On Luck and Flow and Perfectly Seared Scallops
Photo (and scallops) by Erik Eastman
Every once in awhile – or hopefully often, which is my goal – you stumble into a situation so ridiculously sparkly and rich and delicious that time falls away and all you can think to say, over and over again, is: This is amazing. This is amazing! THIS IS AMAZING.
This. Is. Amazing.
Bill Damberg’s boat on Lake Vermilion, photo by Erik Eastman
I’m not talking about sex, by the way. Ha! Reading through what I just wrote, it might seem like that’s what I’m getting at, but in general, despite this blog’s mildly cheeky title – which I am aware is blocked by some companies’ filters, sorry about that – I’m talking about work and the elusive flow state. In my experience, it involves a creative endeavor + nature + brilliant and kind people + cooking + dishes + adventure + photographs + learning + in this case, clothes. AMAZING CLOTHES.
I’m not kidding, I spent 24 hours immersed in all of those things.
Photos by Ashley Camper from Brightwater Clothing website
Here’s how it all came together. My supremely talented friends Liz Gardner and Josef Harris of Bodega Ltd. were hired by Bill Damberg of Brightwater Clothing to create a new Brightwater website and fall/winter lookbook. Together Liz, Josef, and Bill created a vision of casual autumn splendor to be photographed at Bill’s family cabin on Lake Vermilion, Minnesota. Liz and Josef then asked their dear friend (and my beau) Erik Eastman of Easy & Oskey Bitters to style food and cocktails for the shoot, and oh to model too, and I was graciously asked along as well, et voila. Erik, Liz’s mom Billie, Liz, Josef, Bill, and I donned beautiful clothes and cooked and ate, went for a foggy-morning boat ride, climbed rocks, and spent a couple of days taking in the fairy-tale splendor of Lake Vermilion in front of the lens of the brilliant Ashley Camper.
Table and clothing styled by Liz Gardner, cabin by architect David Salmela, photos by Erik Eastman
See? I exaggerate not. AMAZING. I spent half the time pinching myself to be lucky enough to watch the creative process of some of the most talented people in the Twin Cities (must-follows on Instagram, by the way, the lot of them: @lizgdnr, @josefharris, @bodega_ltd, @easyandoskey, @ashleycamper, @brightwaterclothing, @bill.damberg).
Scallop in Turnip Tea and photo by Erik Eastman (plates are mine – recognize them?)
I tend to focus on food and healing myself (and others) with food, but this experience highlighted several other equally important aspects of health and vitality and vibrancy for me, some of which are admittedly lacking in my day-to-day life. I immediately noticed that being immersed in a pristine natural setting at once put my mind and body at ease and gave me a charge of energy. Pretty much the perfect balance of ahhh and vroom, if you know what I mean. Clarity! That’s the word I’m looking for. I live in the city, so that’s hard to replicate, but the trip was a reminder that I need to try harder. We all do. We are meant to be outside. We are meant to move all day. We are meant to go to sleep when it gets dark outside (the cabin has a generator, but we chatted by lantern-light and in front of the bonfire when the sun went down). We are meant to drink coffee on boats on foggy lakes – or at least drink hot beverages on chilly mornings with loved ones, anywhere.
Photo by Ashely Camper from Brightwater Clothing website
And most important: we are meant to collaborate and make things with talented people who can do things that we can not. Resolution 2016, right there.
We are also meant to cook and eat with other people, which I’m pretty lucky to be able to do on a regular basis. Perhaps not on an island under the stars of Northern Minnesota, but in my own cozy little kitchen, which I love. When life gets busy, it’s easy to forget that cooking healthy food is not just a necessity but a privilege and when I remember, and savor my good fortune, I boost the healing power of food exponentially. That’s how I felt eating on that island. I strive to slow down and feel that way every time I cook, whether it’s for myself, with Erik, for Nathan, for friends, or with you in a cooking class. You can feel that way too: these scallops, as you’ll see, can be made anywhere, and would be an impressive holiday first course or appetizer. They take mere minutes to make, emerging from the skillet deeply crusty on one side, tender and sweet and just cooked through. INHALE.
Erik wrote out his method, which I suggest you read through a couple of times, since this is more of a technique than a recipe and things get snappy once your pan is hot:
Searing a scallop happens quickly when done right. The first time I saw it done properly was at Saffron – Tony Tuchar was making 14 things at once, and seared two scallops in a smallish (8-inch maybe) steel pan like he’d done it 1,000 times (which he likely had). Pan was first very hot, then filmed with oil, then the scallops went in. He pressed them down gently to adhere them to the pan, didn’t touch them for 30 seconds. Huge knob of garlic butter went in, 15 more seconds, baste, baste, baste, and by that time they’d released from the pan and were done. I’ll bet it took 90 seconds max. That’s how I’ve cooked scallops ever since.
Plan on 2-3 dry-packed (not packed in brine) sea scallops per person. Pat scallops dry with paper towels and remove side muscle if it’s still attached. Salt both sides of each scallop lightly with sea salt. Have at the ready a few tablespoons of avocado oil, a few tablespoons of good butter, a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme, and a smashed clove or two of garlic.
Heat a 10-inch (or larger, if you’re making more than 4 scallops; scallops will not brown properly in a crowded pan) cast iron or steel (not non-stick) pan over medium-high to high heat. This is where you’ll need to cook with your senses: you want your pan quite hot, but not so hot that the pan is smoking like a chimney. Add a tablespoon or less of avocado oil to the hot pan, which will spit and splatter a bit, and swirl to coat pan. The oil will shimmer immediately and smoke a little and that’s when to add the scallops; the scallops should hiss when they first hit the pan. Sear scallops for 30 seconds, then add a knob (2-3 tablespoons) of butter, a sprig of thyme, and a smashed clove of garlic to the pan. With a large spoon, start basting the scallops with the hot butter. Cook the scallops until the edges are caramelizing and the scallops naturally release from the pan with a nicely browned crust – anywhere from 2-3 minutes. Remove scallops from the pan (discard garlic and thyme) and serve hot, with perhaps another light sprinkle of salt, browned-side-up.
My note: to make the scallops 100% AIP, either add more avocado oil or some coconut oil to the pan (instead of butter) along with garlic and thyme. Baste per instructions. We ate the scallops in a light turnip broth, aka turnip “tea,” but they would be fantastic alongside a simple salad or nestled into a bowl of Healing Green Broth.
PS Attention holiday shoppers needing presents and hostess treats! Twin Cities Chef’s Table makes a kickass and welcome gift for cooks and diners alike. Or so I’ve heard. 🙂
PPS Cooking classes make lovely gifts too! Join a loved one and me for Paleo Reset on Friday, January 22, 2016, at Kitchen in the Market. Let’s kick off the New Year together, healthy style.