Friday, June 24, 2011

Butter Poached Divers Scallops, Flounder Fillet over Pesto Fettuccini Paired with a Dry Riesling

Maine Ave Fish Market Tilt and Shift 2

Sorry friends, no great food photography for this post, but I have arranged for a suitable stand in – some photography from the Washing DC Maine Avenue Fish Market.  In all honesty, this pairing was a completely unplanned and happy coincidence that started with a hyper-productive basil plant in the garden of Chef Sue.  This recipe was built from from the base up.  Here is the stream of consciousness that occurred yesterday afternoon:

  1. Oooh, lots of basil.  What to do?
  2. Basil = Pesto.  Yes!!!
  3. Pesto needs pasta – fettuccini.  Yes!!!
  4. What do we have that might like to sit on a bed of pesto fettuccini?  Flounder fillet.  Yes!!!
  5. But why stop at the flounder?  If we could just add one more thing, this may turn into something really special.  Scallops!!!

Main Avenue Fish Market-4

So there you have it.  I told Chef Sue what I was up to, and she picked up the scallops on the way home and a bottle of mass produced Riesling.  We will not spend much time on the wine, but I will comment that even though this was a non-vintage $5 bottle of Riesling, the pairing worked well.  I think a dryer and bit more sophisticated Riesling would have been better, but this was an unplanned pairing and completely adequate.  If you are like me, I can’t afford to drink the wine I would like to drink whenever I want to drink it.

Main Avenue Fish Market-1

One of the reasons the Riesling worked was the addition of a very light breading to the fillets that included some cayenne pepper for a hint of piquancy.  The sweetness of the Riesling was a nice contrast to the pepper while also complementing the sweet butter flavors of the scallops, flounder, and the garlic butter sauce that was drizzled over the top.

Main Avenue Fish Market

This was a super easy dish to prepare and took only 30 minutes.  Before presenting the recipes, let me set up the process that gets you to a 30 minute meal:

  1. Boil the water for the pasta
  2. Preheat oven to 375, and prep fillets to go in the oven. 20 – 25 minutes in the oven.
  3. Make Pesto.
  4. At 6 minutes to go before the fillets are done, prepare the scallops and garlic butter sauce.

Main Avenue Fish Market-2



Stick with me here, because this will be a description of what I made, rather than a precise recipe.  But honestly, I have tasted so many pesto recipes, each with their own little twist, this is more a matter of being in the ball park than being precise.

I started by visiting Chef Sue’s garden and picked enough basil leaves to fill the bowl of a mini food processors (about 5 inches in diameter and 4 inches tall).  To this I added a handful (pretty precise, huh?) of almonds.  Yes, I said almonds and not pine nuts.  Pine nuts are expensive and over rated – the almonds worked fine (and I happened to have them).  Add a tablespoon of minced garlic, and about a one ounce chunk of parmesan cheese.  Pulse the food processor until you have a coarse cut.  Then begin to add olive oil slowly as you continue to pulse.  Continue to add the olive oil until you achieve a consistency you like.  Season to taste.  Easy stuff.

Later on, when your pasta is done, add the pesto to the pasta and combine completely to coat the pasta.  Rely on the heat of the pasta – there is no need to heat the pesto.

Baked Flounder Fillets

Again, this is soooo easy, I’m going with a description rather than a normal recipe format.  Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Dredge your fillets (any nice white fish will do, no need to stick with flounder – I am a huge fan of cod and haddock) in a mixture of of corn flower or corn meal with a small amount of cayenne pepper.  This can be adjusted according to your taste.  I went for the subtle side.

Place the fillets on a sheet pan, add some sliced onions on each fillet along with a squeeze of lemon or lime, a drizzle of butter, and season with salt and pepper.  Bake at 375 for 20 to 25 minutes.  Your goal is firm fish that flake easily with a fork.

Butter Poached Scallops in a Garlic Butter Sauce

In a small skillet, sauté 1/2 onion and a tablespoon of garlic in 1 tablespoon of butter.  When the onions soften, add two more tablespoons of butter, and push the onions to one side of the small skillet.  Add the scallops at medium high heat.  For a serving of two, I used five divers scallops (big ones – an inch + in height) cut in half to make 10 smaller scallops about 1/2 inch thick.  The butter should cover at least the bottom half of the scallops (this is really a matter of picking the right size skillet – small).  After two minutes, flip the scallops and continue for another two minutes.


Begin with a bed of pesto fettuccini, then add a fillet.  Over the fillet, arrange five scallops.  Over the whole construction, spoon on the sautéed onions and garlic in which the scallops were prepared.  Garnish with parsley and a lemon wedge.

Final Words

This recipe and pairing was a happy coincidence.  It was not planned.  It just happened, and I am glad it did.  Give it a try with a dry Riesling.  You will not be disappointed.

In vino veritas, buen provecho.


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