Gluten-Free with PMD: Scallops Over Red Quinoa with Maitaki Mushrooms

By P.M. DEVLIN

Ok.  Quinoa is the new super-grain or something, right?  Sounds fabulous, sounds hard to prepare, fancy.  Wrong you would be to let these thoughts dance in your head.  Quinoa is positively ancient, and about as simple to cook as Top Ramen.  No seriously, it makes proper rice look like rocket science.  And what’s more, it is quite tasty.

Quinoa is the gluten-free starch in this dish, but fresh scallops are the star.  I’ve been on a bit of a seafood kick lately, I think to prove to myself that there is plenty of good product out there, despite the big “M” out my back window.

If last weeks protein was on a budget, this week certainly is not.  Fresh, not frozen, diver scallops are pricey, about twenty bucks per fifteen count.  That said, it is worth it, and when properly cooked, just might be the most perfect of all foods harvested from the sea.

Without further adieux I give to you Scallops over Red Quinoa with Maitaki Mushrooms.  For this dish you will need:

  • A bag of red quinoa
  • Chicken stock
  • Four or so large scallops per diner
  • A few stalks of the white/green chard, not the red variety
  • One head of Maitaki mushrooms (they grow in clumps)
  • Butter (think early era Paula Dean)
  • Plenty of chopped garlic
  • Large bulb of shallot
  • Citrus
  • White cooking wine

Wash the quinoa in a strainer, add a half cup per diner to a medium saucepan along with water that comes two fingers or so above the grain, along with a few shakes of salt and pepper.  Cover and set heat to medium.  Wash your Scallops thoroughly in cold water, rubbing the edges to get any remaining grit out.  Set on a paper towel, and cover with another paper towel.  When the scallops are totally dried, add liberal salt and cracked pepper to the top side, along with a pinch of paprika per scallop, mostly for color.  Setaside.

As the quinoa begins to cook it will use up the water, at which point you can add a bit of stock and white wine, as you fluff with a fork, and cover again, turning to med-low heat.  Remove the individual mushrooms from the bulb with a paring knife and add to a hot skillet along with a few pads of butter, S&P (salt and pepper), and some garlic.  You want the shrooms to cook on medium high heat so you get some nice color on them and maximize flavor.  These mushrooms are also referred to as “hen of the woods” which I quite like, as they have an earthy, strong, almost poultry-like flavor.  Now wash and roughly chop the chard, adding to a skillet or wok on medium heat along with a healthy amount of Olive Oil, and S&P.

Now for our scallops.  Select your favorite iron skillet and get it rippin’ hot.  Add butter and a bit of olive oil.  You want it hot enough to almost brown the butter, but not burn it.  At this time add all of the scallops, seasoned side down, and DON’T TOUCH for at least three minutes.  We want then to develop a real crust.  When the first few begin to faintly crack on their sides, carefully flip them.  They do not need quite as much time on the second side.  At this point your chard should be nicely cooked, your shrooms browned, and the quinoa should have sprouted little pig tails (see photo).  Add a pad of butter, fresh herbs, a squeeze of your citrus and correct the seasoning.  Remove the scallops from the pan, crust side up and let rest for just a minute while you add a quarter cup of wine to the still-hot pan, along with minced shallot and a squirt or three of hot sauce.  As soon as it stops smelling strongly of wine, the pan sauce isready.

I decided to plate this dish with a birds nest of chard, a mount of red quinoa in the middle, the scallops all around and the mushrooms scattered evenly.  Drizzle your quick sauce around the outside of the plate and ring that dinner bell.

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Matt Devlin Fish It Missoula BioMatt Devlin is a fishing guide in Missoula MT.  He enjoys dry flies, “floating with the bros”, attempting to get his labradoodle to chase tennis balls, andwriting.