A cold snap gripped the central Kentucky region on Valentine’s Day. Residents awoke to snow flurries and a balmy 15 degrees. This necessitated hearts grow fonder if for nothing else than to keep warm on such a chilly morning.
Valentine’s Day may be primarily a figment of the greeting card industry’s imagination, but it has its fun aspects as well. There’s nothing wrong with expressing to those special people in our lives, that we appreciate them, however that may come about.
My daughter Isabella, 7, put serious effort into selecting cards and a candy surprise for all her classmates. A little personalized doodling goes a long way. The first words she uttered Friday morning, with eyes still closed, was “It’s Valentine’s Day,” as a grin spread across her face.
It’s an excellent day to be indulgent. Whether that be love, hugs, food or drink – go for it. The kids and I picked out flowers, cards and wine for their mom. I took it upon myself to come up with a meal that would complement the situation. I needed something all would appreciate, and an offering that hopefully would warm our hearts.
In a previous life I resided in Washington, DC. In the early 1990s there was a fantastic lofi Caribbean restaurant located in the lower Georgetown neighborhood called the Hibiscus Cafe. It was brilliantly painted, served white tablecloth level food at a fraction of the price and spread the love of the Caribbean people through its cuisine.
The following recipe was one of my favorites from Chef Sharon Banks. My apologies to Chef Banks for any liberties I took riffing off her original. It’s nothing but love.
I approach “Sea Scallops and Shrimp in Jamaican Curry Sauce” in the same way I do gumbo or jambalaya from down New Orleans way. There’s wiggle room for a pinch of this and a pinch of that to satisfy experimentation, and the dish will turn out just fine. It can be an everyday meal, or dressed up for special occasions. It’s one of those core types of menu offerings from a region, like gumbo in Louisiana, that is more than just food. It speaks to a region’s culture and is bursting with pride. This was just the ticket for a chilly Valentine’s Day dinner.
Sea Scallops and Shrimp in Jamaican Curry Sauce
1 Pound jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 Pound sea scallops
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 Tablespoon Old Bay seasoning or to taste
6 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 Sweet onion
1 Tomato diced
3 Teaspoons Indian curry powder
2 1/2 Cups chicken stock
3 Tablespoons heavy whipping cream
1 Sprig fresh thyme
1 Habanero chili pepper (optional)
1/2 Cup coconut milk
1 Cup jasmine rice (uncooked)
1 Loaf sweet Italian bread
1 Bottle Sauvignon Blanc (chilled)
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Turn oven on to 250 degrees.
Place the remaining 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock, along with coconut milk in a pan on the stove over medium high heat, or same in rice steamer. Add rice once contents reach boiling and cook according to package instructions. Add additional coconut milk if necessary. Salt and pepper to taste. Usually cooks for 20 minutes or so. Set to the side with lid on to keep warm.
Season shrimp and scallops with salt, pepper and Old Bay. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil, and melt 4 tablespoons butter, in a skillet over medium heat. Add seafood to skillet, cooking for 3 minutes on each side, or until just cooked through. Transfer seafood to a platter and keep warm.
Dice the tomato and onion. Add remaining olive oil and butter to skillet. Sauté the onion for 5 minutes, add tomato and sauté another 3-4 minutes. Add the curry powder, stirring for a couple minutes.
Pour in 1 cup of chicken stock, stir and bring to a light boil. Dice the habanero pepper, discarding the internal seeds. Be careful as those with sensitive skin might feel a slight burn when handling this once cut. Do not wipe your eyes until having thoroughly washed and dried hands. Add the pepper to the skillet (optional). Let the mixture simmer for 3-5 minutes.
Pour the contents of the skillet into a blender and purée until smooth. Add the heavy whipping cream and pulse for a few times to blend into the sauce.
Take the sweet Italian bread and cut in half. Butter both sides, and sprinkle lightly with garlic, salt and pepper. Place into oven on cookie sheet and bake 5-10 minutes.
Pour the sauce back into the skillet over low heat and add the sprig of thyme (dried thyme is fine if fresh was not available). Let warm for 3-4 minutes. Taste and adjust with salt/pepper/Old Bay. Add seafood back into sauce, stir, and warm for 5 minutes. Serve immediately.
Place a serving of rice onto the center of a plate, and spoon the seafood and sauce mixture around it. This works great in a bowl as well (especially for kids). Place the rice in the bottom of a bowl and spoon a serving of the seafood and sauce mixture over the rice.
Serve with bread, and a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc.
Kisses & Hugs – Happy Valentine’s Day to all!