One of the (countless) reasons that I love cooking is because it can take you on an adventure right in the comfort of your own home. This dish was part of my faux tour of Vietnam.
Now, I know that I could find a good Vietnamese restaurant nearby, which is always fun, but it can be expensive and hard on the waistline eating out all the time. Or I could travel to Vietnam, which would be awesome, but a little impractical (and even more expensive) to do on a regular basis. So cooking gives me the freedom to "tour" the flavors of all of the places I have or might want to visit. And I think that a lot of the time I actually learn more about certain places by cooking their food instead of going to a restaurant because 1. I go through countless recipes to come up with my own and 2. I really get to know the flavors and techniques unique to each place.
This last weekend I went on a virtual tour of two very different places. Once night we had Asian (Vietnamese) flavors. These scallops were the main dish and were paired with a salad "spring roll" with peanut sauce (that I'm hoping to post soon) and mango sticky rice (which needs a little more work before it's "post worthy").
Scallops are a great main dish protein any way that you cook them because they are easily bought frozen and are quick and easy to make. One of my favorites has been just sauteeing them up in a pan and pairing them with some crispy roast potatoes as I did here. This preparation is a little more complicated, but only because it has some ingredients that you might not have readily on hand (fresh basil, fish sauce, jalapenos). So I consider it a little "fancier" preparation for scallops.
On a health note, scallops are also a high-quality, low-fat protein. They are high in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, and magnesium - nutrients which are linked to a variety of great health benefits.
Spicy Asian Scallops
8 medium scallops (I used Trader Joe's New England Frozen - defrosted)
1/4 cup fresh basil
1 clove garlic
1/2 inch (about 1 tsp) fresh ginger
Pinch salt and pepper
Spray olive oil
1/2 jalapeno chopped (I would remove about 1/2 the seeds as my version turned out REALLY spicy) or 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp agave nectar
Juice 1 lime
1 clove garlic, minced
Heat grill or grill pan to medium.
Defrost scallops if frozen. Cut "pockets" into scallops by making a small slit that doesn't go all the way through in each scallop.
Chop together basil, garlic, salt, and pepper. Place in a small bowl and grate ginger over it so that juices and ginger pieces go in. Stir lightly to mix.
Stuff scallops with basil mixture. Skewer scallops by taking a wooden skewer and pushing through about 4 scallops. Be sure to go through areas not near the slits on the front of the scallop so that they will stay skewered. Skewer the next 4 scallops.
Spray scallops lightly with olive oil and sprinkle outside with salt and pepper. Place on grill for about 2 minutes on each side (as soon as scallop meat starts to toughen). Be sure not to overcook as they get too tough if you let them keep going.
Meanwhile, mix together sauce ingredients (jalapeno through garlic).
Remove cooked scallops to plate and top with sauce mixture.
Oh yum! The only thing is, I could use a picture - I'm having a hard time figuring out the whole slit/skewer technique. Could you also do this under the broiler? And how do you tell how long to cook before it goes past that point of no return? (I know on salmon I leave it a little raw in the center and then it comes out perfect.) Any tricks like that?
Thanks for your questions. For some reason I'm having trouble getting the picture onto this site...I'll work on it!
I think you could do this under the broiler and that might actually be easier (you wouldn't have to use the skewers then). I found these tips online that might help
http://www.fishex.com/recipes/scallops/scallop-cooking-tips.html. If you do go for the broiler technique let me know how it goes and also I'd just use the spray olive oil instead of the butter that they indicate on that site.
I'll get back to you on the pictures :) If you have any posting tips please do let me know!