Pan Seared Sea Scallops with Parmesan Risotto and Wilted Spinach

I blame two things on this recipe.

  • Saltwater Grill in Panama City Beach, FL and their foodporn Pan Seared Diver Sea Scallops.
  • SkinnyTaste.com for posting this recipe that is remarkably similar to the entree at Saltwater Grill. Another win from Pinterest.

This was our first attempt at this recipe. The sear is darker on these scallops than both Saltwater Grill and SkinnyTaste.com, but the texture was right. I may try to sear in something other than cast iron next time. Scallops are on a One Day Sale at the local Whole Foods next Friday. So I may get another chance to do this sooner than later. The risotto was rich and creamy. Consider this a marriage building meal. It is not easy for one person to manage the risotto and the scallops at the same time. So this dinner was a team sport.

Seared Scallops over Wilted Spinach and Parmesan Risotto

Parmesan Risotto
Gina’s Weight Watcher Recipes
Servings: 3 • Size: 3/4 cup • Time: 30 minutes • Calories: 309 • Points: 6.5 pts

  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 2 tsp butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 4 cups fat free chicken stock
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan reggiano cheese
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley

Heat chicken stock in a small pot.

In a medium size heavy sauce pan, add butter on medium-low heat. Add shallots, sauté about 1 minute.

Add rice mixing well until well coated and transluscent, about 2 minutes.

Add wine, salt and pepper and mix well until it is absorbed into the rice.

Ladle 1 cup stock into rice and mix until all stock is absorbed, add another ladle, and continue adding and stirring until all broth is absorbed, about 20-25 minutes. Add parmesan cheese and parsley, mix well and serve.

Seared Scallops over Wilted Spinach
Gina’s Weight Watcher Recipes
Servings: 3 • Size: 5 oz • Time: 10 minutes • Calories: 172 • Points: 3.5 pts

  • 16 oz (about 12-14) sea scallops
  • salt and fresh pepper
  • 2 tsp butter
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 10 oz baby spinach, washed

Wash scallops and pat dry with a paper towel. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat a medium size pan on a high flame. When pan is hot, melt 1 tsp butter and place half of the scallops in the pan.

Sear without touching them for a few minutes until the bottom forms a nice caramel colored crust. Turn over and cook about another minute or 2, until the center is slightly translucent (you can check this by viewing them from the side) and the bottom is seared. Be careful not to overcook. Remove from the pan and set aside on a warm plate. Add addition tsp butter and cook remaining scallops.

Add olive oil to the pan and sauté shallots, add spinach, salt and pepper. Toss until spinach wilts.

Serve over spinach over risotto topped with scallops.

Perdomo Champagne Noir – Cigar review

Picked up a Perdomo Champagne Noir Robusto to smoke while I waited on the Boston Butt I smoked for the Alabama v. Arkansas game that we watched at home. Excellent stick. Picked it up at a local shop for $6.

This is my first cigar review, period. I’ve read plenty of them, so maybe I’ll work out a framework that works for me.

The Champagne Noir falls into the medium to full bodied spectrum of handmade cigars. It also falls into the lowest price point where I typically smoke. I tend to be able to find cigars I like at about $5, about $10 and special treats at $15 or more. I’ve smoked $40 cigars too. They were good, but I’m not sure that there’s enough of a difference between the $15-20 range and $40 for me to justify them on any more than an occasional basis. This isn’t my first Champagne Noir. It won’t be my last.

This was a Robusto cigar at a 5″ x 54 ring gauge. The cigar is made entirely from Nicaraguan tobacco. The wrapper is a Habano Maduro. The binder and filler are also from Nicaragua. The cigar was wrapped in cellophane. After removing the cigar from the cellophane, I immediately noticed the construction was very good. The cigar was tightly wrapped and consistently firm to the touch. The wrapper was veiny but not oily.

Prior to lighting the cigar, I noted smells of cocoa and some floral notes. I used my Xikar VX cutter to clip the cap. The pre light draw was smooth. And after toasting the foot of the cigar with my torch lighter, I was greeted with a slightly sweet first draw. Definitely heavy notes of cocoa on this cigar. This is one of those cigars that my wife is OK with me smoking around her. A couple weeks ago at the beach, she even decided she would taste it (and noted it tasted better than those nasty cigarettes I used to smoke several years ago).

