Art {baked scallops}

You know those kinds of people who look at a Sol LeWitt piece and say things like, “how is that art?” or “I could do that”? Maybe they’re similar to the kind of people who can paint a heck of a still life or even recreate a recipe perfectly and serve up a delicious meal. They’re talented, sure, but they’re not artists. The thing that sets apart Sol LeWitt from a guy slathering Sherwin-Williams on a shaped canvas or Thomas Keller from the line cook at Red Lobster isn’t just a matter of technique. It’s a matter of art.

Seldom is this more evident to me than it was this weekend. We had the great fortune of being treated to some pretty fantastic meals while the in-laws were in town. I’ve lucked into a great family for more reasons than I can write, but one of my favorites is that we share a common interest: eating good food. We hit up Empire State South, Hugh Acheson’s resto in town, and The Spence, Richard Blais’ new spot near Tech. I had been to ESS a few times before but for the husband and his parents, both experiences were new. And were they good.

My new motto in food (and aspirationally, I’d like to apply it to life) is this: “Why have a comfort zone?” Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to seek out deep-fried crickets and I still don’t like beets, but I’d like to think that were I to find myself immersed in a culture where we were all sitting around eating barbecued frog lips, I’d jump in. Why not? In the past week alone, I ate the following things that would have made the child-Molly seize: deviled ham, goat, trout mousse, sweetbreads, headcheese, ramps, liver, liver again, sea urchin, and pig ear. And it was good.

And I say all this because once again, all I’m giving you is a semi-regurgitated recipe from the Food Network. Don’t get me wrong – it is a good recipe. You should make this. You will enjoy it and hopefully you will think of it when you can’t figure out what to cook. But know that deep down, I wish that I had always been inspired as an art student and that I could give you something as clever and delicious as macaroni and headcheese.

For now, instead, I give you scallop gratin for 2. Here:

  • 2/3 lb. sea scallops, cut into quarters
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 2 slices of bacon, diced and cooked (I used 5) (seriously)
  • 2 teaspoons minced parsley, plus some for garnishing
  • 3 tablespoons panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons white wine or vermouth
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • lemon juice

Start by preheating your oven to 425°F and grabbing two adorable tiny gratin dishes that your sister gave you for Christmas. Prep the butter, garlic, shallots, bacon and parsley. We’re going to be making a tasty topping.

In a small dish, stir together the butter, bacon, garlic, shallots, parsley, olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice until well combined. Then fold in the panko.

Grab your scallops out of the fridge and make sure they’re clean (no muscular hangers-on). If you bought them at Whole Foods, kick yourself for paying $10 more per pound than at the Farmer’s Market.

Cut these suckers into quarters and divide them evenly between the two gratin dishes in which you’ve poured a splash of white wine.

Top each dish with half the butter mixture and pop in the oven.

Bake for about 12 minutes. If you want to give them an extra oomph at the end, crank up the broiler for a minute until they’re nice and crispedy-crunchedy (but not peanut buttery – anyone? anyone?) on top. As with most things, serve them with bread for sopping and a salad for your guilty conscience.

It may not be art, but it tastes good. I know my limits and I’ll leave the inspiration to the pros.