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Our Scallops as Served at Downton Abbey

MPBN recently announced a contest for recipes featuring Maine products. Then they wanted a fanciful connection to any Masterpiece Theatre character. So...

Violet, Dowager Countess of Graham, meet Capt. Marsden Brewer, Stonington fisherman. Countess, would you like something to serve that is elegant but that tastes good?

Here is what MPBN had to say:

CONGRATS, you are one of our inaugural winners of our Dash of Maine Masterpiece Challenge! A super Masterpiece connection and Chef Corry really liked the recipe describing it so: "This one is great on so many levels! Love the sustainable and local elements. Fantastic tion to detail regarding timing and seasoning. Great comfort food reminiscent of Finnan Haddie."

And here is the recipe:

Do you consider creamed spinach slightly retro or is it a special feature of your holidays? How about mashed potato enhanced with cream cheese? No matter how you answered these two questions you are in for a treat when you add butter-braised scallops.

Writing out a recipe with quantities is a difficult matter since spinach and potatoes -- and appetites -- come in such different sizes. Here is a guide for coming up with your own versions. Many spinach packages come in 5 ounce clear plastic boxes. One is a bit scant for 2 people and two boxes is not too generous. You probably know how many potatoes you like for making mashed potatoes for two. You may indeed have a pint bag of shucked and gutted scallops tucked away in your freezer.

Here is a good starting point for quantities when you want to serve 2 people generously. Plan on making 1 cup of cream sauce. Lightly saute some finely chopped onion and or garlic in butter. Melt 4 oz cream cheese in that pan and stir in 1 Tablespoon of Wondra flour. Add 1 cup of Half and Half milk and whip until smooth. Now divide that sort-of-Bechamel into two half cup amounts, one for the mashed potatoes and one for the spinach.

Blanch the spinach until just wilted, drain, and squeeze out as much liquid as you can. Mix that creamy white sauce with the spinach. In another pan lightly brown some butter and then heat your scallops in that, just to warm them. Stir most of the scallops into the creamed spinach, reserving some for garnish.

Part of the challenge of this dish is getting all the components at the right temperature at the right time. If you put this spinach mixture aside while you mash the potatoes, you can then reheat each in separate bowls, giving the creamy potatoes more time than the scallops and spinach which reheat very quickly. You do not want to toughen the scallops.

When everything is proper temperature, you might wish to quickly make a moat of potatoes around your serving plate and pile up your spinach and scallop to make a mound in the center of your moat. You might wish to sprinkle some Adobo Seasoning (the kind with or without pepper) on your spinach. Amount of flavor-enhancing salt to use in any scallop recipe is always a question. How used to salt are you? If you have been told to cut down salt for your health, you have probably found you are subsequently more sensitive to it. The scallops themselves taste of the sea salt. Adding cheeses also increases the salt but sprinkling on some Parmesan is a nice touch.

Now that you are thinking of Italian cheese, it may have occurred to you that you might choose to cook up some spinach pasta or whole wheat pasta noodles to use instead of the potatoes. In that case you certainly might consider topping all with grated Parmesan or mixed shredded Italian cheeses.

Clearly you do not have to be a math wizard to halve or double these mini-recipes. If you have any leftovers you might even serve them for lunch as a stuffed microwaved "baked" potato. Why not treat yourself? You certainly created a special dish thanks to farmed whole sea scallops. Take a bow.

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