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Our friend Adam has a great kitchen in his home in Inman Park, so we proposed hosting a dinner there once a month — Adam does the shopping and hosts, Nick cooks, and we all chip in for the cost of ingredients.  Tonight was our trial run.  We made pan seared scallops over gouda grits, a lovely salad and bananas foster for dessert. When Nick and I cook — especially when we try something ambitious or with many moving parts like tonight — the kitchen usually looks and sounds like a war zone. “You’re doing it wrong!” is probably the most oft heard volley, followed closely by, “This is a fucking disaster.” While Nick and I are unfazed by each other’s heat-of-the-moment kitchen criticisms and freak-outs, I think it makes our friends uncomfortable — so we’re working on using our inside voices (as in, inside our head and not verbalized at all).  Anyway, tonight’s effort was quite the gourmet feast — easily the best scallops we’ve made, an outstanding salad, and a new favorite dessert!

The reduction (start cooking this first — goes on the edge of the plate, to be eaten at will with the scallops and grits)

First, saute onion in olive oil.  Then add some fresh diced tomatoes, crushed garlic and some diced andouille sausage.  The tomatoes will make a lot of juice; cook at a high simmer until reduced.

Deglaze the pan with chicken stock and add a little homemade barbecue sauce (or whatever interesting BBQ sauce you have on hand).  Continue cooking at a high simmer to concentrate the flavors, adding more stock as necessary.

Season with fresh ground black pepper (probably won’t need salt if your stock is salty enough)

The grits (this recipe makes 2-3 servings; I tripled it to feed six, but we had some left over — plan for 20 minutes or so for this to cook):

  • 1/2 cup organic white grits from the DeKalb Farmers Market
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • salt and pepper
  • sharp cheddar
  • gouda

Bring milk and cream to a full rolling boil; add the grits slowly so as not to disturb the boil.  Cook on high for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low (lowest setting on my gas cooktop — should be BELOW a simmer) and stir occasionally.  I almost always have to add more milk as it thickens to prevent them from setting up like portland cement.  Shred (or slice thinly) some good sharp yellow cheddar, then some gouda.  Usually there is considerably more cheddar than gouda (perhaps a 5 or 6 to 1 cheddar to gouda ratio — most of the cheesiness should come from the cheddar, with just a little gouda for flavor — I tried using all gouda once, but it was actually pretty gross). I usually have to add more milk with the cheese, too — those grits just keep soaking it up, but in the process they get creamier and creamier. This is my standard process for breakfast cheese grits, but I only use cheddar — no gouda — in the morning.

The scallops

Get large sea scallops, dry pack if you can find them (for an amusing treatise on the virtues of dry pack vs. water injected scallops, click here).

Pat scallops as dry as you can get them, and pat them some more. Season with a little sea salt and fresh black pepper.

Heat a mixture of unsalted butter and olive oil in a large skillet — you want this to be on the highest heat your range will provide. Heat until oil is just below the smoke point, then add scallops.  Depending on their size, you’ll want to cook 1-2 minutes on the first side.  Ideally, the scallops will release from the pan when they are ready to turn — but they may need some coaxing with a set of tongs.  Then flip and cook another minute more.  The key is to get them nice and brown, and cooked through without overcooking them and turning them into a gross rubbery mess.

Remove from heat and place onto cheese grits, with reduction on the edge of the plate. Voila!

For salads, Nick and I usually whip up some homemade Caesar dressing — or just use olive oil and balsamic vinegar and dress it right at the table. But we were looking for something different — and Nick found a tasty-sounding vinaigrette recipe online that I decided to try.  It was fantastic — highly recommended and we’ll definitely serve it again.

  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped (about one small bunch)
  • 10 big leaves fresh basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons honey

Combine all ingredients in food processor (I used Nick’s little mini-prep cuisinart instead of my big one).  I also added more honey — probably close to a tablespoon in all.

For the salad, I like a mix of romaine and green leaf lettuce –washed and dried with a salad spinner so the wash water does not dilute the dressing. I added sliced carrots, cucumbers and red bell peppers. And feta cheese. I made the salad and dressing in our own kitchen before we headed to Adam’s.  We tossed the salad with this dressing just before serving — it was a big hit!

The coup de grace was our dessert — bananas foster.  I’ve never actually made it before, but after tonight we are going to add it to our stable.  Thanks to Paula Deen for this super easy and delicious recipe — only takes five minutes to prepare, 7-8 to cook… And it’s quite a show when you light it on fire.

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 4 bananas peeled and halved, cut lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup dark rum

Melt butter in a large skillet. Add brown sugar and stir together. Add the bananas and cook until caramelized over medium-high heat. Pour in the rum and catch a flame off of the gas stove or a BBQ lighter. Stand back when ignited and flambe. Turn off heat. Let flame die down on its own. Serve over vanilla ice cream.

Many recipes call for banana liqueur, which I detest — that concentrated, fake banana flavor is disgusting and overpowering.  This version has a great natural banana flavor.  Some recipes also call for cinnamon, which I did not try, but would probably be good.  Perhaps next time…

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