The Food Almanac: Wednesday, October 2, 2013

It's National Sea Scallop Day!
Staff Writer

Scallops, like most mollusks, veer from the general seafood rule that smaller is better. I find that the bigger the scallop, the better the flavor.

Today's Flavor
Today is National Sea Scallop Day. Those are the big ones, and they're excellent this time of year. Sea scallops come from the ocean in the Northeast. They range in size from about an inch across to the size of a petite filet mignon. Scallops, like most mollusks, veer from the general seafood rule that smaller is better. I find that the bigger the scallop, the better the flavor.

Unfortunately, most sea scallops in supermarkets are heavily processed by floating factories. These shuck and preserve the scallops in a substance that extends the shelf life but gives the scallops a chemical taste and a terrible texture. Those are difficult to brown, regardless of the heat of your pan.

The good kind are harder to find and more expensive. Variously known as "dry-pack," "day-boat," or "diver" scallops, they're caught the old way, shucked and shipped without preservatives. Those are the ones you find in the best restaurants. They have the superb sweet aroma and flavor of the sea, with just a light searing at the outside.

Some curious facts about scallops:

1. They can swim. They flap their shells (they're like the one you see on the Shell gas station sign) and go "flying" through the water.

2. The part of the scallop that we eat is analogous to the "eye" of the oyster. It's a muscle. Sometimes sushi bars will serve scallops with the entire surrounding tissue intact. If you try that, you learn why we only eat the white part.

3. If you cook scallops at home, wash them well. Scallops can hold a lot of fine sand, and if that remains the grinding action one your teeth is disconcerting.

4. Scallops very rarely are found with an orange roe sac attached. Depending on which chef you ask, this is either wonderful or something to be trimmed off and disposed of. I think it's good.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez
When you cook good sea scallops, they're ready when they're just warm all the way through, and bulging a little on the top and bottom. When in doubt, take them out.

Gourmet Gazetteer
Mollusk, Virginia 22517 is near the tidal Rappahannock River, not far from Chesapeake Bay, 118 miles from Washington, D.C. Farmland is giving way to country residences in the area--enough to have about 4500 residents, a number that's growing quickly. Oysters, scallops, and mussels (but especially oysters) are found in the river, although the waters are not as fecund as they once were. You're better off looking for a bite to eat at Oaks, on State Highway 3, about four miles away.

Namesakes Of Famous New Orleans Dishes
Ferdinand Foch was born today in 1851, in Tarbes, France. A career soldier, he became Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in the final year of World War I, and one of the heroes of the war. He predicted--correctly--that the treaty ending the war would only keep peace with Germany for twenty years. The best dish at Antoine's bears his name. Oysters Foch are fried, then placed atop a piece of toast spread with pate de foie gras. The sauce is a thick, dark brown derivative of hollandaise. The foie gras was to recall the mud Foch and his troops had to battle through, and the sauce the blood that flowed on the battlefield. Gross, yes. But that's how people thought back in those days. Forget about that and remember it as a great appetizer.

Food In The Funnies
Today in 1950, the comic strip Peanuts appeared for the first time, in seven newspapers. It became the most widely-published strip in history, and made creator Charles Schulz a very rich man. He never liked the name of the strip, though. (It had been forced on him by the syndicators.)

Food In Show Biz
Today was the birthday, in 1890, of Groucho Marx, one of the greatest ad-lib comedians of all time, and as such eminently quotable. "Mustard's no good without roast beef," he once said. He and the Marx Brothers were in quite a few movies with food names, the most memorable of which were Duck Soup and Animal Crackers. . . This is the birthday of Don McLean, the author of the song American Pie. Which, of course, isn't about pie at all!

Edible Dictionary 
glaze, v.--To coat foods with a thin layer, usually one which will become highly viscous or even solid by the time the food is served. n.--The coating that results from glazing. Glazes can be sweet (as for cakes) or savory (for meats, seafoods, or vegetables). In the latter case, a glaze starts out the same way a sauce does, but in the cooking process it thickens, so that almost all of it adheres to the food with which it's cooked.

Deft Dining Rule #491
As irresistible as hot glazed doughnuts are, their shape accurately estimates the feeling one has about oneself after freely indulging in them.

Food In Medicine
Sir Berkeley Moynihan was born on this day in 1865. He was a pioneer in abdominal surgery, but what brings him up here is this quotation of his, which we all know to be true: "The stomach is so sensitive an organ that it cannot refrain from weeping when its neighbors are in trouble, and its voice is sometimes so loud as to drown that of the real sufferer." Turning it around, we'd say that you can make other parts of your body happy by making your stomach happy.

Food Namesakes
Dusty Baker hit his thirtieth home run of 1977 on this date, making it the first time four players on the same team hit that mark in a single season. . . Plum Warner, one of the most famous cricket players of all time, stepped up to the Big Wicket today in 1873. . . Toro, singer with the Taiwanese boy band Typhoon, started belting it out today in 1981. (Toro is the sushi-bar word for fatty tuna.)

Words To Eat By 
"I did toy with the idea of doing a cookbook. The recipes were to be the routine ones: how to make dry toast, instant coffee, hearts of lettuce and brownies. But as an added attraction, at no extra charge, my idea was to put a fried egg on the cover. I think a lot of people who hate literature but love fried eggs would buy it if the price was right."--Groucho Marx, born today in 1890.

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