know if any picked St. James the Greater, the patron saint of shellfish. His emblem is the scallop shell and he is now my favorite saint. I wonder if there is a patron saint of butter (and no, not St. Pat of Butter), because if so, the two of them may have blessed the meal I made the other night.
I actually had the evening off from working at the restaurant, and after days of diner food followed by boring health food, I was ready for some homemade fine dining. Seared Scallops with Pinot Gris Butter Sauce seemed like it would fit the bill. The last time I went to Trader Joe's I decided to buy a bag of frozen New England Bay Scallops as an experiment. I know I know... after watching many an episode of Top Chef where the chefs are chastised for using frozen proteins, I know it's probably not the way to go, but I felt rebellious and wanted to defy the judges. Of course I forgot to take them out early and had to speed-thaw them (speed would suggest that the thawing would be a quick process, but it still took an hour). In the meantime, I decided to learn a little bit about my delicious friends. These many-eyed mollusks (they have 30 to 40 blue eyes along the edge of their bottom shell) are the only of their bivalve counterparts who can jump and swim. Bay scallops are usually no more than 2 inches across, and mine were a little smaller. Despite their slightly diminutive stature, they were simply delectable when drizzled -- ok, more like drowned -- with butter.
I admit, it's a little silly that the sauce for this dish had an entire of stick of butter in it, but that's why it tasted so damn good. Whisked into a base of shallots, thyme, Pinot Gris, chicken stock and heavy cream, the butter finished off this opulent sauce. I seared the scallops lightly, and managed to get some stuck to the pan, but got them out mostly in tact. Fast forward to plating: a bed of spinach lightly sauteed with lemon juice was topped with the scallops, the pinot gris butter sauce and toasted and slightly crushed pine nuts. I was hoping to make a magazine-quality dish, and I don't think I reached that goal aesthetically. By the time I was done, I was hungry, I kind of just slapped everything on the plate, but the flavor was definitely there. They may have been frozen, but the scallops were sweet and had a buoyant texture. Take that Tom and Padma!