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This recipe is part of the “Celebratory Goose Dinner” miniseries. For the complete menu, timetable, and printable shopping list, see the introductory post.

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…or, according to my handwritten notes on the printout of this recipe, “Rock star scallops! BEST RECIPE!” I first came across this recipe when searching for a special appetizer to make for my sister’s elopement. Enter the recipe below. It made the cut — and an impression — and I’ve been dying for an excuse to make them ever since. Plus Mr. Manly likes them. Clearly a no-brainer start to our fancy New Year’s Eve dinner. Cooking tips are included at the end.

Bay Scallops & Applewood Bacon with a Port Wine Reduction
from Gourmet, October 2005, adapted from Marc Forgione of BLT Prime, New York City

Port wine reduction

  • 2 cups (500 ml) Ruby Port
  • ½ cup superfine granulated sugar (you can make your own by whizzing regular granulated sugar a few times in a food processor; just don’t substitute regular sugar)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons whole black peppercorns
  • 2 fresh mint leaves, torn into bits

Scallops

  • 6 thin slices applewood-smoked bacon (¼ lb), cut into thirds
  • 18 bay scallops (preferably Nantucket; ⅓ lb), tough muscle from side of each discarded if attached (if you can’t get bay scallops, you can use sea scallops cut lengthwise into thirds)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

For Port wine reduction:
Bring Port, superfine sugar, peppercorns, and mint to a simmer in a 2-quart saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, then carefully ignite Port with a kitchen match, letting flames die down (this will take a few minutes). Simmer over moderately low heat until sauce is thickened and reduced to about ½ cup, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and cool to warm. May be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Reheat before serving.

For scallops:
Heat a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, then cook bacon until some fat has rendered and edges of bacon start to brown, about 1½ minutes per side. Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain.

Pat scallops dry and season with salt and pepper. When bacon is cool enough to handle, wrap a piece of bacon around each scallop and pierce scallop with a wooden pick to secure. Scallops may be wrapped in bacon, but not sautéed, 4 hours ahead and chilled, covered. Sauté just before serving.

Heat oil and butter in cleaned skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté scallops, turning over once, until bacon is browned and scallops are opaque, about 5 minutes total. Transfer to a plate and serve with Port reduction for dipping.

Tips from The Hungry Crafter:

  • If you do in fact have to substitute sea scallops for the bay scallops, remember to cut them down to a smaller size! On the same note, before you cut your bacon in thirds, check that the length will be enough to go around the entire circumference of the scallop. Otherwise you will not have bacon-wrapped scallops so much as scallops with a bolero jacket (see photo).
  • When making the reduction this last time around, the Port simply refused to ignite, and I gave up after five tries. It made no noticeable difference to the reduction, so don’t get too hung up on this step.
  • When cooking the scallops, don’t be afraid of the heat! Also, make sure to pat your scallops as dry as possible — this will help you get that nice golden sear.
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One of the many discoveries I had during my 6 weeks at Cambridge Culinary was that I like fennel. I had wrongly assumed that I didn’t like fennel because I didn’t like licorice, and therefore didn’t like anise, WHICH I mistakenly thought was the seed from a fennel plant. Live and learn — turns out that, while similar, anise and fennel seeds are NOT the same thing. Given my love for spicy Italian sausage, this doesn’t surprise me too much.

The recipe that turned me around was one that I originally scoffed at…until I tasted it.  WOW. The Fennel Corn Chowder from the soups class at Cambridge Culinary is to die for. (I also thought that I didn’t like corn chowder up until this particular recipe made its way into my sweaty palms.) To start off, it’s got bacon in it. Score 1. Second, it has fresh roasted corn in it. By roasting the corn first, then adding the kernels to the soup at the tail end of cooking, the corn stays firm and maintains a nice snap when you bite it. Also, the process of roasting the corn and then simmering the cobs in with the broth infuses the entire soup with a smoky corn flavor reminiscent of something pulled out of a lobster bake pit. Score another point. The recipe is more or less the same as this one from Big Oven, minus the cayenne sauce (dash of cayenne pepper never hurt anyone, though). Next time I make it, I’ll post pictures, I promise.

In the meantime, I’ve been trying to use Deborah Madison’s Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America’s Farmers’ Markets cookbook as much as I can. Unfortunately, I haven’t found it to be overly helpful with the types of things I’ve been bringing home from my CSA. I’d like to try and find a cookbook that focuses on the specifics of New England crops and seasons instead (suggestions, anyone?)

Having warmed up to fennel, however, I did take it upon myself to try Deborah’s recipe for Pasta with Golden Fennel, making the fresh ricotta variation.

Blend fresh ricotta, garlic, sea salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon zest

Brown chopped fennel in oil, then braise in water and lemon juice until soft

Mix it all together, toss with pasta, then garnish with minced fennel greens and shaved parmesan

It was good — you got the hearty satisfaction of warm comfort food with the summery zip of lemon and delicate flavors of fresh ricotta. Next time around, though, I think I’d steer it more solidly into comfort food territory and reduce the lemon flavor, add some grilled chicken and perhaps mushrooms. Or bacon. Because everything’s better with bacon.

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