Maine Sea Scallops, a Winter Delicacy

This is the first in our guest writer series”What’s Cooking in Maine” by our friend and accomplice Alice Seeger of Belfast.

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Yesterday brought us a layer of fresh snow…and scallops for dinner.  But this story actually started in June, 2014 when I attended Maine Fare Festival in Belfast. I spent two tasty hours learning about the sweet, succulent scallops harvested in the coastal waters of Maine. Touge Brawn of Maine Dayboat Scallops gave a scallop cooking demonstration, she’s probably the most knowledgeable person on the subject. As she shared her knowledge of scallop fishing and state regulations she prepared and handed around samples of simply prepared Maine Scallops. I couldn’t wait till scallop season for a chance to try some of her recipes!

Touge explained the scallops harvested in state waters are strictly managed by the Maine’s Department of Marine Resources (DMR) in an effort to maintain a healthy population of scallops. Maine scallops are harvested by either diving or dragging using small boats that return to port each day. They are ‘dry packed’ using no preservatives. The scallop season runs from December 1 to April 15 to avoid conflicting with the lobster industry. If, however, the DMR determines the scallop population too low they can close some fishing areas much earlier, making Maine scallops not only superior to other scallops but also somewhat rare. Add that to the list of great reasons to live in Maine!

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Main Street Market in Stockton Springs

The best way to get good Maine scallops is to know a fisherman, or get them from a reputable fish monger or lobster pound. Young’s Lobster Pound in East Belfast offers scallops, but I bought mine in Stockton Springs at the Main Street Market (10 minutes from the campground). If you’re not in Maine you can order dry packed scallops online from MaineDayboatScallops. The color of fresh scallops should range from pale beige to creamy pink, and the meat should have a clean, fresh smell with a moist sheen.

There are lots of wonderful recipes available for scallops. Pan seared, poached, skewered and grilled, immersed in lime juice for Ceviche, simmered in cream for chowder, by starting with fresh Maine scallops it’s hard to go wrong. Of course bacon always works well with any scallop recipe. Add honey to bacon drippings for searing scallops and you’ll think you died and went to heaven.  The other day I was inspired by a sign on the sidewalk outside Vinolio on Main Street in Belfast. I decided to give this combination a try.

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Sign outside of Vinolio on Main Street in Belfast offers a suggestion for tasty scallops
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Infused Olive Oil and flavored Balsamic vinegars enhance recipes and brighten salads.

 

Preparing scallops
If it has not already been removed by the fish monger, peel away the tough abductor muscle on the side of the scallop.
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Arrange scallops on paper towel and give them a light sprinkle of sea salt so they are completely dry.
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Place scallops in a screaming-hot skillet, do not let them touch one another.
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Turn after about 2 minutes to brown the other side

Seared Scallops with Bacon and Cauliflower-Parsnip Puree

  • 1 medium head cauliflower (about 2 pounds), cut into 1-inch pieces (about 6 cups including stems) 
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt or coarse salt 
  • Freshly ground pepper 
  • 2 or 3 good sized parsnips, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1/2 lb sliced bacon
  • 12 sea scallops, tough muscles removed 
  • 6 tablespoons Blood Orange Fused Olive Oil, or strained bacon drippings
  • 1/2 lemon or Grapefruit White Balsamic Vinegar
  1. Remove the tough muscle from each scallop.
  2. Place scallops on a paper towel to remove moisture, sprinkle with sea salt and a bit of freshly ground pepper.
  3. Place scallops in a bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons of Blood Orange Olive Oil, marinate for at least one hour.
  4. Put cauliflower and parsnips with a pinch of salt, and 1 cup water into a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower and parsnips are tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Pour off the liquid. Working in batches, puree in a food processor, filling no more than 2/3 full each time. or use an immersion blender. Season with salt and pepper. Cauliflower-parsnip puree can be refrigerated up to 2 days; reheat over low heat until warm, stirring occasionally.
  5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Arrange bacon strips on a rimmed baking sheet, bake until brown and crisp, 15 to 20 minutes, checking often and turning slices as they brown. Remove from pan to a plate covered with paper towels to absorb excess bacon fat. Keep warm.
  6. Place 4 tablespoons of Blood Orange Olive Oil (or strained bacon fat) in a skillet. Heat skillet to screaming hot! Be sure to have your fan on, it will produce some smoke and watch the skillet.
  7. Add scallops, be sure they do not touch one another. Sear scallops for about 2 minutes, each side.
  8.  Spoon cauliflower-parsnip puree onto plates, add crumbled bacon, top with scallops.
  9. Give them a squeeze of lemon or a dash of Grapefruit White Balsamic Vinegar.
  10. ENJOY!!

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Clean Up Weekend 2008

Yesterday I walked around checking out the gardens and found blooming crocuses by the beach and along the stream towards the ocean tenting area…We open in exactly one month!  For a moment there was the exhilaration in my stomach of sitting on top of a roller coaster before it zooms down the hill as I looked at the knee deep patches of snow…but I go through this ritual of astonishment every Spring.

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This morning I woke up thinking about what we should eat during clean-up weekend…you know it’s true…this campground really is my life…in my sleep I’m planning doughnuts and yogurt shakes for people I might not even have met yet! 😉  But let’s not dwell on my obsessions…

In keeping with the tradition that started last year, we’ll kick-off  Saturday morning with homemade doughnuts.  I’ll use my grandmother’s recipe with a hint of nutmeg and we’ll have brown paper bags of cinnamon sugar or plain white sugar if you want to give them a good shake for added sweetness…of course we’ll have Rock City coffee and OJ to help rinse them down.  Continuing the sugar theme for energy, I as thinking that we’d have homemade marshmallows (some with roasted coconut) and decadent hot chocolate (my grandmother’s recipe too made with chocolate bars and condensed milk) available for an afternoon snack break by the ocean bonfire if it’s not too windy…or by the fireplace in the rec hall if we need the shelter.

We’ll need to balance the sweets with something savory at for lunch so we’ll fire up the beach BBQ and roast hotdogs, hamburgers and veggie burgers…adding some pickles and carrots for color.  I haven’t asked Jim, Becky and Lorrie yet, but I’m hoping that they’ll cook sweet potato and regular fries while we stand around and debate which is better.  Then for supper, I was thinking that we could either roast a couple of turkeys or maybe grill spareribs on the wood fire…I’ll have to see which is more available when the time comes…but if you all bring the sides, we’ll have a terrific potluck supper…maybe followed by some scratch ticket/lottery games in case any of us are lucky enough to become big winners…one can only hope!

So now that the menu is planned, the dates are as always, Mother’s Day Weekend, May 9-11.  Everyone’s welcome until we run out of space but I need you to contact us ahead of time so that I know how much food to prepare.  Basically, we have a list of chores that includes raking, painting, gardening, playground creating, building and spreading good cheer…we offer the camping, you offer a few hours on Saturday…it almost always rains so dress in layers…and like I said, EVERYONE is welcome!

This a great way to see the park if you’ve never been here, a chance to re-connect if you’re an old friend and a perfect venue for making new friends and getting excited about camping.  If you’d like to join us, call me at 207.548.6059 or send me an e-mail at relax@campocean.com.  Either way, tell me how you camp (you’ll choose your perfect site when you get here) and the number of adults, children and pets who will be coming with you…oh, and tell me the ages of the kids so I can plan something special for them.  If you want to come on Thursday or stay until…we can work something out.

I’m off to the gardens for a few hours in the unexpected sunshine,

Astrig