I know you don’t want to spend the day in the kitchen, however, so I’ve got some high-end mid-week dishes for you that may cost a few more pennies a plate but won’t keep you chained to the stove when you could be lakeside, enjoying the races.
Scallops Seared in Garlic Butter
It doesn’t get easier or more elegant than a plateful of golden scallops, tender and tasty, pricey but worth it. What better way to mark a holiday on the water?
If you haven’t cooked scallops often you will need to remove the small muscle just on one side — it pulls away easily and is not really edible, so throw it away.
I discovered the pairing of hot scallops and icy cold cucumber by accident when I was desperate for a quick party appetizer and didn’t have any bacon. I skewered the scallops on toothpicks with a piece of cucumber about the same size. It turned out to be a winning combination and whenever I’m cooking scallops, even if it’s just for me, I serve cucumber on the side. Allow four large scallops — the only ones that will do for this — per lucky person.
2 tsp. each butter and vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed but left whole
16 large scallops
1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper
chilled English cucumber, sliced paper thin
Combine butter, oil and garlic in a heavy frying pan and cook until garlic starts to turn brown. Discard garlic. Sprinkle salt and pepper all over scallops and add to hot pan. When brown on one side flip and cook until brown on the other. Serve on top of or alongside icy cold cucumber slices.
Well-Rubbed Strip Loin
The beauty of strip loin is you don’t have to marinade it. A tasty dry rub and half an hour at room temperature is all this fine piece of steak needs to satisfy and impress.
These are perfect for grilling but delicious pan fried with the heat as high as it can go, flipped after a few minutes and allowed to rest until the juices are quiet enough to stay put when you cut through the tender meat.
Naturally, this rub works just as well with any steak you like, and is also a great mixture for a roast or to add to a beef stew, stir-fry or casserole. This amount will be enough for four good-sized steaks, but keeps perfectly for several weeks in a sealed container, so you can make lots, take out just what you need and moisten with olive oil.
1 tsp. each dried rosemary and thyme
1 tsp. cumin seeds
2 bay leaves, fresh or dried, torn into small pieces
2 tsp. paprika, hot and smoked if possible
2 tsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. each garlic and onion powder
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 to 4 tbsp. olive oil
Place rosemary, thyme, cumin seeds and bay leaves in a spice grinder and process until powdered. If you prefer you can use the rosemary and thyme as they are, use ground cumin and omit the bay leaves altogether, or substitute Old Bay seasoning mix. Stir in paprika, brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, dry mustard, salt and pepper. Add enough olive oil to form a thick but not oily paste. Rub vigorously into steaks on all sides and allow to sit at room temperature 30 minutes.
Barbecue or fry until done to your taste but however you like them, let them sit a good long time before serving to preserve as much of the juice in the meat as possible.
Pecan-Coated, Pan-Fried Lamb Chops
Looking at the price, you’d think that lamb chops had gold bones in them, but nothing compares to the that succulent, juicy first bite that makes you almost forget how much they cost.
This recipe might just do that for you. Simple but so elegant, perfect served from piping hot to room temperature, and especially enjoyable on a holiday evening out on the deck with a cold glass of wine and maybe a simple bean or pasta salad or roasted potatoes.
I always find it difficult to guess how many lamb chops to serve per person because there are never any left no matter how many I cook, but I’d allow two or three each at least. You can grill these if you like, but indirect heat only and cooked to medium-rare or they will dry out and you will cry.
1 egg white
1 tbsp. hot grainy mustard
8 lamb chops
1/2 cup each finely chopped pecans and fresh breadcrumbs
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper
grated zest from 1 lime
vegetable oil for frying
Whisk egg white and mustard together and pour over chops, rubbing them vigorously. Mix together pecans, breadcrumbs, garlic, rosemary, salt, pepper and lime zest and dip chops in mixture, pressing firmly on each one to help the coating adhere. Allow to sit 15 minutes, preferably on a wire rack, to set the coating and dry out a little.
Fry in about 1/4 inch of hot oil and drain on paper towels. Squeeze a little fresh lime juice on top before serving.
Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John’s. Questions may be sent to her c-o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John’s, N.L., A1E 4N1.