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.

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.

pepperonistuffedshells

Stuffed shells are one of my favorite comfort meals. Pasta encasing a bunch of fluffy ricotta and gooey, cheesy goodness? You just can’t go wrong. Not to mention the variations and combinations that you can use to “mix up” your filling is endless.

So, when Sugardale Foods reached out to me about creating a recipe using their delicious pepperoni – my mind immediately began brainstorming. And, led me right to the thought of  a pepperoni-studded stuffed shell (say that 3x fast!). All of your favorite flavors in a pizza, but in pasta form. Genius!

Pepperoni is something that I always have on hand in the fridge, it’s a great way to add a little bit of meaty flavor to recipes. I’ll often add it to skillet pastas, or baked pasta dishes…as well as just for snacking purposes. Love having it around for a quick anti-pasta platter when unexpected guests drop in. A few slices of cheese, some pepperoni, maybe a few olives? Bam! Awesome easy appetizer.

But, finding a good-quality pepperoni can be a little bit daunting – to say the least. So many are full of so much fat, by the time you cook it…there’s nothing left. Not the case with Sugardale’s pepperoni.

Sugardale Foods is a family-owned company that’s been in business since 1920. Right here in the good, old US of A too! That’s a feat that seems to be harder and harder to come by these days. You can find their products  (ham, pepperoni, bacon) at many retailers nationwide, in various size packaging. With 3 little boys, I can blow through one of their 1-lb bags in no time. It’s a brand I know I can always turn to for quality! Make sure you stop by their recipe page for a bunch of great recipe ideas.

I kept the filling simple: Ricotta, chunks of mozzarella, a little oregano. Placed the whole pepperoni slices into the shells, then stuffed with the ricotta mixture. Baked with my favorite quick marinara sauce and a little extra mozzarella on top. Perfection, I tell ya!

It’s the time of year where we find ourselves turning to comfort foods, and this one is definitely a new favorite in our home. Add it to your menu soon, you won’t regret it!

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What is your favorite comfort meal? Tell me about it in the comments and you will be entered to win a $100 Visa gift card!

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