Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Pan Seared Sea Scallops over Smoked Tomato and Corn Risotto and Baby Arugula Salad

I get it.  The title of this recipe seems to be a bit "outside the realm" for the everyday cook.  Though the majority of my recipes tend to be geared towards the guy's guy, every now and then it's time to pull out all the stops .  I was lucky enough to be joined by some good friends last night, including a couple who are getting married this weekend!  Perhaps a celebration of sorts was in order.  Perhaps there was also too much frontier whiskey consumed and songwriting into the late night hours, as my plans to get off to an early start this morning were, well . . . a bit delayed.

To be brutally honest, this recipe has too many ingredients.  With that said, sometimes you just have to go with it.  I had several odds and ends lying around that I needed to get rid of, and that's how this recipe came about.  Note:  Don't use your guests as guinea pigs unless you know what you are doing.

This dish presents great texture and flavor contrasts.  The corn in the risotto pairs well with the firm short grained arborio rice.  Crispy pancetta adds a nice bite to the tender scallops, and the cool baby arugula salad is a refreshing note to the comforting warmth of the risotto.  Basically, if you have some time, give this a try.

Note: The following recipe serves four (4)

1/4 Cup Pancetta, finely diced
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Medium Onion, diced
1 Cup Fresh Corn Kernals
1 Cup Tomato Sauce, in heavy puree
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
2 Cups Arborio Rice
1/2 Cup Dry White Wine
6 - 8 Cups Chicken Stock, warmed

2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
16 Large (U-10) Sea Scallops
Kosher Salt

Arugula Salad
2 Cups Baby Arugula
3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil (best quality)
1 Tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese, shaved

Begin by heating a large stainless steel skillet and a small cast iron skillet over medium heat.  In the cast iron skillet, add the pancetta and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until the fat is rendered and the pancetta is crisp.  Remove pancetta, reserving the fat, from skillet and allow to cool and drain on a paper towel.  Add the pancetta fat to the stainless steel skillet along with the olive oil.  Next add onions and allow to carmelize, about 12 - 15 minutes.  Return the cast-iron skillet to medium heat and add the corn.  Cook corn until kernals are tender and slightly chared on the outside.  Add tomato sauce to the corn, reduce heat to low, and allow the mixture to reduce and simmer while you finish up the risotto.  After the onions have carmelized, add the garlic and rice to the stainless skillet.  Toss the rice grains in the oil and onions, and cook grains for approximately 2 minutes.  Deglaze the pan with the white wine, and allow to simmer for 1 minute.  Ladle in 1 cup of stock, and stir the risotto.  Continue in this manner until rice grains are al dente and mixture is firm and creamy, about 25 - 30 minutes.  Finish the risotto by adding in the smoked tomato and corn sauce and mix thoroughly.

When risotto is near completion, heat a separate large cast iron skillet over medium high.  Add butter, and cook until foam begins to appear.  Pat scallops dry and add to skillet, careful not to crowd the pan.  Sear scallops, 2 -3 minutes on each side, season lightly with kosher salt.

As scallops are finishing, add the greens, oil, and vinegar to a mixing bowl and toss thoroughly.

To serve, plate a generous portion of risotto in the center of a large plate or shallow bowl.  Add four scallops around the perimeter of the risotto.  Next, top the risotto with the dressed greens.  Finally, add the cheese and crispy pancetta to the top of the salad.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Grilled Pizza with Italian Sausage, Black Olives, Red Onion, and Feta

With summer rapidly approaching, it's time to brush off those grill-skills (no pun intended) and get back to work.  My favorite grilled foods tend to be those that are typically not considered 'traditional' for grilling. 

Perhaps I get a bit bored with the classic fare. 

In any event, keep your eyes posted for several articles I'm writing for your favorite publications regarding 'alternative' grilling.  Since I finally had a night off, I went ahead and prepared one of my favorites to display here.  If you want to grill indoors, you can grill off the dough on a cast-iron grill pan, and then finish the pizza in an oven heated to 425 Degrees F.  This is a low-key dish that offers up all the comforts of traditional pizza, with a creative twist.  Once you've tasted the crisp charred crust, you'll think twice about delivery.

