It’s that time of year here on Chincoteague. When a friend or neighbor will knock on your door, and present you with a Ziploc bag full of freshly caught scallops, soft shell crabs, drum fish, shrimp…whatever happens to be good on the docks or our little roadside seafood markets that day. It’s pretty much my favorite time of year on our little island, aside from Pony Penning…

So when my BFF stopped by last week with these gorgeous scallops, it made me feel one step closer to full-blown summer. I’d also happened to restock my supply of Geechie Boy grits last week too. While shrimp & grits is a regular on our menu this time of year, I thought – why not scallops instead?

Seasoned them simply with some of my homemade seasoning salt and pepper, gave them a quick sear. Happened to some fresh spinach on hand that needed to be used, so I sauteed that with a little bit of garlic and champagne vinegar – which did a great job of deglazing the pan and bringing all that awesome flavor into the dish. I think kale or chard would also be wonderful in place of the spinach!

The grits are a perfect accompaniment, because they kind of take care of themselves on the stove while you get the scallops squared away. Also, grits are so versatile when it comes to different flavors. I wanted something with a little bit of a coastal twist – so I stirred in some Old Bay right before serving. Life changing, ya’ll…

Served with a lovely local Rosé and a salad, it was the perfect way to break-in dinners on the back porch season for us! 

So, this sous-vide thing…have you heard of it? Yes? No? Maybe? When asked to describe it, I tell people that I like to think of it as a really bad ass Crockpot. Basically, you season your cut of beef and then vaccum seal it – it’s then plopped in a water bath held at a precise temperature by the doohickey called the immersion circulator. So, the item comes to just the perfect temperature for whatever it is…then, is held there until you’re ready to serve it.

I first learned of this method of preparation years ago, back in my religious watching of Top Chef days. Back then, this method of “cooking” was reserved for fancy chefs in fancy kitchens…as the apparatus required was super expensive.

Well, times they are a changin’ – and you can get a pretty decent model for $100 on Amazon, if you keep your eyes peeled for a sale. They’re about the size of a large curling iron, so are convenient for storage sakes. And then for the water bath, all you need is a large stockpot. It clips right to the side – bada bing!

And time isn’t an issue. In fact, tough cuts like this eye of round benefit from a long cook cycle. I did this one for 24 hours. The connective tissue has time to break down, creating a roast that can be cut with a fork…but the roast still stays rare. It’s really quite mind-blowing.

After it’s soaked for the appropriate amount of time, a quick sear in a raging hot cast iron skillet is in order. I’ve also turned to my trusty kitchen torch, which is always handy in the kitchen. The grill is also an option – but again, just make sure it’s REALLY hot. Just a couple of minutes on each side, to give  it a little color.

I like doing large roasts, like this entire eye of the round – or a pork loin. We’ll enjoy it for dinner one night…then reinvent the leftovers all week in different dishes. Perfect for this time of year when we’re scooting out the door to baseball practice or some other obligation that fills the schedule up every week!

So, if you’re on the fence about one – I say do it! I got mine a couple of Christmases ago, and have just really gotten into using it in the past couple of months. It really is so versatile. I don’t even want to tell you what it can do for a poached egg. Life changing.

The big game is this weekend! Anyone planning on having a party? Or heading somewhere where you want to bring something to share? I’ve got the perfect munchie to fit the bill, if that’s the case!

Y’all know I love to incorporate seafood into my dishes whenever possible, and for a throw-down like Sunday’s event – it’s always fun to splurge a little bit for your spread…

Since most of my local seafood shacks are closed for the off-season here on the island, I took a road trip “across the bay” to my closest Whole Foods Market – in Hampton Roads, to see what kind of goodness they were offering for the big game!

While I’m usually not a purveyor of pre-made items, their uber-tubs of guacamole have always been a favorite for me (incidentally on sale this week). I’ll usually buy one to snack on with some chips on the way home! So, I decided to use that as a base for my guacamole for both simplicity, and times sake.

For the shrimp salsa, I picked up some of the gorgeous grey shrimp found at their seafood counter (another sale item this week – score!). Their fishmongers are always so knowledgeable, and always ready to answer any question you can throw at them! I love that they work with small, local fisheries whenever possible. Knowing that I can still support sustainable fishing practices, while shopping at a large grocer, is very important to me. Just another reason why I love Whole Foods, and everything that they stand for.

So, those shrimp. I roasted them with the shell on (helps to retain moisture and tenderness) with some fresh lemon, oregano, and lots of pepper. Once they were perfectly cooked I let them cool down enough to peel, then give a rough chop. Combined with a little tomato, red onion, jalapeno, lime juice, and a bit of cilantro to brighten it up – the rustic, chunky salsa was the perfect contrast against the smooth, creamy guacamole. And, it was so pretty on the plate!

The perfect addition to your big game day buffet.  

Disclosure: I have a partnership with Whole Foods Market and was compensated for my work, but all words and opinions are my own.

Paella is one of those dishes that was always on my “to make” list, but I just never got around to. Honestly, I don’t know why I waited so long to give it a whirl. Chicken, spicy chorizo, shrimp, clams, white wine, saffron – all cooked together, with a hefty portion of rice acting as a bed to absorb all that goodness.

I love one dish meals to begin with. But, the flavor that comes out of this simple – yet sophisticated dish, is un-paralleled.

Yeah, I know it’s traditionally made with mussels. But, that’s something we don’t come by too often here on the Eastern Shore. They tend prefer rocky coastlines, and we have alot of marshy muddy coast here. That being said, I love this Eastern Shore twist of the littleneck clams. Juicy and tender – they add wonderful flavor to the paella. That I’m not so sure you’d get with mussels to begin with…

I’ve never had a paella pan (don’t believe in uni-taskers), but if you have a heavy dutch oven – you’re all set! The good folks at Le Creuset were so kind to send me this gorgeous Mariner Star Dutch oven a couple of weeks ago. I love it’s nautical look and feel, it looks right at home in my island kitchen.

Oh yeah, by the way – they have one to give away to one lucky reader! Details can be found at the end of the post.A quick sear of the chicken and chorizo, followed by a saute of onion and garlic. Tomatoes, wine, chicken stock saffron, and bay leaf create a rich broth in which the rice cooks, along with the chicken and chorizo, in the oven. The seafood is added for the last few minutes, so it doesn’t get overcooked in the process.

To attain the soccarat, or the crispy edge on the bottom of your paella, just takes a few minutes on the stovetop once the paella is removed from the oven. And trust me, it’s worth it. Don’t skip this step.

An easy garnish of a lemon wedge and some fresh parsley, a green salad, and a bottle of wine – and you’ve got a lovely meal fit for company!

Le Creuset has graciously offered to giveaway one of the Limited Edition Mariner Star 5.5 Quart Round Dutch Oven to one lucky reader. What’s your favorite thing to make in a dutch oven? Leave a comment telling us what that is, here on this post, to be entered to win. Winner will be chosen on February 10th at 12 PM, via random number generator.

WINNING COMMENT WAS #46! Congratulations, Sarah – I hope you enjoy the dutch oven, and make many treasured family recipes in it over the years. Thank you again, Le Creuset!

Source: adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

Disclaimer: I received a 5.5 Quart Round Dutch Oven from Le Creuset for review. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.