the best dinner of my whole life
I’m not exaggerating. It began with a trip to Coastal Seafoods in St. Paul for fresh scallops and ended with a marriage proposal on our back deck. In between, there were flower bouquets, bunches of grilled baby bok choy, and bottles of champagne. Let me tell you all the juicy details!
On Thursday, G and I decided to go ring shopping out in the suburbs. We had already found “the perfect ring” (really, it’s perfect) but because it was a little pricey–that’s the story I was told–we thought we’d shop around. Earlier in the week G suggested that even if we don’t find something like “the perfect ring” we should still celebrate that we’re looking and cook an awesome dinner together at our house afterward. So after ring shopping (where of course we didn’t find “the perfect ring” because it seems that once you’ve found it nothing else looks quite the same) we headed to Coastal Seafoods. This is a great fish market, and there is one in Minneapolis and another in St. Paul. We picked out some beautiful scallops and then headed to the grocery store for some fresh baby bok choy to do on the grill. As we were about to check out with our bok choy and sorbet (dessert that we never got to in the end…) G suggested that we get some flowers. So we headed over to the flower section and I picked out a bouquet and he was like, “let’s get six or seven!” It was so awesome to walk out of the grocery market with that many flowers, but I also thought he felt really bad about having driven out to the suburbs and not really found anything. The fact that he suggested also getting champagne added to my hunch.
So we headed home after the fish market and the grocery and made these really colorful bouquets with different roses and I think carnations (or is it daisy? I don’t know what kinds of flowers the big ones are in the vase closer to the viewer on the table…). It was really fun. Then G started making a sauce of shallots, butter, and white wine for the scallops while we sipped white wine and I grilled the baby bok choy. (I’ve tried my best to recreate the recipes below…I didn’t even think at the time to take pictures of us making the food…oops.) We set the table, which looked beautiful with the flowers, plated the food and sat down to eat. And OH. MY. it was so good. G cooked the scallops perfectly (about 90 seconds a side) and they were silky and smooth and felt like they were melting in your mouth. I told him that I don’t think I’ve ever really tasted scallops…I think in the past they’ve been overcooked and more rubbery, which is why I rarely order them. And the sauce, the sauce! I could drink it!
It was truly fantastic. The best, though, was yet to come. As we finished eating and oooh-ing and aaah-ing over the food, G asked about the rings we saw today…what did I think, what did I like, not like, etc. So I talked about it for a little bit and then he kind of looked at me and said “What about this one?” and he pulled out “the perfect ring” and got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. Not only was it “the perfect ring” but it was “the perfect proposal.” He did everything right. We spent the rest of the night crying and screaming (ok, that was all me…) and drinking champagne (both of us, of course). It was delightful and joyous and I will remember it always.
scallops with shallots and white wine
scallops (we had four each), washed and bone dry
1/2 shallot, minced
about 1/2 stick butter (this is probably more than you’ll need but just in case…)
1 1/2 cups good dry white wine (you can use what you decide to drink with it…we drank Parducci Sustainable White from Mendocino County)
fresh parsley to taste to garnish in the sauce over the scallops
salt and pepper
To make the sauce, put a couple pats of butter in a pan (like a skillet) and heat it up. When the butter stops bubbling, at the shallots and cook until they are just about translucent but not quite yet. At that point add the wine and cook until it has reduced by half. Then add more butter, a pat at a time, until the sauce is shiny. (You will not use the whole half a stick, and you will need some to cook the scallops in, so just add it until the sauce is shiny). Finally, turn off the heat and fold in some of the parsley, saving some to sprinkle on at the end.
Now, to make the scallops. Wash them, and then make sure they are DRY. No joke. Totally dry. Add some butter to a hot pan (you want to cook on high heat)…to do this make sure you get a pan hot and then move it off the heat for a sec to add the butter so it doesn’t burn immediately. Now, do this fast: as the butter melts, salt and pepper the scallops and then immediately–when the butter stops bubbling–put the scallops into the pan. Don’t let them touch each other. Cook only 90 seconds a side. Serve immediately.
Note: The point of salt and pepper-ing the scallops immediately before putting them in the pan is because if they sit with salt on them, the salt begins to draw water out, which you don’t want to happen. If you’ve got bone dry scallops (and add the seasoning only right before) then you’ll get a great sear on the top and bottom when it hits the pan and the inside will be that silky and not rubbery texture. Also, when you buy the scallops, get them dry packed.
Other note: you can spoon the sauce on top or do what G did, which was plate some sauce to make a “bed” of sorts to put the scallops on and then spoon more sauce over them and the grilled baby bok choy. You can plate the sauce before you throw the scallops in the pan.
grilled baby bok choy
baby bok choy, cut in halt the long way
extra virgin olive oil
This is super easy, and I’m not sure why I’m writing a separate recipe for it. With a basting brush (or a paper towel), brush olive oil on both sides of the bok choy. It doesn’t need to be a ton. Grill, turning over as they cook. It doesn’t take that long. You can keep the leaves out of the direct flame if you like, but I kind of liked them a little charred, especially since it tasted great with the shallot/wine sauce. I also like them crunchy, but if you do keep the leaves out of the flame you can cook the stalk and end part longer so it’s more tender.