Pair this up with some fava beans and a nice Chianti :)

Grilled Pizza with Italian Sausage, Black Olives, Red Onion, and Feta

½ lb Mild Italian Sausage, casings removed
16 oz Frozen or Refrigerated Store-Bought Pizza Dough
¼ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Cup Tomato Sauce
8 oz Mozzarella Cheese, grated
¼ Cup Black Olives, sliced
¼ Cup Red Onion, thinly sliced
¼ Cup Feta Cheese, crumbled

Heat one side of the grill (grill-pan) to medium high; if using charcoal place coals on one side only. In a skillet over direct heat on the grill, brown sausage for 7 - 9 minutes; drain excess fat and set aside. Follow instructions on dough package to allow sufficient time for the dough to rise if needed. Drizzle the olive oil on a non-stick baking sheet. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough ball in half and roll each half in the oil to coat. Using your hands, roughly work the dough into two equal shapes of your preference, about 8-10 inches in diameter and ¼ inch thick. Make sure the thickness is consistent throughout. Using a paper towel dipped in olive oil, quickly brush the entire grill grate to create a non-stick surface. Carefully place each portion directly over the hot surface of the grill, catching any edges using tongs. After roughly 1 minute, the top of the dough will become puffy and the underside will stiffen, leaving nice grill marks. Immediately flip each portion using tongs and place on the cool side of the grill. Spread an even layer of the tomato sauce on top of each portion, leaving the edges clean to create a crust. Next, top each portion with mozzarella cheese. Working quickly, spread an even layer of the sausage, black olives, red onion, and feta cheese on top of each pizza. Move dough back towards the heat, but not completely over direct heat. Using tongs, continue to rotate each pizza every 45-60 seconds, careful not to burn, to ensure each section receives high heat. Continue for 6-8 minutes covering the grill from time to time, until the top is bubbly and the cheese has melted. Cut each pizza into quarters and serve immediately.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Show Tonight

For those in Atlanta, come out tonight to the Peachtree Tavern to catch myself along with artists Craig Campbell, Cole Swindell, and Michael Carter... and a few special guests!  Cold beer and country music.

To America!


Friday, May 7, 2010

Charbroiled Montreal Strip Steaks with Spring Mix Greek Salad

If you are thinking McCormick's Montreal Steak Seasoning, please stop.  You might as well buy a bag of salt if you think that qualifies as seasoning.  Instead, I'm using the real stuff straight from the source, Schwartz's Deli in Montreal.  Check out the picture below and you'll find a nice array of dried herbs and spices, without a load of salt.

I could devote an entire day writing about the city of Montreal.  The food, the women, the culture . . . basically, if you haven't been.  Go!

This is a quick weeknight meal that's packed with flavor.

Bon appetit!

Charbroiled Montreal Strip Steaks with Spring Mix Greek Salad
2 8 oz Strip Steaks
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Schwartz's Montreal Steak Seasoning
4 Cups Spring Mix Salad Blend
1 Roma Tomato, seeded and diced
1/2 English Cucumber, diced
1/4 Small Red Onion, sliced paper thin
Aged Balsamic Vinegar
Kosher Salt
Fresh Cracked Pepper
Feta Cheese

Generously coat steaks in olive oil and allow to rest at room temperature.  Bring a grill/broiler to medium high heat.  Add steaks to direct heat and grill 1-2 minutes, turn 45 degrees, and grill for another 1-2 minutes.  Flip steak, season well, and cook for another 2-3 minutes for medium, or to your preferred taste.  Remove steaks from heat and rest.  Meanwhile, combine one part vinegar to three parts olive oil, and season with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper.  Whisk mixture until combined.  Add salad blend and dressing into a mixing bowl and toss until greens are evenly coated.  Begin plating by placing a handful of dressed greens on one side of the plate.  Top evenly with diced tomato, cucumber, and red onion.  Next, add crumbled feta cheese to taste.  Finally, add steak to plate and serve.


Hopefully by now many of you have seen the devastation that's hit Nashville.  I was fortunate to not suffer any severe damage, however much of the town has been destroyed. 

I'd encourage everyone to send a simple text, REDCROSS to 90999, to donate $10 to the relief efforts. 

Nashville is a proud town full of hard-working people.  However, many need your support.

And by all means, the honky-tonks are now open, serving up cold beer and country music, so come see us!

To donate online, click here.


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Mother's Day Brunch

Looking for the perfect gift for the MOST important woman in your life?  Check out this piece I just wrote for our friends over at AskMen.  Don't forget to take care of Mom!