Its been a pretty hectic time around here for the past several weeks. Between house hunting and then the whole purchasing process, arranging a mini vacay to the Florida Keys and a nasty bout of the flu that seemed to hit everyone but me and that lasted for weeks, the last thing on either mine or my husband's mind was Date Night at Home. No, I say! I will not go down without a fight! One doesn't get to the tender age of 51 without learning a thing or two about relationships along the way and one of the most important things I've learned is that we all need to MAKE time to just reconnect with our partner. This past weekend, I was determined to wow my hubby with a nice romantic meal and let me tell you...you don't want to stand in the way of an Irish-blooded determined Newfoundland woman when she's on a mission!
When considering my options for our Date Night at Home meal, I wanted to do something sexy yet light, flavourful yet not overwhelming, decadent yet not labor intensive, (that would defeat the purpose afterall). Conjurring up all sorts of mental images of things that are the epitome of 'sexy' I remembered that ancient Greek legend has it that Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, beauty, pleasure and procreation, (not that there'd be any procreating goin' on...that ship has sailed, thank God!), was carried to earth on the shell of a scallop. Scallops....with a flesh that's far milder than many of the ocean's creatures and a soft texture that is so voluptuous on the tongue, was the perfect choice for our romantic meal. One of the best scallop dishes I've ever had was Scallops in Pernod Sauce at a St. John's restaurant, now closed, many moons ago. There was just something about the licorice flavour of the pernod sauce that seemed to marry perfectly with the scallops. I didn't have any pernod on hand but I did have fennel which has a licorice essence.
At this point I could go on and on (and on), about the health benefits of both scallops and fennel. I could tell you that scallops are an excellent source of both Omega-3 fats and vitamin B12 and as such, they promote cardiovascular health and have many antioxidant properties. I could also tell you that fennel too is loaded with vitamins and minerals and has so many health benefits, you'll wonder why you don't incorporate it into your meals more often. But the fact of the matter is, while the preparation of this meal was very much about matters of the heart and overall well being, I didn't chose scallops and fennel for their many health benefits. I suppose it doesn't hurt to mention that fennel is widely used around the world in mouth freshners or that scallops, having long enjoyed an aphrodisiac reputation since Ancient Greek times, has been proven to actually hold the potential for raising sexcual hormone levels in both men and women. My sole purpose for combining these two ingredients was I felt they would accentuate one another and I wasn't wrong.
Scallops with fennel alone would be just plain boring so I decided to include some bacon, ('cause EVERYTHING'S better with bacon), linguine pasta and cream sauce. The first thing I did was dice up 4 strips of bacon very small and saute that in a large nonstick skillet until crisp. I transferred the bacon onto a plate lined with paper towel and then seasoned my scallops lightly on both sides with some freshly ground sea salt and black pepper and seared them on high heat in about a tablespoon of the bacon fat.
Don't they look just scrumptious? I mean seriously...who could resist? The soft fleshy texture of scallops with their delicately mild sweet flavour make them hard to resist, even by those who aren't even particularly fond of fish or other shellfish! I placed the scallops on a warm plate and set them aside next to the bacon while I threw the rest of the dish together.
First I chopped a full fennel into small, bite size pieces. Prior to chopping, I removed the frons and placed them to one side...they'd make a beautiful garnish. I then sauteed the fennel and 2 cloves of garlic, minced, in the same skillet I had cooked both the bacon and scallops, adding about a Tablespoon of olive oil. When the fennel began to soften, after about 2-3 minutes, I added in 1/4 c. white wine. (It just so happened that I had a bottle of Bartali Centalto Toscana Bianco IGT opened and while it wa a little sweeter than perhaps this dish needed, it was opened...what can I say?). When the wine had reduced by half, I added in 3/4 c. low sodium chicken stock and 1/2 c. heavy cream. I whisked this altogether and brought it to a gentle boil. I reduced the heat and let it simmer for 5 minutes or so before adding in the bacon. Juat before adding the bacon, I gave the sauce a quick taste and decided it needed a little something else and added in about a Tablespoon of pure Canadian Maple Syrup.
While the sauce was simmering, I brought a large pot of salted water to a boil and added approximately 350 g. fresh linguine pasta. I chose linguine becase it's slightly finer than fettucini and I felt the delicate scallops deserved a delicate pasta. Given that I was using fresh pasta, it only took about 3-4 minutes for the pasta to cook.
After draining the pasta, I added it to the bacon fennel cream sauce and tossed it to coat. I then added in the scallops and waited for a few minutes before plating, just to heat the scallops through. When plating, I garnished with finely chopped fennel frons.
Once plated, I served the Pan Seared Scallops in Fennel Bacon Cream Sauce wth Lingquine with toasted baquette that had been rubbed with fresh garlic, lightly buttered and topped with freshly grated parmesan cheese.
Tell me that doesn't look sexy! The most time consuming part of this meal was deciding what to actually cook! Other than that, the bacon took about 5 minutes, scallops about 4 minutes, fennel and garlic, 2 minutes, overall sauce 5 minutes and the pasta was cooked while the sauce was cooking. So in under 30 minutes I placed a truly sexy, upscale restaurant-worthy meal in front of my husband that cost me under $30....INCLUDING the wine! Frugal AND frisky! I can't think of better way to kick off Date Night at Home!
Fire glowing, wine flowing, Rod Stewart crooning out 'Fly Me To the Moon' in the background and a sensual meal....tell me I don't know how to woo my man!
No longer are Scallops In Pernod Sauce my most memorable scallop dish....it has been repalced by the fantastic combination of perfectly cooked, pan seared scallops embraced in a phenomenal fennel bacon cream sauce that not only was perfect for Date Night at Home but is so easy to throw together it would also be the perfect meal for entertaining a few close friends.
Pan Seared Scalloped in Fennel Bacon Cream Sauce with fresh linguine and toasted Parmesan Garlic Bread.....easy, healthied-up, inexpensive AND delicious!