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There is something about seafood, shellfish in particular, that seems so decadent. Even the most simply prepared pot of mussels can elevate a meal, and a platter of raw oysters with a squeeze of lemon is a delicacy I imagine few would turn down at a cocktail party. Never mind that it was not long ago that oysters were reserved for the proletariat, and lobsters were eschewed as undesirable bottom-feeders. At the banquet of life in the twenty-first century, seafood is king.

Whenever in doubt what to feed company, I turn to the vast oceans.  Grilled jumbo shrimp cocktail. Mussels cooked in a saffron broth, or in wine and cream. Lobster pot pie. The choices are endless, and require very little time or fuss, since seafood is best highlighted with only a couple of extra flavors in order to let its specialness shine through. What could be easier than a throwing a few scallops into a pan with a knob of butter, or tossing some clams and spaghetti together with garlic and olive oil?

When I came across this recipe for Bay Scallop Gratin by Ina Garten, it instantly became one of my best-loved and oft-cooked recipes. It combines several of my favorite ingredients: scallops, butter, shallots, and panko bread crumbs. And of course, it’s gratineed. I think I would eat my shoe if it were gratineed.

Serve these scallops in individual gratin dishes alongside a salad and a loaf of crusty French bread and you have an elegant meal that will impress even your most important dinner guests. Follow it with creme brulee for dessert and you’ll knock it out of the park. Not bad for half an hour in the kitchen.

Ina Garten’s Bay Scallop Gratin

Serves 6

Ingredients:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

6 large garlic cloves, minced

2 medium shallots, minced

2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, minced

4 tablespoons minced fresh parsley, plus extra for garnish

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons Pernod

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

6 tablespoons good olive oil

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

6 tablespoons dry white wine

2 pounds fresh bay scallops

lemon, for garnish

Directions:

1) Preheat the oven to 425F. Place 6 (6-inch round) gratin dishes on a sheet pan.

2) To make the topping, mix the butter in a bowl with an electric mixer on low speed. Add the garlic, shallot, prosciutto, parsley, lemon juice, Pernod, salt and pepper until well combined

3) With the mixer still on low, add the olive oil slowly as though making mayonnaise. Fold in panko with a rubber spatula.

4) Place 1 tablespoon of the wine in the bottom of each gratin dish. Pat scallops dry with paper towels and distribute evenly among the dishes. Spoon the garlic butter evenly over the scallops.

5) Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the topping is browned and sizzling and the scallops are barely done. Turn on the broiler and bake for 2 more minutes for a crusty, golden finish.

6) Drizzle with lemon juice and sprinkle with parsley. Serve immediately.

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QUOTE

"Noncooks think it's silly to invest two hours' work in two minutes' enjoyment; but if cooking is evanescent, so is the ballet." -Julia Child

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Photos and text copyright 2009 by Darina Kopcok
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All recipes are on Petitchef

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