Saturday, November 24, 2007

Pot Luck and a Winning Team

~That that pure sanguine complexion of yours may never be famisht with pot lucke.
Thomas Nashe, 1592

The term pot luck has many different interpretations, including the native American potlatch, the old English portmanteau, and the common United States suburban potluck dinner in which all invited guests bring a covered dish to share with the gathering. Common wisdom guides me to believe that the origin of the term comes from the idea of making food to feed your guests from whatever happens to be laying around. And this is what happened last Tuesday evening when John joined us to watch the our Lakers beat Indiana.

Having just returned from one of many weekends out of town, and looking at a fridge full of little else excepting some cornmeal, slightly puckered cherry tomatoes, turkey bacon and a freezer full of random nonsense including some Trader Joe's sea scallops, I put two and two together and made grub.

I wanted to piggyback on my mom's delicious polenta from two weeks ago and make something a little lighter in calories and fat and marry this with the sea scallops. In the cupboard I found some roasted beets and lentils, both in shrink wrap packaging, and some pine nuts.

First, I cut the bacon into small pieces and threw it in the pan. Here my sous-chef assists me in assessing the freshness of the bacon.

Next, I started the chicken-broth-from-a-box boiling for the polenta, next to the bacon simmering with a little olive oil and red pepper flakes. I added some olive oil to the turkey bacon because it produces so little fat in the pan, and I want to make good use of the leftover bacon essence for the scallops...bacon = meat candy.

After whisking the polenta into the broth, I added most of the bacon and some fresh-ish thyme. Did you know it takes 5 cups of liquid to cook one cup of polenta? I like a nice creamy polenta, but not soupy. So I reduced this polenta within an inch of its life and serve it steaming hot.

When the polenta was nearly done I sliced the slightly insipid tomatoes in half, tossed them with some olive oil and the pine nuts and threw the mess under the broiler for roasting.

After the roasting, I lay the tomatoes and nuts on a bed of lentils tossed lightly with a vinaigrette, and drizzled a little white truffle oil over the top.

Next I thoroughly rinsed the sea scallops which were surprisingly beautiful...I will surely use these again. A handy thing to have in the freezer, no doubt. I tossed them in the bacon-ed pan and seared them well done, just like D likes them. The bacon essence, olive oil and red pepper flakes in the pan cooked to an almost caramelized consistency, leaving the scallops with a lovely brown and slightly crispy finish.

All in all, the meal was really tasty. I would have ideally liked a better mix of textures, both dishes had kind of a mushy, comfort food texture. The only really crunchy participants were the bacon bits and the roasted pine nuts. But it all tasted good and I completely avoided a trip to the grocery store or a phone call out for pizza!

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