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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January is for Planning

December always seems to be a blur because of holiday decorations, parties and the inevitable bumpy shifting of gears from closing the campground to being closed. By the second week of January we’re rested, filled with happy memories and fueled to begin planning for the summer season to come…impatiently caught between enjoying our icy imprisonment (the road into the campground thawed from its slick icy state just last night) and projecting our thoughts towards the camping, gardening and arts that will fill the summer months.

Icy Days...when the water is coldest, the mussels are sweetest
Icy Days…when the water is coldest, the mussels are sweetest

In our “Ice Prison” as friend Anna calls it, I’ve been spinning, weaving, sewing and simmering in the pleasure of making things to eat, wear and cosset the house in our ever changing vision of what is “perfect”…(yes my friends, Pintrest and I spend a lot of time together 😉  Steven has been playing with his mandolin more and has tackled woodworking projects we’ve been thinking about for years (and resulted in a gorgeous dining table that expands to seat 18 + a floor to ceiling bookshelf that finally contains all of my books and project boxes).  We try to get outside everyday for a ski, snow shoe or slog through the mud as the conditions permit…and then there are the series to catch up on: Downton Abbey- check, Parks and Rec.- check, Better Off Ted-check.

Looking towards summer we’ve mapped out a plan on a large white board that functions as a mind dump for all of the plans we’re making.  The brilliance of a white board is that it acts like a reality check: exactly how many kayak trips, special events, group projects and adventures have we listed?  Right now I’m working on our 2014 Artist in Residence schedule (we have 3 weeks still open if you’re thinking of applying), launching Fiber College and submitting our calendar of events to the myriad of websites and booklets that target tourists during the summer.  Steve’s re-vamping the website with more recent photos, getting us sorted out with YouTube, preparing this summer’s camp wood and ordering seeds for the garden.

While all of this is going on we’re answering e-mails and phone calls, taking reservations and posting the deposits.  Last year was a great year for us (definition: busily filled with people we really like, who really liked being here AND paid our bills);  This year is looking more promising.  Weather is always the wild card but because the majority of our guests seem to be of the “bring it on” mentality, Maine’s temperamental climate doesn’t concern us as much as it does some of our fellow campgrounds.  There’s so much to do within an hour’s drive of the park + the beauty of the beach during “inclement times” multiplied by the comfort of the rec hall (didn’t that new heated porch make a difference last year !?!) and the art studio, we seem to have found the answer to vacationing in Maine…come with the intention of enjoying whatever it brings…because it’s all beautiful!

Speaking of beautiful, a family from Kentucky visited last July and stayed on the second row.  I got these photos in my e-mail yesterday and wanted to share Sarah’s vision of the campground with you while we watch the eve’s drip from the window here in Searsport.  While we always think of the ocean as being the biggest draw to the park, it’s interesting to see that Sarah appreciated the gardens and the goats more.  Thank you Sarah for sharing!

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P.S.  With these photos, the note read…”I
want you to know that I thoroughly enjoyed myself on our vacation at your
campground and in Maine.  After we left your campground we headed down to
Old Orchard Beach.   There were so many tourists and the beach was
crowded and in my opinion, not that clean.  The only thing I found
pleasant was some of the good food we discovered in Portland.  If we ever
make it back up that way (and I certainly hope we do) our destination will be
definitely be farther north where you are located.  The scenery and the
people were something that I will never forget and we will long to visit
again.  Thank you for opening up your property to us and making us feel at
home…”

 

 

 

Winter Greens are looking promising

Winter Greens are looking promising

It’s as blustery and gray as a day can be in Maine…a reminder of what things will be like in a couple of weeks. Luckily our salad greens are ready to hoop and the kale, mustard and swiss chard promise to carry us towards Christmas. We’ve been pulling plants and piling seaweed onto the raised beds that will stay dormant through the winter…tomorrow the goats get their Fall shearing…mohair for everyone!

The Sun over Searsport

The Sun over Searsport

Wow…August was a cheerful blur, September was as bountiful as it was colorful and October slipped in while I was daydreaming at the beach. I apologize for how long it has been since the last posting…and promise more in the week to come…lots of pictures and catching up. In the meantime, this was the view from site 14 this morning.