Friday, April 09, 2010

A trip down Memory Lane

One of the best parts of owning a food market was going to the Fancy Food Show in New York every summer. It was an opportunity to see new trends, sample new products and find new lines to carry. And to eat meals in restaurants offering cuisines not available in Memphis.

One of my favorites was Chez Jacqueline, just north of Houston (in New York pronounced "how-ston"), above the fashionable area known as Soho (South of Houston). Jacqueline was a charming and extremely outgoing French woman from Provence. I made a point of eating there each trip.

Last spring I went back to New York. It was my first time in several years, and Chez Jacqueline was on my must-do list. Unfortunately, Jacqueline had sold her restaurant, and it seemed to lack the warmth, charm and especially the crowded tables of the one I remembered.

One dish I loved in the old days there was a scallop dish, and I was able to come very close to reproducing it. Recently I had friends coming for dinner and I decided to make it again. It was just as good as I remembered. I used "U-10 dry" sea scallops, which you should be able to order from your market seafood department. Any size sea scallops will do but make sure they are dry, in other words, not processed, injected with a liquid preservative.

The smoky flavor of the chipotle Tabasco is important. Don’t use regular Tabasco. It won’t have that flavor, and is much much hotter than the chipotle variety.

I keep prepared pesto, either purchased or home-made, in the fridge all the time, but you can use 1/4 cup tightly packed fresh basil, pureed with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, to replace it.

I served it with rice pilaf and roasted asparagus. If you make the sauce and rice dish ahead, you can roast the asparagus while finishing the scalllops, so it’s a perfect dish for entertaining. Just don’t forget plenty of crusty bread to soak up the last of the sauce.


¼ cup olive oil
1 large onion, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced
2 tbsp. garlic, finely minced
1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes, with juices
1 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lime juice
2 tbsp. chipotle Tabasco sauce
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 cup basil pesto
1/4 cup golden raisins

To finish:
1 lb. sea scallops
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
Chopped parsley for garnish

Make the sauce: in a large skillet, heat the oil and add the garlic, stirring for about 30 seconds. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until just starting to turn golden. Stir in the tomato and cook another minute or two. Add the orange and lime juices, chipotle Tabasco, cinnamon, basil pesto and raisins. Simmer for about 20 minutes.

When ready to serve, heat a skillet large enough to hold the scallops in one layer. Brush lightly with vegetable oil and add the scallops. Brown quickly, being careful not to overcook.

Reheat the sauce gently and put a pool of it on the plate. Top wit scallops and sprinkle with minced parsley.
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