Saturday, February 23, 2013

Fruits of the sea


It's six inches across.
Friday night, we stopped by one of our favorite Santa Monica restaurants for an early dinner. Blue Plate Oysterette is a tiny place right on Ocean Avenue, known for its fresh seafood.


We like to sit at the little bar just inside the door, that overlooks the busy kitchen. Friday night, as we sipped glasses of King Estate pinot gris, we watched one of the kitchen staff working with a bin filled with huge scallop shells. He deftly shucked them open, cleaned off the shells, and laid them in a clean tub. Displayed on each shell, a full six inches across, the creature from the sea rested, still alive, glistening.


Most people are used to bay scallops, little tablets of sweet flesh no more than an inch in size, bought out of the shell by weight. Larger scallops, maybe two inches across, are called "sea scallops." Scallops are typically harvested by drag nets, shelled and the meat sorted by size before distribution and sale. But what we think of as "scallops" are really just part of the creature - the strong, white adductor muscle used to swim. Scallops are the only bivalves that actively swim, unlike mussels or oysters that attach themselves underwater, or clams that burrow down into the sand.


There's more to the beast than the muscle, however. The ruddy orange roe, or "coral" curves around the muscle, and the mantle is trimmed around with a fancy passementerie of fringe and tiny bead-like eyes.

In Europe, the whole scallop is sold in the shell. Here in the US, it's finally becoming more common to see "Diver Scallops"  or  whole scallops in the shell, harvested by hand. These here at Blue Plate were just flown in from Massachusetts, and still trembled with life.

[The Man I Love] had to try one.  While we waited for our order, we supported west coast fisheries with a dozen Washington, British Columbia and Mexican oysters on the half-shell.


We love to watch the kitchen at work. Flames flashing on the big cooktops, servers drawing drinks or uncorking wine, shuckers laying out yet another dozen oysters on ice. We watched, transfixed, as one chef held a large live Maine lobster on a cutting board and smartly chopped it lengthwise, its legs still faintly waving as it met its destiny on the broiler. Ah, life is cruel, but lobster is delicious.


The scallop arrived in a sizzling hot cast-iron skillet, on a bed of rock salt. Baked with a sauce of sun-dried tomato and parmesan cheese, the flesh was sweet and nutty. The coral was milder tasting than the muscle, but sweet, and with a texture almost like a medium-cooked yolk of an egg. The whole thing was so delicious [The Man I Love] cleaned the shell - I think he would have licked it if he could!


I chose instead a pan-sauted fillet of striped bass, served with a piquant tomato and sherry vinegar condiment. I shared a bit with [The Man I Love], in payment for my taste of scallop and coral. The white flesh was perfectly cooked and delicate.


We've become such regulars at Blue Plate they recognize us now. With such fresh and delicious seafood, and a warm welcome, we always come back.

9 comments:

claudiagiulia said...

Love Blue Plate Oysterette. Although, for amazing seafood, if you haven't tried Son of a Gun yet, you must. There is not a single thing on the menu I wouldn't eat again - especially the lobster buns!

smalltownme said...

Oh my oh my, I must go there someday.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

That looks so good. I'm feeling nostalgic- every October, there would be an oyster fest at Bowery and East 4th St to benefit the Merhcant's House Museum. Freshly shucked oysters, perfect pints of Guinness stout, and live music. The only hitch is that the 60 mile MS ride was always the next day, so I'd have to drink a lot of yerba mate and detoxify after my Guinness "carbo loading".

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Someday I'll make it back to California.

I'm sure of it...
~

Janet said...

mmm, I'll have to look for a place here in MA that does up scallops like that! I prefer these to the tiny ones. And the roe sounds amazing!

There's a place here in MA that I love to go to for surf casting when the stripers are running. They are SO big it's thrilling to catch them!

Mrs. G. said...

My recent episode of eating unknown something makes me want to stick with Mexican. I can't eat raw seafood. It's the texture. I'm glad you enjoyed yourselves.

Jen on the Edge said...

I absolutely adore scallops. I had no idea what they looked like when caught.

Claudia from Idiot's Kitchen said...

Wow! That looks amazing. I do love your food posts. (almost as much as I love the Jack posts.) King Estate Pinot Gris is our favorite (affordable) white wine. Great minds...

Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

I admit, scallops are not my favorite, but the cooked version looks delicious!

I almost skipped this post when seeing the raw scallop but you are such a good food writer (and photographer) that it was worth getting to the end. :)