From Foodwine.com, here is one of our favorite seafood dinners. It’s a 1999 recipe by John Ryan, a chef and musician who wrote the blog Just Good Food from 1996 to 2001. We found the recipe in 2002 and it pleases just about anyone who likes seafood. You can use either shrimp or scallops, or really whatever seafood you like.
The recipe is also written in a style that makes it easy to coordinate preparation of the seafood and the pasta. I have left John Ryan’s admirably detailed directions essentially unchanged.
[John talking from here on.] These two recipes go together to make dinner. While at first glance, they seem complicated, you’ll find that they are all prep. You will spend 20 minutes or so getting set, then bam!…5 minutes over a hot burner and dinner is ready. That’s why the recipe is organized the way it is into three parts: Ready, Set, and Go.
While one cook can do this, it’s much better to collaborate because both the pasta and shrimp or scallops cook quickly. Have your assistant watch the pasta, then stir in the pesto while you cook the shrimp or scallops.
Shopping list/pantry list
Sea scallops, 6 ounces per person or peeled and deveined shrimp, 6 ounces per person
Angel hair pasta, (use approximately 3 ounces per person)
1 big bunch curly parsley (cilantro makes an excellent substitute)
Salt and pepper
Ready: Parsley or Cilantro Pesto
This makes about 1 cup, enough for at least 12 ounces of dried pasta.
1 bunch curly parsley or cilantro
1 lemon (for zest)
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
Wash the parsley or cilantro by dunking and swishing it in a bowl of water, then shaking it dry. Rip off the leaves. You should have roughly 2 heaping, sort-of-packed cups of parsley. Grate the lemon rind with a microplane grater (or carefully peel off the outermost rind of the lemon and mince). Reserve the lemon itself for later use in the pasta recipe.
Put the parsley, garlic, salt, pepper and lemon zest in a food processor. Chop well, scrape down the sides, then turn the machine on again and pour the olive oil in slowly. Done. Put the pesto in a bowl.
Pesto is made
Pasta water is boiling
Scallops or shrimp are on a paper towel (they tend to stick less if they’re dry)
Salt, pepper, and half a lemon is handy
A lid for the skillet is handy
The table is set
A lovely white wine is chilled, open and waiting
Skillet is getting hot on a medium-high burner
Your assistant drops the pasta in the water and is responsible for taking it off at the right time. (Assistant: while the pasta cooks, warm the plates by setting them—if they fit—briefly over the pasta water. Then, when the pasta is done, drain the noodles, put them back in the pan and stir pesto in to taste—you probably won’t use all the pesto.)
Meanwhile, cook the shrimp or scallops:
Lemon-Glazed Shrimp or Sea Scallops
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
Shrimp or sea scallops (about 12 ounces)
Salt and pepper
The shrimp or scallops will take about 5 minutes, so make sure the pasta is about done before starting. If you’re doing both recipes alone, cook the pasta, stir in the pesto and keep it warm in a low oven while sautéing the shrimp or scallops.
Heat the skillet over a medium-high burner. Add oil to the hot skillet and lay the shrimp or scallops in, shaking the pan gently to keep the shrimp or scallops skating around (hopefully a thin crust develops that keeps them from sticking). When they’re all in the pan, stop shaking and let them cook until they are golden brown—a couple minutes. Then turn them and cook the other side. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
When the second side is lightly browned, cut one open. If it looks medium rare, turn the burner to high. Squeeze half a lemon into the pan and cover. Do this quickly because you want the lid to trap the sizzling lemon juice and glaze the shrimp or scallops. Count to 5, take the lid off and serve alongside the Parsley Pesto Pasta.
Bay scallops are the small, cute little guys about the diameter of a dime. Sea scallops are at least the size of a quarter. They can be larger and up to a couple inches thick. With huge sea scallops I cut them in half.
You will sometimes find a small muscle on the side of scallops. This will easily peel off. It’s not bad, or funky. It’s just a little chewier than the scallop.
If sea scallops aren’t available, try mahi-mahi fillets. (Mahi isn’t a substitute for scallops, I just like mahi done this way.