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Angel Hair with Scallops and Arugula

May 8, 2007

Angel Hair with Scallops and Arugula

What do I do after a week of bad kitchen experiments? Cook something I’ve never made before, preferably something with a high chance of failure! Because I’m crazy like that. Not only had I never cooked scallops before, I’d never even eaten them, and thus had no idea what they were supposed to be like. Miraculously, they turned out, according to Mr. X, “perfectly.” Maybe I’m not such a kitchen klutz after all.

I’d been wanting to try scallops for awhile, in my eternal quest to always be cooking things i’ve never had before. I saw this recipe in the Williams-Sonoma Pasta cookbook and I thought the blend of ingredients sounded interesting–pine nuts, capers, arugula, lemon. It looked relatively easy, but still elegant and impressive. Which is exactly what it is. This would be an awesome first date dinner, and would guarantee at least some smooches.

Angel Hair with Scallops and Arugula

The original recipe made four to six servings. I halved it, and this makes just enough for two dinner servings.

  • 1-2 T. olive oil
  • 8 large scallops (about 3/4 lb.)
  • salt and pepper
  • 4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme, minced
  • zest from 1 small lemon
  • 2 T. butter
  • 2 small shallots, chopped
  • about 1/4 lb. angel hair pasta, or enough for two people
  • 1/2 c. chicken stock
  • juice from 1 small lemon
  • 1/4 c. pine nuts
  • 1/8 c. capers
  • 3 big handfuls of baby arugula

Preheat the oven to 350F and put a large pot of salted water on to boil. Spread the pinenuts out over a small baking sheet, and once the oven is heated, toast them for about 5 or 6 minutes, until they are fragrant but not browned. Set them aside to cool.

Rinse the scallops off. You might have to cut the muscle on the side off. Mine were already de-muscled, though, so I can’t really tell you how to do that. I would assume with a knife. Pat them dry with a paper towel, and sprinkle them with a little bit of salt and pepper.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once it’s very hot and shimmery, add the scallops. You might have to cook them in two batches. You don’t want to crowd them. Sear them on one side for two minutes, and then flip them over and cook for another minute before removing them to a bowl and cooking up the second batch. Don’t worry too much if they stick to the pan. You’ll eventually de-glaze and scrape up all the tasty browned bits. Once the second batch is done, add the first batch back to the pan, along with the thyme and the lemon zest. Cook it all together for another minute or so, and then transfer the whole shebang back to the bowl.

Excellent first date pasta

Lower the heat under the skillet and add the butter and shallots. Stir it all together until the butter is melted. Let them cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are soft and starting to brown, about 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, add the pasta to the boiling water and let it cook for about 4 minutes. (The package directions on my pasta, Barilla brand, said 6-7 minutes but it really didn’t need that long.)

Once the shallots are soft and cooked, add the chicken stock and lemon juice to the pan to de-glaze. Scrape up all the browned bits on the bottom of the pan, turn the heat up a little bit, and let it all cook for another 3 or 4 mintues, until it starts to thicken a bit.

Drain the pasta well, and add it to the frying pan. Add back the scallops and thyme, with any accumulated juices, as well as the toasted pine nuts and capers. Stir it all together for about 3 minutes to finish cooking the scallops and to mix everything up well. Then add the arugula and stir it together until the arugula starts to wilt.

pasta-and-wine.jpg

Riesling

Mr. X brought over a delicious Riesling from Alsace which was a perfect pairing, because he’s good at that kind of thing. It was simple and just barely sweet and added a nice balance to the briny-ness of the scallops and the mustardy-ness of the capers. I don’t really know how to talk about wine so good yet, but if you’re trying to impress someone with your wine and dinner prowess, this K. Gisselbrecht riesling and some fancy scallops will totally knock their socks off, I suspect. I’m not sure if I knocked Mr. X’s socks off, because I think we were both really tired.

In future, I might cook scallops just a little bit more, but I think we’ve already covered that I like my fish overcooked. But I was pretty impressed by how they turned out–cooked mostly through but still with that soft, kind of squishy seafood thing going on. And for some reason I didn’t expect them to taste so seafoody, but they were nice and very mildly briny and oceany. God, I need to work on my adjectives.

All in all, I think I’ve got my kitchen mojo back or whatever. At least I hope so.

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