This meal is the perfect opportunity for us to discuss recipe alterations. Yes! This means that if you hate something or you don’t have an ingredient—you have permission from the cooking world to change a recipe to your liking. Just try it. It is fun. It is liberating. And it makes someone else’s recipe seem more like your own!
We have a very (un)organized stack of recipes that have been printed from the internet over the years. Some of them have been tried, tested and perfected while others have remained untouched and when we feel stumped about what to eat we often turn to this trusty stack for inspiration.
For this meal, we were looking for something that differed greatly from the Italian fare we had been eating, so we honed in on this Thai dish. The original dish called for halibut but we opted for scallops because of a $7 per pound price difference at the sale price of $14.99 per pound. (Also, we just love scallops. I owe my obsession, partially, to watching them getting seared over and over again on Hell’s Kitchen.)
I know that $14.99 per pound seems pretty steep. However, all the other ingredients in this meal are pretty inexpensive. If you don’t want to use scallops then go ahead and try chicken. Or use shrimp. Or add a ton of pretty vegetables and chomp down. Nobody will be upset and you will be empowered in the kitchen.
So, we are making Thai food, which is known for its complexity of flavors and the balance of all five tastes in each dish: hot, sweet, salty, sour and bitter. It is also known for its spiciness but since you are making this dish yourself, you can control this easily. (Heads up, this dish is not spicy. If you would like it to be then experiment! I added some ground cayenne pepper to my bowl because I love a good heat.)
Thai food is also usually know for its use of basil, specifically Thai basil which has a strong flavor compared to sweet basil. This dish, however, uses a lot of fresh cilantro which adds a very unique taste of citrus undertones. If you are one of those (with italics) people who have an aversion to cilantro, use some fresh Thai basil as a substitute.
I think what I want to you take from this recipe, besides the delicious flavor, is the ability for you to add your own personality, preferences or financial ability to it.
THAI COCONUT CURRY SCALLOPS
adapted from Ellie Krieger’s Thai-Style Halibut with Coconut-Curry Broth
Makes 4 servings. Total time: 45 minutes.
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
4 shallots, finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)
2 1/2 teaspoons red curry paste
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup light coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus 1/4 teaspoon, plus more for seasoning
24 ounces sea scallops
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Freshly ground black pepper
12 ounces fresh baby spinach
2 cups cooked brown rice, for serving
The scallops and curry:
1. Heat the vegetable oil over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add the shallots and saute until they just start to brown.
2. Add the curry paste and break it up with your wooden spatula. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. (See note below.)
3. Pour both the coconut milk and chicken broth into the pan, stirring to combine. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Simmer the curry over medium heat until it reduces to about 2 cups, about 5 minutes. White it simmers…
4. Place scallops in one layer on a plate and season with 1/4 teaspoon of salt. When the curry has reduced to 2 cups add the scallops to the pan. Shake the pan gently to cover the scallops with the curry. Cook scallops for about 3-5 minutes (depending on size) or until opaque, turning halfway through.
5. While the scallops are braising, heat a pan over medium heat. Once the pan is hot, add the spinach and start turning it in the pan. (Do not be alarmed! It will look like you have way too much spinach but it cooks down drastically.)
6. Keep turning the spinach while it cooks down. Turn the heat off before the spinach cooks down completely. Meaning: not all of the spinach should be completely limp. Immediately arrange the spinach in the bottom of 4 soups bowls
7. Place the scallops on top of the spinach in the soup bowls.
8. Add the scallions, cilantro and lime juice to the curry. Stir to combine and then immediately ladle some over the scallops and spinach. Serve with brown rice. (See our notes below on serving suggestions.)
-This is how I arrange my plate: bed of spinach, scallops, brown rice and curry. I love sauce so my bowl became more of a soup than I believe the recipe intended. But to each their own.
-Next time I will arrange it like this: bed of spinach, brown rice, scallops and then curry. I don’t know why it made any sense to me to put the brown rice on top of the scallops.
-Like I said before, I added some ground cayenne pepper to my bowl. If you know ahead of time you would like a little heat in this dish, you can add your spicy-of-choice during the second step with curry paste. I would suggest starting with a 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper and then adjusting based on your preferences during the sauce reduction step if you want a little more kick.
– Next time I would put rice in the bowl first, then spinach and then scallops.
– Since there were only two of us eating we only did half the amount of seafood that the recipe called for but did everything else as instructed. We saved the leftover sauce and rice which we re-heated the next day with some chicken and carrots and that was really good too.
– We ate this with some Protocolo white wine that we picked up at Provenance Food & Wine. I know nothing about wine but I felt like they went together really well.