The burn was also very even. If you look at the slideshow below, I did get one good ash column out of it before it broke off. The cigar didn’t burn unnecessarily hot, nor did it require maintenance re-lights. Start to finish the cigar took me just shy of an hour and a half watching the early SEC game.

Bottom line is that Perdomo has a great budget stick on their hands. This smokes better than a $6 cigar. I’ll keep smoking these. And I might even continue to let the wife take a draw from time to time. I tend to like cigars that are more full bodied than this. But this is just right for someone who likes light to medium bodied cigars looking to get into something with a little more oomph.

Boston Butt

Well, tonight is another slow smoke. This weekend was an Alabama away game in Fayetteville, Arkansas. We didn’t have tickets, so I thought what better way to support the Tide from home than by burning a pig in effigy. I had a 5.13lb trimmed Boston butt. At 1.5 to 2 hrs per lb to hit 195F plus an hour or more to rest, that meant getting up early. Kickoff was scheduled for 2:30 pm. Lunch was served about 2:20. #winning

Ingredients:
Yellow mustard
1 bone-in Boston Butt

Prepare butt for the Egg (the night before):

1. Remove the pork butt from the packaging. Run cold water over the meat. Blot dry with a paper towel.
2. Place butt, flat cap up, on a sheet of aluminum foil and rub mustard over the surface of the meat. Same rule as the brisket cook before this. This is the glue that will hold your rub on the meat.
3. Liberally apply your spice rub to the meat. Make sure to work the seasoning into notches in the meat.
4. Flip the butt over. Apply mustard and rub liberally to the other side.
5. Wrap in aluminum foil. Put the meat back in the fridge and let sit overnight.

Prepare the Big Green Egg (3:15 am):

1. You need a lot of natural lump charcoal for this one. Overfill the fire bowl with natural lump charcoal. Add in wood for smoke. I used apple wood for this smoke. Hickory and cherry also tend to be a hit for pork.
2. Start the fire. Again, like the brisket, you’re looking to start a slow, gradual fire, not a lava hot bed of coal.
3. Stay with the grill. It will take a few minutes for it to heat up, but once it begins to heat up and produce smoke, it will heat up relatively quickly. With your Egg, you’re looking to catch the temperature on the way up, because there is no good way to quickly get the temperature back down.
4. At about 220 degrees, I started to close down the vents. I’m trying to cook this at a dome temp of 250F (for a cooking grid temperature of about 225 or 230F)
5. Once the fire is stable and you’re close to your intended temperature, open the Egg and add the platesetter, inverted, for indirect heat. Put down a drip pan. Add about an inch of water to the drip pan. Place the cooking grid on the platesetter feet, over the drip pan.
6. Close the grill and allow the preheated grill to bring the platesetter and drip pan back up to temperature.

Add the butt to the Egg (4 am):

1. Open the Egg. Lay the butt, fat cap down, across the cooking grid and over the drip pan.
2. Close the lid. Stay with the grill until it returns to your target temp. Make sure your temperature stays stable for 30 minutes or so before you leave it unattended
3. I went back to bed. Smelling roughly like bacon.

After 4 or 5 hours, you should hit a temperature plateau:

1. For me this happened about 8:30 or 9 am. Since College GameDay starts on ESPN at 9 am Central, this worked out perfect.
2. Check the thermometer. My dome temp was still 250.
3. Since I was on a schedule, to make sure that I was on time, I used my digital meat thermometer pen. 150F. At this point, the meat is no longer taking on smoke and magic is happening inside.

10:30 am:

1. Fire is still burning. Temperature still on target
2. Insert digital thermometer. Still only 155F. This is not going to be ready in 7.5 hours (1.5 hours per lb).
3. I laid out two sheets of aluminum foil. And put a fresh towel in the dryer (yes, in the laundry room) to spin and get warm.
4. Pull the butt, wrap tightly in the aluminum foil. Wrap warm towel around the foil. Put in a cooler. You want for the butt to rest for no less than 1 hour before you slice it. I had to keep it warm for 5 and a half hours until lunch.

11:30 am:

1. Insert digital thermometer. 165. Now we’re moving.
2. I laid out two sheets of aluminum foil. And put a fresh towel in the dryer to spin and get warm.
3. Pull the towel out and load it into the cooler to begin warming.

