Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Smoked scallop macaroni and cheese

Hello, everyone!!  I'm so excited about doing this post today!  As excited as I am, I have been kind of putting it off, because it's going to make me want to make this again.  Like, right now, get up and get into the kitchen and make this again.
This has: scallops, mushrooms, spinach, pasta, and lots, and lots of cheese.  Ooohhhh yeah.  I'm going to make this again very, very soon.
While we were on vacation in Alaska, of course, we went out to eat for all of our meals, and for Mother's Day, while we were out to eat, my husband found this gem on the menu.  Smoked.  Scallop.  Mac.  And.  Cheese.
And it was an entree sized portion.
I think I died and went to heaven.
Unfortunately, I don't have access to a cold smoker (and not many of us do), so I just marinated my scallops in some liquid smoke.  This worked perfectly, and the smokey flavor really came through with this!
The picture above is my take on this dish, and the picture below was the picture I took while out to eat.  I wanted to remember everything about this beautiful mac 'n cheese, so I could make it again at home!  If you're ever in Seward, Alaska, stop in at Chinook's and have some of this amazingness.  You won't regret it.
Here's your grocery list for this one:
1 lb bay scallops*
1/2 C liquid smoke (or, cold smoke them)
8 oz. porcini mushrooms
4 Tbs. unsalted butter, divided into 2 Tbs portions
2 Tbs all purpose flour
1/2 C dry white wine (I used Pinot grigio)
1 1/2 C milk
1/2 C heavy cream
16 oz grated fontina cheese 
16 oz. grated mild cheddar cheese
1 C fresh spinach leaves, thinly sliced
1 lb. ditalini pasta, cooked to one minute shy of package directions

And, of course, a spoon to shovel this in as fast as you can.

Okay!  Yes, that's a lot of ingredients, but this is a special dish, so...it's totally worth it.  Now then, Bay scallops are the teeny tiny scallops, that would be perfect for this dish.  I wanted fresh scallops, but surprisingly, I couldn't find any fresh bay scallops, so I ended up with some smaller regular scallops.  I figured I would just quarter each scallop, and it would work out just fine.  Which it did.
Also surprisingly, I couldn't find these fresh, either.  Of course, they thaw out very quickly, so that worked out just fine.  
The morning that I was going to prepare this, I just put my scallops in a zip top bag, with enough liquid smoke to cover them, squeeze the extra air out, and let this sit in this all day in the fridge.

After marinating all day, pull the scallops out, and if you have bay scallops, go on and pat them dry.  If you have larger scallops, like these, just quarter them up to be roughly the size of a bay scallop.

Pat your scallops dry, and while you're doing that, in a heavy bottomed pan, melt 2 Tbs. of butter.  Also, while you're starting this, get your water on to boil for your pasta.  Once your pasta water comes up to boil, salt it with about 1 Tbs of salt, and boil your pasta to one minute shy of the package directions (ie if the box says to boil for 9 minutes, boil for 8 minutes).
Once your butter has melted, put your scallops in, in an even layer, and let these cook for about 3-4 minutes, then turn them over (as best you can.  These are pretty small, so just scoot them around the pan, and they will brown on all sides this way), and cook for another minute or so.  Scallops cook pretty quickly.

Scoop your scallops out, and set them on a paper towel lined plate; add in the mushrooms and cook these for 4-5 minutes until beautifully browned.  Scoop these out as well, and put them on the paper towel lined plate, with the scallops.

Now then, let's get started with building the sauce.  Melt the other 2 Tbs. of butter, and add in the 2 Tbs. flour, and mix together until it is a peanut butter color.

Once this roux has thickened up, pour in the white wine.  It will look a little lumpy, but that's fine, it will mix together into a smooth sauce.

Add in the milk, about 1/2 C at a time, stirring or whisking the whole time.  Again, it may look pretty lumpy, but that's okay, trust me.  

Once all of your milk has been added in, pour in the heavy cream, and mix that in as well.  Now that you have a beautiful, creamy sauce, start adding in your cheeses, slowly.  Like I explained in my cheesy chicken quesadillas post, you have to add the cheese in slowly, or else you'd end up with a clump of cheese, surrounded by sauce.  If you add the cheese in a little bit at a time, it melts into the sauce and because a beautiful cheese sauce.

The more cheese you add, the more cheese you can add to your sauce in each addition.  Once all of my fontina cheese has been added, I added the shredded cheddar cheese in pretty quickly.  I saw the finish line in my future, and wanted to slam my face into this as soon as possible.  

Since spinach wilts down a lot, and very quickly, I just added it in when I stirred my cooked pasta, and it was prefect.  So, now that all of your cheeses have been added to your sauce, add in the pasta, spinach, scallops, and mushrooms and mix well.

Oh.  My.  Seriously.  You'll want to shovel this in as fast as you can.  Try to hold yourself back a little bit, so you can enjoy all of the flavors...good luck with that.