This is a cheap shot kind of story but I’m going to tell it anyway.
Last summer I was having dinner at a friend’s house. She is about ten years ahead of me in the parenting game and I’ve always looked to her for advice on everything from day camps to birthday cake bakeries to how best survive third grade clique drama without ending up in the headlines. She has three daughters, each one more accomplished than the next. At the time of this dinner, the oldest was about to start her junior year in college, the middle one, a homebody, was getting ready to leave for her freshman year at a big school in the Midwest, and the youngest, a high school sophomore, had just returned from doing volunteer work in South America. None of them were at the dinner table with us. In fact, none of them were in the house — until about half way through our delicious grilled salmon, at which point the middle daughter wandered into the kitchen and opened the fridge.
“Hi Honey,” my friend said. “There’s some salmon here if you want it.”
“Nah,” the almost-college-freshman said. “I’m going to Jack’s tonight.” Jack was her boyfriend. She wandered out of the kitchen and we heard the back screen door creak open then slam shut.
My friend rolled her eyes. “You know, when they were little, dinner was such a pain in the ass. All the kids did was complain about what I cooked. It was such a thankless job.” She went on, “Now that they’re older I’ll cook anything they ask for. I’ll cook five different meals if it means they’ll all sit down with me for dinner.”
I call up this story all the time — most recently last week when Abby ate barely one nibble of the sweet, juicy scallops that could not have been more fresh or more delicious. While I cooked up some spaghetti and tossed it with the corn-bacon hash, effectively excusing her from scallop duty, effectively making a separate meal just for her just like all the experts warn against, I called it up again. And then I forced myself to think: Lucky. Feel lucky. They are sitting at the table. They are 7 and 9 years old. They still get excited about a jungle gym with monkey bars and run into my arms if I haven’t seen them all day. If Abby doesn’t eat her [fish/broccoli/hamburger] take a few Lamaze breaths and let it go. It’s just a scallop.
Pan-Seared Scallops with Corn-Bacon Hash
The hardest thing about this recipe is securing the freshest scallops you can find. It’s my new favorite simple summer skillet meal.
In a large skillet set over medium heat, cook one strip of bacon until crisp, about 2 minutes. Remove bacon from pan, blot with a paper towel, then chop into pieces. Add 1 small shallot (minced) to the bacon fat in the pan and stir until wilted about 1 minute. Add the kernels cut from 4 ears of corn and cook about 2 minutes. Remove to a large bowl and toss with bacon and 4-5 basil leaves (chopped). [If you have a scallop-hater in the house, prepare your spaghetti now.]
To the pan, add 1 pat of butter and a glug of olive oil and turn the heat to medium-high. Add a dozen and a half sea scallops (that have been patted dry) to the pan and brown 1 1/2 minutes on each side. Remove scallops from pan to each dinner plate. Add about 1/4 cup of wine (white or rose) to the pan, one garlic clove (minced), and a little more butter. Turn heat to high and scrape up all the brown bits as you stir, about one minute. (Monitor carefully — the sauce can disappear if you’re not watching.) When pan sauce is syrupy, drizzle over the corn salad and toss.
Squeeze a little lemon over your scallops and serve with hash and a grape tomato salad that has been tossed with olive oil, basil, salt, and pepper. After halving the tomatoes, I outsourced the tossing to the 9-year-old.