Sunday nights are for Game of Thrones in our household. I don’t know about you, but I always want to order dinner on special TV nights. Whatever your show is, there’s something ritualistic about waiting for the doorbell to ring and then curling up on the couch with a fork and a pile of delicious, but kind of bad for you, food. A gigantic salad just doesn’t do it for me while I’m watching intrigue unfurl.
To stay strong against the temptation of the stack of delivery menus this week, I searched through my recipe collection to find something new and tantalizing. Mission accomplished! I LOVE Chinese food, but have been avoiding it due to some migraine issues. I’m also a big fan of scallops – or fishy marshmallows, as Erik calls them. Chinese food + scallops + spicy + some greens (so you don’t feel too bad) = General Tso’s scallops! Delicious enough that I might have to make them again next Sunday. Unless our copy of A Feast of Ice and Fire: The Official Game of Thrones Companion Cookbook arrives by then.
There are two things that might scare you off from this recipe.
First – Shouldn’t we be avoiding seafood? Mercury and overfishing and all? The Environmental Defense Fund says that scallops are low in contaminants, so we can eat more than four meals a month without concern. It recommends bay scallops (the small ones) over sea scallops (the marshmallow-sized ones), because the usual harvesting method is less harmful to the environment. Sea scallops are still “ECO-OK”, though.
Second – You seriously want me to fry those things three times? Yes, I do. Here’s the problem. If you use a low temperature for long enough to cook them through, they’ll be really greasy. If you cook them only at the high temperature, they’ll burn before they finish cooking. This is a worthwhile compromise. I was skeptical too, but it was really much easier than I expected. Just make sure that you have a thermometer that goes up to 400 degrees and everything is ready to go before you start frying. The oil heats up pretty quickly, since it’s not very deep. (If you don’t have a wok, use your widest pot.) Since each cooking time is short, it’s really no more work than stirring a pot for 5 minutes. Things move pretty quickly once you start frying, which you can take advantage of if you’re well-prepared beforehand.
Okay, one more thing. Our recipe calls for kale flowers, which you might not be able to find. They’re just the flower buds from overwintered kale, but we hadn’t seen them before this season. They taste kind of like broccoli rabe, but less bitter. If you can’t find them, feel free to use broccoli (which the original recipe calls for anyway) or broccoli rabe. You could also just leave it out.
Beware! The original recipe from The New York Times calls for marinating the scallops for six to eight hours. We didn’t overlooked that and only did it for three. Still delicious.
General Tso’s Scallops
|Amount||Ingredient||Preparation||Where we bought it (SWM = Somerville Winter Market)|
|1||Egg||Red Fire Farm|
|2 1/2 TBsp||Rice wine||1 1/2 TBsp for the marinade; 1 TBsp for the sauce.|
|2 TBsp + 1 tsp||Soy sauce||1 tsp for the marinade; 2 TBsp for the sauce.|
|1 tsp||Sunflower oil||Stolor Organics|
|3/4 cup||Cornstarch||1/4 cup for the marinade; 1/2 cup for dredging.|
|1 pound||Scallops||Jordan Brothers Seafood (SWM)|
|3 TBsp||Chicken stock or vegetable broth||Homemade|
|2 TBsp||Sugar||Honey would probably work, too.|
|1 tsp||White vinegar|
|2 tsp||Arrowroot powder||Substitute potato or cornstarch|
|4 cups + 1 TBsp||Peanut or safflower oil|
|4||Dried chili peppers||Broken up; use more or less depending on your heat tolerance.||Home-dried|
|1 TBsp||Garlic||Chopped finely||Keith’s Farm|
|3||Scallions (green onions)||Chopped (white and light green parts only)||Middle Earth Farms (Cambridge Winter Market)|
|2 tsp||Balsamic vinegar|
|1 tsp||Sesame oil|
|2 cups||Kale flowers||Steamed; substitute broccoli or broccoli rabe||NorthStar Farm (SWM)|
|To taste||Rice||Prepared in your favorite way|
- Make the marinade by mixing the egg, 1 1/2 TBsp of rice wine, 1 tsp of soy sauce, 1 tsp sunflower oil, and 1/4 cup of cornstarch in a medium bowl. Add the scallops; toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 3 to 8 hours.
- When you are ready to cook, make the sauce by combining in a small bowl 1 TBsp of rice wine, 2 TBsp of soy sauce, the chicken stock, sugar, and white vinegar.
- In another small bowl, mix the arrowroot powder with 1 1/2 TBsp of warm water until it dissolves.
- Put the remaining 1/2 cup of cornstarch in a wide bowl (I used a small casserole dish). Remove the scallops from the marinade with a fork, giving each a little shake to remove the excess liquid. Toss the scallops in the cornstarch so all sides are coated.
- Add 4 cups of peanut/safflower oil to your wok or large pot. Set a colander or strainer over a large bowl. You will fry the scallops three times. Start heating the oil on high and check the temperature every few minutes. Once it comes up to the right temperature, carefully put the scallops into the oil and start the timer. After the time has elapsed, remove them with a spider or slotted spoon and allow them to drain in the colander while the oil heats up to the next temperature.
- Once the scallops are fried three times, turn off the heat. Pour the oil into another pot so that it can cool. If you want, you can filter the oil through a coffee filter and reuse it. Wipe any remaining little bits out of the wok with a paper towel.
- Get the sauce, dissolved arrowroot powder, dried peppers, garlic, ginger, scallions, balsamic vinegar, and sesame oil ready and near the wok. It’s go time! Be careful about breathing in the aromas coming off of the wok. The spiciness can irritate your nose and lungs, so just don’t hang your head over it.
- Put the wok back on high heat. Once it’s hot, add 1 TBsp of peanut/safflower oil. Swirl it around the wok and then pour out all but 1 tsp.
- Add the chili peppers to the wok. Stir them around until they start to burn.
- Add the garlic, ginger, and scallions. Stir for about 10 seconds.
- Add the sauce, stirring until it boils (which might be immediately).
- Give the dissolved arrowroot powder a stir and then pour it in. Stir until the sauce thickens (which might be immediately). Turn off the heat.
- Add the scallops and steamed kale flowers to the wok and toss to coat. Add the balsamic vinegar and sesame oil and stir.
- Serve with rice. Eat on couch. Stare at TV.