Monday, October 1, 2012

"Pasta Presto" - Scallops and Mushrooms in Martini Cream Sauce

Date I made this recipe:  September 17, 2012

Pasta Presto – 100 Fast & Fabulous Pasta Sauces by Norman Kolpas
Published by:  Contemporary Books
ISBN:  0-8092-4676-7
Recipe:  Scallops and Mushrooms in Martini Cream – p. 16

Many people often dream about being a restaurant reviewer because “how fun would that be, right?”  Well, often it’s not – fun, that is.  Not only do you have to find people to go with you (not as easy as you think), but you have to make repeat visits and then, of course, you have to write about it.

Some reviewers pride themselves on waxing poetic about the food while others, like my late friend, Tall (Carol), can summarize a dish in one word for example, “goopy.”  Yes, folks, with one word, Tall told you everything you needed to know about the taste of a dish and if you want to be cool you’ll add this to your food vocabulary as well. But you should know that “goopy” isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just means the dish is rich, often containing cream or cream cheese or just cheese – or maybe, if you are extremely fortunate all three.  This is the essence of “goopy” in “Tall World.”  It was oh-so-good going down but after a while, she’d feel guilty about eating it and would switch back to something healthier to “cleanse” the system.

This dish – Scallops and Mushrooms with Martini Cream - is goopy but in a good way.  I can almost see Tall downing the dish then stating she was full (as was I) and that it was “goopy” but then I hope she’d also give me her other trademark phrase:  “This is exxxxxxxxxxx-cellent.”  Just so you know “This is exxxxxxxxxxx-cellent” was high praise coming from her.  So was “I can’t believe I ate it all, but it was sooooo good!”

The reason I’m telling you about Tall’s food critic comments is that today’s book was from her collection.  She didn’t have as many cookbooks as I have, maybe a dozen compared to my 1,460 books (and counting) but they were reflective of her cooking interests. She tended to make things that she could freeze in bulk and the majority of her recipes were geared toward healthy eating.  In the summer, she grew many of her own vegetables and used them in numerous ways in various dishes. And that is why, when she was first diagnosed with cancer, she was so mad because she was always so careful about diet and exercise.  Sadly, cancer doesn’t give a rat’s rump about these things.  It was also very sad that her cancer manifested itself just outside of the stomach area making eating and drinking very difficult in the first stages of cancer and at the end of her days, impossible.  There is nothing sadder than seeing someone wanting to eat and enjoy just the smallest taste of food only to be denied that pleasure by her body.

 Without her around, I cannot ask her which of the recipes on the pages she bookmarked she actually made.  She either made Chicken with Lemon-Caper Cream on page 36 or she made Turkey with Peppers, Olives and Tomato on page 37.  On page 44, she either enjoyed Veal Sausage in Mustard Cream or the Bacon and Garlic Sauté on page 45.  And so on and so forth.  My guess is that she probably went with a healthier choice more often than not.  I do know for a fact though, that she made the Classic Basil Pesto recipe on page 88 with basil she grew in her garden.  She served it on a few occasions and it was delicious. 

And so I was all set to make one of her bookmarked items when I saw this recipe for Scallops and Mushrooms in Martini Cream and decided that this was definitely it.  When it came to imbibing alcoholic beverages Tall was first a beer drinker and then a wine connoisseur but then she was introduced to a classic martini (perhaps by me, but perhaps by one of her other friends) and we were off and running.   I must confess that my martinis are rather killer as I make them as dry as dry can be and by that I mean sans vermouth, but she adapted well to my version of paint thinner.

So “martini” cream sauce it was and how fitting was that?!  It’s like I was meant to make this dish.  That said, I do think that the cream sauce might have scared her off from making it herself because of the “goopy” factor.  I wish I could say the richness of the cream sauce was offset by the gin and vermouth but alas, no, but no matter, it was the idea of a martini that was important here.  Still, if I had to make it again, I would play around with the alcohol quantities, likely upping them just a wee bit.  And it should go without saying that I should keep increasing the booze quotient whilst sipping on my own chilled martini, no?  (Shaken, not stirred, “up” as opposed to on the rocks and with an olive or two.)

Now I also taught my husband to enjoy a good martini (and yes, there is such a thing as a “bad” martini) and he was all over the recipe and we both ate until we were stuffed.  And then of course, we paused for a moment of silence and guilt, remembering my fallen comrade and how we enjoyed something which she could not, in her last stages of cancer, enjoy along with us. 

If she had lived, I would have told her about this recipe and had she made it herself, I’m pretty sure she would have pronounced it “exxxxxxxxxxx-cellent.”  I hope you find it excellent as well.

Scallops and Mushrooms in Martini Cream – serves 4-6
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
6 ounces button mushrooms, cut into ¼-inch-thick slices
6 medium shallots, finely chopped
4 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
4½ cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons gin
1 tablespoon dry vermouth
¾ teaspoon salt
¾ pound bay scallops
Pasta – angel hair, spaghettini or vermicelli

In a saucepan or skillet, melt the butter over moderate heat.  Add the mushrooms, shallots and garlic; sauté until tender, 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the cream, gin, vermouth, and salt.  Raise the heat and gently boil until the mixture is thick and reduced by a third t a half, 15 to 20 minutes.

Stir in the scallops and simmer 2 to 3 minutes more (for larger scallops, 4 to 5 minutes more).  Serve immediately over cooked pasta.

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