Psycho Chef Takes the Wine Cure

Turkish beans

Monday:          Goat cheese with Endive / Turkish beans with pickled tomatoes and grilled bread


Tuesday:          Open Lasagna with Smoked Mozzarella and Asparagus


Wednesday:    Seared Scallops with Ginger-Citrus Sauce and Roederer Estate Brut


Thursday:        Jamie Oliver’s Chicken in Milk with Rice and Sautéed Greens


Rusty, the wonder dog

Friday:             NYC – Machiavelli Restaurant – superb house-made pasta and great tuna tartare



Saturday:         NYC Brunch at Fred’s and – A hockey night at Uncle Jack’s Steak House

Sunday:           NYC – Brunch at Bustan (super merguez)

The revelation of the week was how wine enhances food and vice versa.  After a lifetime committed to the stronger distillations of the human spirit (Scotch, Bourbon, Gin, Calvados and the writing of G. K. Chesterton), two dinners built around wine have converted me to the gentler spirit of the vine.  (Well, to be accurate, the other spirits are still in the game, it’s just that wine has been added to them.  I collect bad habits like Jay Leno collects cars.)

How, you might be asking, did this happen?  First, let me say. that’s a bit nosy of you.  Second, let me thank you for the question.  What happened was that during a trip several weeks ago I picked up a copy of the Wine Spectator at the airport, not for the wine part but because the cover story was “Food for Wine,” and a quick thumb-through showed some good-looking (well, nicely photographed) dishes.

The article, however, grabbed me right away.  It turned on an interesting premise.  What if you built your recipe and tweaked your dressings and sauces around specific (as to year, vintner, vineyard, etc.) bottles of wine?  I was hooked by the premise, and then overwhelmed  by the meals we cooked from the recipes in the article.  The salmon with the Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir was really good.  And the wine (a Morgan Vineyards bottle) was great.  The fennel and pear salad with the fumé blanc that we had last night, was even better (and the wine easier to find – Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc).  But the scallops we cooked last Wednesday were, hands down, the best meal of the year – not necessarily in the whole world (though I’m inclined to believe in that possibility), but certainly at our house.  That would not have been true without the champagne for which the dish was designed.  I was not a champagne fan when I went to bed on Tuesday, but by Wednesday night I was ready to defend my Roederer against all comers.

The weekend was filled with great travel, good food and fascinating art – and we even got some work done.  In New York City we had a long walk in Central Park with Rusty the wonder-dog, and Andrew and I spent a glorious hour at the Frick Collection looking at Turner’s large oil paintings of various ports and his water color sketches for these.  The Turner exhibition ends this month – you’d better get up there in the next week or so.  On Sunday, we attended a fine mass, dominated by Hispanic parishioners at Holy Name of Jesus parish (without Hispanics, the Catholic Church in America would be a shadow of itself) and then had a satisfying brunch at Bustan, a southern and eastern Mediterranean-style restaurant which served us the most ethereal merguez sausage imaginable.  Compared to which my own version is ham-handed (and that’s putting it politely) – ah well, we have a new challenge.

Note:  the food in New York is so good at so many places, including some touristy ones,  because there are a ton of chefs who want to work there because there are a ton of people with money who want to eat there.  The next time you complain about the traffic or the crowds in New York, remember, you could be having an inexpensive, quiet dinner in Jenkins Falls, looking out at the traffic-free Main Street and dining on reheated hush-puppies and frozen meat patties.

We’re giving you just one keeper this week, because we really want you to cook these scallops and drink this champagne with them.  You will want to thank us for this dish.  Might I suggest wine or cash as an appropriate gesture?  (SWMBO tells me that I may not – please, just comment on the blog and we will feel recompensed.)



(adapted from recipe in Wine Spectator, May 31, 2017 – in the article, “Wine-First Pairing” by Harvey Steiman)

This dish is truly delicious.  With the champagne it is transformative.  The recipe calls for a Roederer Estate Brut Anderson Valley L’Ermitage 2009.  The State Stores stock that item only during the holidays, but you can find a wonderful bottle of Roederer Estate Brute Anderson Valley for just $25.00 at the Fox Chapel store, and it will work – having the same characteristics as its snooty cousin.  And this sparkling wine is just damn good by itself.

Timing:                                    25 minutes

Ingredients:                             Serves 2 for dinner or 4 as an appetizer

12 large scallops (more than 1” across)
Fine Sea Salt (kosher salt will work)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons chopped chives for garnish

(For the Ginger-Citrus Sauce)

½ cup grapefruit juice and ½ cup orange juice (Note: we used 1 cup of freshly squeezed orange and it worked just fine)
½ cup chopped ginger (Note:  you don’t need to peel, since you’ll be straining the sauce)
1/3 cup sliced leek
½ cup dry sparkling wine (we used the Roederer)
1 tablespoon agave nectar, or to taste (this is readily available in supermarkets – use it instead of granulated sugar for this dish)
1 tablespoon chopped parsley


Pat the scallops dry (and then once again before seasoning and cooking – this will allow you to get a better sear)

Chop the chives, leek, ginger and parsley

Measure out the wine

Heat some shallow bowls for serving


(First, the Ginger-Citrus Sauce)

Reserve a tablespoon each of the orange and grapefruit juice to add at the last second.

Combine the rest of the juices, ginger, leek and wine in a saucepan.  Place over high heat and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes or so (until reduced by about a third).

Strain the mixture into a bowl and rinse the pan, then return the juices to the pan.

(Now, the scallops)

Begin to gently reheat the sauce in the pan you cooked it in.

Blot the scallops dry again and sprinkle with sea salt.

In a large skillet (you need room around each scallop or they won’t sear properly), heat the butter over medium (we cooked at a bit higher temp to get a good sear).  When the foam subsides, sear the scallops for 2 minutes or until the bottoms are browned.

Turn the scallops over, add the sauce and swirl the pan until the sauce comes to a boil.  Remove from the heat.

Add the reserved juice and the chopped parsley to the reheated sauce.

Serve the scallops in heated, shallow bowls with some of the sauce spooned over.  Sprinkle with the chives.  Serve with chilled Roederer.

5 thoughts on “Psycho Chef Takes the Wine Cure

  1. Billy, we will cook the scallops again – Ambrose, you will enjoy – Ann, can’t wait to have dinner with one good knee and kflats, thanks for the tip, it’s appreciated. Cast-iron is a spectacular way to cook.

  2. Dear William,
    I must confess I haven’t read your blog in for awhile – laziness not because I don’t enjoy it. This one is one of your best that I bothered to tune in for. It’s good to read you are turning into a wino! Chris will celebrate with you after you get your new part! Hugs to Barb. When do you sign for your TV show?

  3. The scallop dish looks like a real winner. Thanks for the recipe and this will be our next entrée at our family get- together.

  4. Bill – if you haven’t already, you should try your scallop recipe using a cast iron pan – great sear without overcooking – here’s the ATK recipe & technique from their cast iron cookbook – I’ve made it a few times with the orange-lime vinaigrette – can’t wait to try yours – thanks

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