Scallop, Shrimp, and Cod Skillet with Parmesan Grits and Spinach

DSCN4347Those of you wonderful people who follow my blog know I have a weakness for anything cooked in a cast-iron skillet.  There is something so old-timey about cast iron, and I love how they serve today as both cooking equipment and serving platter – as they do in my house.  Maybe it’s the weight of them; maybe it’s just the tradition of them — I don’t know, but everything seems to taste better in cast iron.  No wonder, then, that tonight’s offering is a one-pan meal: a mixed grill of seared scallops, shrimp, and cod filet, served with piping hot cheese grits and some quick wilted spinach.  Light, healthy, and warming — just the thing for a chilly winter’s night.

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Scallop, Shrimp, and Cod Skillet with Parmesan Grits and Spinach

6 large shrimp, peeled
2-4 large scallops (8oz total), adductor muscles removed
1/2 lb cod filet
6 oz spinach
1 cup grits
4 tbs butter, melted and divided, plus 1 tbs butter, cold
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 lemon

This meal was inspired largely by the super-huge scallops on display at Whole Foods.  They were simply enormous, and my soul ached for them at first glance, but my pocketbook was unprepared for the hefty price-tag which came along with them.  So instead of doing without entirely, I purchased the two fattest bivalves I could find (they came to almost 1/2 lb on their own!), and augmented them with some more reasonably priced seafare — some large tiger shrimp and a nice codfish loin.  The shrimp I peeled while raw, and the fish I cut into bite sized pieces.

DSCN4333This is actually a *very* quick meal, and super-easy — it’s just  the expense that sort of knocks it out of the Weeknight Wondermeal category.  I started by melting my butter, which rather cooled back to room temperature before I started cooking in earnest, while I assembled everything else.  I wash and spin dry my spinach, grate my cheese, and get my grits all measured out.

DSCN4339I divide my melted butter roughly into 6ths, placing 1 dollop into each skillet, which I then position over hot burners.  As soon as the butter has begun to brown, I layer in my seafood, starting with the scallops and fish, which I let sear on one side for about 4 minutes, before flipping each piece carefully.

DSCN4340I then add the shrimp, with a dollop more butter on top to melt over them, which I cook for 2 minutes on each side, making a total of 4 minutes for the fish and scallops.  Y’see, the shrimp doesn’t take as long as the other stuff …

DSCN4341I remove the protiens briefly to a warm plate, which I cover with plastic wrap for a few minutes.

DSCN4338The skillets remain on the heat with their butter still bubbling hot.

DSCN4342In goes my spinach, which I sort of roll around in the butter and let wilt over the heat.

DSCN4343Meanwhile, I’ve made my grits according to the package directions (1 part grits to 3 parts water is the magic ratio), and have added my cold tablespoon of butter and most of my grated cheese, reserving a bit for garnish.

DSCN4344After only a few moments, my spinach is almost completely wilted, with some bits browning and crisping nicely on the pan’s surface.  I push all this to one side, and divide my grits between the two skillets, pouring them next to the spinach.

DSCN4345The fish, scallops, and shrimp get placed back into the skillets, with my last dollops of butter placed on top, before I throw both in a very hot oven for about 8 minutes to heat completely through.

DSCN4346A dash of salt, a sprinkling of pepper, a cross-hatching of shredded cheese, and a wedge of lemon are all the compliments needed for this rich, warm, satisfying seafood dinner.  Each protein brings something different to the plate: the cod is flaky and tender, the shrimp is fresh and firm, and the scallop is sweet and seared to a crisp.  Along with the stick-to-your ribs corn grits and helping of verdant greenery, this is a complete dinner in virtually no time at all.  Dig in and enjoy, my friends.  I sure did.

Weeknight Wondermeal: Rustic Lamb Steak Skillets with Tomatoes, Brussels, Potatoes, and Burrata

O.M.F.G.

Seriously.

Seldom do I find the Twitter generation’s vernacular useful, but tonight is one of those occasions where the treasure trove of Lolita’s vocabulary only detracts from the unpretentious pleasure of roasted meat and vegetables in a cast iron skillet.  Wait – that was pretentious, wasn’t it?  Let me rephrase: holy shit – my dinner was delicious!  1″ thick lamb shoulder chops, with tomatoes, potatoes, and Brussels sprouts, guest starring pepperoni and burrata cheese, all nestled in an iron bathtub and roasted to smokin’ hot in the oven until bursting, juicy, tender, and robust.  So freakin’ good — so freakin’ easy to make.

Rustic Lamb Steak Skillets with Tomatoes, Brussels, Potatoes, and Burrata

2 1″ thick lamb shoulder steaks
8 tiny wee potatoes
8-10 Brussels sprouts
6 baby tomatoes on the vine, split into clusters of 3
16-20 slices pepperoni
1 boll burrata cheese
EVOO
sea salt, cracked black pepper

These 8″ cast iron skillets were the only bounty Black Friday yielded, but they’ve already proven themselves worth their weight in gold (metaphorically speaking; because they are wrist-breakingly heavy).  I’ve heated them for 20 or so minutes (about as long as it took for me to stage my set-up shot above) in a 400° oven before setting them on my hot stove-top with a shot of EVOO in each.

This is a Weeknight Wondermeal, which means it is easy easy easy.  Here are the few steps I followed to make this deliciousness happen: I rinsed, patted dry, salted and peppered my steaks, and set them along the edge of their respective pans.  I’ve trimmed and halved my sprouts, which I set cut-side down on the hot surfaces to sear, and I’ve skinned only the middles of my tiny wee potatoes and have nestled them within.  The sprouts immediately start to sizzle.

I layer my slices of pepperoni over the sprouts and spuds, then throw the pans in my hot oven to roast for 15 minutes.

After said 15 minutes, I pull out the pans, flip the steaks, move my spuds to one side, my sprouts and pepperoni to the other, and snuggle my tomato stems in between.  I douse them (and everything else – ‘cept the lamb) with EVOO, and throw it back in the hot oven for 10 minutes.

After said 10 minutes,  my tomatoes have split, my potatoes are tender, my sprouts have caramelized faces, firm middles, and crisp edged wilted humps.  My steaks are cooked through and juicy, so I halve my boll of burrata — modern cheesemakers most perfect homage to cow’s milk — and place one in the middle of each pan, topped with another slice of pepperoni.  Back in the oven my skillets go, but I crank the heat up to broil for the final 5 minutes to finish.

Gamey lamb steaks sizzling in their own melted fat juices, coupled with the savory liquid balance only roasting tomatoes bring, flavored with spicy pepperoni and herbaceous iron-seared miniature cabbage halves, and studded with russet potato thumbs.  A cracked egg of curded and stretched cow cream blends with the various drippings, forming a gravy that is pink and milky, meaty, starchy, and vegetable-y, and which spears a sumptuous feast on the each tine of every fork.  And I didn’t even stop at the grocery store this evening — everything was in my fridge.  Veggies from the farm stand, lamb from Blood Farms, burrata, pepperoni and potatoes from Trader Joe’s: all in all, $20 worth of ingredients.  But the experience of diving into this cauldron of comely comestibles?  Priceless!