1 pm:

1. Insert digital thermometer. 196F. Yes, I took a bite. Don’t judge.
2. Wrapped tightly in two sheets of aluminum foil. Pull towel out of pre-warmed cooler. Wrap towel around the butt.
3. Let rest. There are two phases to this rest. The first phase is resting, wrapped in the foil. The second phase is to open the foil and let it continue to rest. Plan for both phases of this rest to take at least an hour (total time).

2 pm:

1. Grab the shoulder bone. Twist and pull. It should come out with little effort.
2. Pull the pork with two forks. I went over this technique in the Chicken Pignoli Pasta. This may take a while. If your forearms get tired, wash them and use your hands.

Lunch (2:20 pm):

1. Serve on white buns. With cole slaw and the sauce of your choice. Dill pickle slices optional.
2. There will be leftovers. Share them with your friends.
3. Bama won. 52 – 0. Roll Tide!

Mongolian Beef

Tonight’s recipe comes from PinkBites.com. Thanks to Pinterest, I can now see other people’s pictures of foodporn and go and do likewise. So I figured I’d go ahead and give credit where credit is due. Thanks!!

Ingredients:

1 lb of flank steak, thinly sliced crosswise (we used pre-cut fajita meat)
1/4 cup of cornstarch
3 teaspoons of canola oil
1/2 teaspoon of grated ginger (about 1/2 inch piece)
1 tablespoon of chopped garlic (about 2 -3 large cloves)
1/2 cup of water
1/2 cup of soy sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
3 large green onions, sliced crosswise into thirds
White rice

Setup the rice cooker:

1. Add 1 cup white rice.
2. Add 2 cups water.
3. Press the button to begin heating the rice.
4. Wait till water comes to a boil and begins to reduce down.
5. Keep an eye on it and stir as needed so that the rice doesn’t stick to the walls of the cooker.

Prepare the meat:

1. Pat the steak slices dry and mix them with the corn starch.
2. Using your hands or a spoon, move them around to make sure all pieces are coated.
3. Place beef slices in a strainer and shake off excess corn starch.

Make the sauce:

1. Heat half of the oil in a large wok or saute pan at medium-high and add the garlic and ginger.
2. Immediately add the soy sauce, water, brown sugar and pepper flakes.
3. Cook the sauce for about 2 minutes and transfer to a bowl. Don’t worry if the sauce doesn’t look thick enough at this point. The corn starch in the beef will thicken it up later.

Cook the meat and assemble dish:

1. Turn the heat up and add the remaining oil to the wok. Add the beef and cook, stirring until it is all browned.
2. Pour the sauce back into the wok and let it cook along with the meat.
3. Add the green onions on the last minute so the green parts will stay green and the white parts crunchy.
4. Serve it hot with rice.

Tailgating with Beef Brisket

I’ve smoked pork butts and ribs in the past. But , until recently, I’d always been a little intimidated by beef brisket. I never felt comfortable holding a consistent low temp for as long as needed for a brisket until I moved to the Big Green Egg. My old smoker was leaky and drafty. Ribs and butts are forgiving enough for that to be OK, but a brisket always seemed to be an expensive experiment until I got my Egg. This is my second brisket. I had to pull this one off early in the morning and keep it hot until lunch time on the Quad at the University of Alabama. The good news is, other than the platesetter, this recipe didn’t require any specific equipment other than a disposable drip pan and a pair of tongs. I did not use an accessory to maintain the temperature, nor did I use a wireless thermometer to monitor the fire. I did use a ($10) digital pen thermometer to check the internal temperature and make sure the meat was fork tender the next morning. I planned to document this process beforehand, regardless of the results and put this up. Luckily, it worked out pretty well. This post is intended to document a single brisket cook, not necessarily be a guide for how to cook a brisket every time. For one, I am still learning this cut of meat. Also, cooking a 10 or 12 lb whole packer brisket (which I didn’t have for this cook) is going to take more time.

