Scallops with ricotta-spring pea mash and chive oil

scallop-pea-mash1Welp, in typical Chicago fashion, Mother Nature has dumped a few more inches of snow across the city even though it’s technically Spring. Never fails, there’s always one last wintry slap in the face, and today is as good a day as any. While Mother Nature is dealing with her personality disorder, you can bring a little Spring into your kitchen with this dish.

I wasn’t totally sure how I’d make this vegetarian friendly without just serving up a plate of the mash and saying “bon appetit”. Looking around the kitchen, I spotted some potatoes on the counter and decided I would make “scalloped” potatoes for Terry. I cut them down to what a decent sized scallop would be, parboiled, then pan seared them to get the browned edges and finished them off in the oven. They actually looked better than my real scallops and I was proud of myself for being so clever. I had to use bay scallops because nobody had anything bigger, and they don’t sear up as good as larger ones, so I wasn’t able to get the browned caramelized color on them. But they tasted just fine.

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Methods of cooking weeks 5 – 8

Where the heck have you guys been? I’ve been waiting to tell you all about the last few weeks of class but…oh….wait, it’s me that’s been absent, not you. Woops!

Well, it’s been a heck of a few weeks, where do I start? We finally moved into some more “normal” types of food in this second half of the quarter. We covered risotto and making fresh pasta, both of which I love and am convinced that I will one day be a total expert on.

Sad little mussels mariniere.

Sad little mussels mariniere.

We revisited our friends of the sea and worked with some flounder, clams and mussels. I had a difficult time with the mussels. As you can imagine, they’re still alive when they come in to the kitchen. You have to wash them off and clean up any beards and the fresh water from the sink basically suffocates them so their shells open up a little bit in an effort to breathe. I found this pretty hard to do. I have been dealing with chicken and beef and whole fish, but none of them were alive when they came into the kitchen. So needless to say, I did not enjoy making the mussels mariniere.

The following week I made the most delicious beef stroganoff I can remember eating. I am enjoying my temporary hiatus from vegetarianism, but I don’t plan to be an omnivore full time once I’m done with this class. I am taking advantage of the situation because the likelihood of me recreating some of these meaty dishes for myself is quite low.

Fresh ricotta - worth every minute (literally) that it takes to make!

Fresh ricotta – worth every minute (literally) that it takes to make!

We also made ricotta and mozzarella cheese – easily two of my favorite things we’ve done so far this quarter. Ricotta is the easiest thing in the world to make and as my chef said, “learn how to make it and you’ll never buy it from the store again”. Truer words have never been spoken. I already made a second giant batch that I used in a pasta dish a couple weeks ago. It was heavenly!

I also had my first total failure. I completely scorched my beef bourguignon – a dish that I had been looking forward to making and using my omnivore grace period to eat. I totally decimated it. I didn’t have enough liquid in my pan when I put it into the oven and I never checked up on in until an hour in, and by then the devastation was complete. Lesson learned: always check your oven and check your food 5-10 minutes in to make sure it’s not overcooking. It was a sad loss.

I have only three more classes left this quarter, so there is still a bit of ground to cover, but I am looking forward to a break in the latter half of this month. This schedule combined with the awful winter is wearing on me and I am ready to kick back and relax a bit!