Ingredients:
Yellow mustard
Black peppercorns
Pilleteri’s Seasoning (composed of mostly garlic, onion, salt, red pepper)
1 beef brisket
Prepare the Big Green Egg (9:20 pm):
Other than seasoning the meat to your liking, this is the most important step of this recipe. If your fire is not right, you run the risk of it either going out or burning too hot. Brisket needs time to render the collagen before the meat will become tender. You’re looking to hit one of two pretty precise temperature ranges and keep the temp there for hours. I aimed to keep the grate temperature at the high end of the lower temperature range of 225 – 250F. This meant keeping a dome temperature of about 270.
1. You need a lot of natural lump charcoal for this one. Rather than pouring coal into the firebowl, I hand placed individual coals around the electric starter. I also hand placed 5 or 6 chunks of mesquite for smoke. I filled the firebowl and then allowed coal and wood to spill over into the fire ring as well. This is going to be a fairly long cook and you don’t want to disassemble your hot grill to re-light.
2. Start the fire. I use an electric starter. You want this to be a gentle and gradual fire. I left the electric starter in the grill for no more than 3 or 4 minutes. I opened the bottom vent completely and put the DMFT on, but rotated it open completely as well.
3. Stay with the grill. It will take a few minutes for it to heat up, but once it begins to heat up and produce smoke, it will heat up relatively quickly. With your Egg, you’re looking to catch the temperature on the way up, because there is no good way to quickly get the temperature back down.
4. At about 240 degrees, I started to close down the vents.
5. Once the fire is stable and you’re close to your intended temperature, open the Egg and add the platesetter, inverted, for indirect heat. Put down a drip pan (a 13×9 pan is the perfect size for the Medium Egg and a 5 lb flat cut brisket. Add about an inch of water to the drip pan. Place the cooking grid on the platesetter feet, over the drip pan.
6. Close the grill and allow the preheated grill to bring the platesetter and drip pan back up to temperature.
Prepare brisket for the Egg:
1. Remove the brisket from the packaging. Blot dry with a paper towel.
2. Trim away excess fat. Anything beyond 1/8 to 1/4″ is too much fat cap. The fat will help keep the meat moist, but you will lose some of your seasoning when you slice the meat if you don’t trim it some.
3. Place brisket, remaining flat cap up, on a sheet of aluminum foil and rub mustard over the surface of the meat. The mustard is the glue for your seasoning. It will cook off entirely and not leave a mustard flavor behind.
4. Crack black peppercorns across the mustard.I have a friend who uses black peppercorns almost exclusively as his rub. He literally crusts the brisket with black pepper. Regardless of whether you’re looking to use black pepper exclusively or a rub with other ingredients, you want to completely cover the mustard with seasoning.
5. Flip the brisket over. Apply mustard and rub liberally to the other side.
6. Cover in foil. Some people will tell you to let this sit overnight in the fridge. In this case, I wanted my Dad to see the entire process, so I did everything in a single session.
Add the brisket to the Egg (10 pm):
1. Open the Egg. Lay the brisket, fat cap down, across the cooking grid and over the drip pan.
2. Close the lid. Stay with the grill until it returns to your target temp. Check on it after about 30 minutes before you get comfortable enough to go to sleep.
3. Set a couple of alarms. I set one for 3:05 am and another for 5:30 am. I anticipated the meat to be ready after about 1.5 hours per lb. So I was looking for it to be finished between 5:30 and 6 am.
4. Go to sleep.
Alarm #1 (3:05 am):
1. Leave the lid closed.
2. Check the thermometer. My dome temp had risen to about 290. Not a crisis, but warmer than I wanted it to be.
3. At that point, I decided to open the grill and flip the brisket. If the temp had stayed between 270 and 280, I would not have opened it and flipped it. I also made some minor vent adjustments. I knew the temp wouldn’t drop immediately, but over time, this would bring my temp back to normal.
4. Go back to sleep.
Alarm #2 (5:30 am):
1. Fire is still burning. It returned to about 270 where I wanted it to be.
2. Insert digital thermometer. Different how-tos will tell you different target internal temps where your brisket will be fork tender (basically in a range from 185 to 205F). I was aiming to pull this somewhere around the 200F mark. At 5:34 am, it was at 204 and I was glad that I didn’t wait until 6 to get up and check it.
3. I laid out two sheets of aluminum foil. And put a fresh towel in the dryer (yes, in the laundry room) to spin and get warm.
4. Pull the brisket, wrap tightly in the aluminum foil. Wrap warm towel around the foil. Put in a cooler. You want for the brisket to rest for no less than 1 hour before you slice it. I had to keep it warm for 5 and a half hours until lunch.
Lunch (11:15 am):
1. Crossed my fingers. Unzipped the cooler. Pulled the aluminum foil wrapped brisket from the towel. Still hot to the touch!
2. Unwrapped foil and sliced the flat, across the grain.
3. At this point, I’m probably dealing with about 3.5 lbs of meat. It fed about 10 of us pre-game lunch. And there was a little leftover after the game. None of it made the drive home. Roll Tide!