Tag Archives: Scallops

Creamy Scallop Carbonara Recipe

My cooking is sometimes inspired by my travels. Often, before traveling, I will do some research to find out what foods and dishes are local to the area so I know what dishes to try when visiting those places or what foods to look for to bring back as mementos of the visit.

Italy is one of my favorite places to visit and, of course, it is home to wonderful pasta.  There is no shortage of places to buy authentic Italian pasta, like the one in the photo below in Venice.  In fact, you can usually pick up some packaged dry pasta at gift shops in Italian airports.  These kinds of items make great gifts to bring home to the foodies in your world.

Packages of dry pasta outside a shop in Venice, Italy
Italian Pasta (Venice, Italy)

So, this Creamy Scallop Carbonara recipe is inspired by my Italian travels.  It marries up two of my favorite foods – pasta and scallops. In fact, it is one of my most favorite ways to serve scallops. Carbonara is believed to have originated in Rome.  This pasta dish has basic, humble ingredients and really does prove that simplicity is often best. Pasta (usually spaghetti or linguine, though other pastas can work well, too), hard cheese (such as Parmigiano-Reggiano), eggs, and pork (pancetta, guanciale, or bacon) are the basis for making this dish.

Plate of carbonara with seared scallops and garnished with pea shoots
Scallop Carbonara

There are various methods for making carbonara but, what follows, is the method that works best for me. What makes a good carbonara is the sauce that is tossed with the cooked pasta.  No matter what method is used, the most important thing to remember is to always ensure that the egg sauce is not put over heat as the heat will cook the eggs too fast and a curdled or scrambled egg mixture is likely to result.

Plate of carbonara with seared scallops garnished with pea shoots. Cheese grater, loaf of artisan bread and bottle of wine in background
Creamy Scallop Carbonara

There is always a debate as to whether to use whole eggs or just egg yolks in a carbonara.  The problem I find with using whole eggs is that the whites will coagulate faster when they are combined with the hot pasta than the yolks will and this can result in a curdled sauce versus the desired creamy and glossy sauce.  The egg yolks provide the richness and flavour to this dish as well as the creamy texture of the sauce.  While, yes, the egg whites would provide more liquidity, I find (if additional liquid is required) it is best to add small amounts of the starchy water in which the pasta was cooked.  This will achieve the same goal and not risk a curdled, chalky sauce. In fact, sometimes I find little to no extra pasta water is required, depending on how much water I drag with the pasta as I transfer it from its cooking water to the sauce ingredients.

I don’t drain the cooked pasta. Rather, I use tongs to scoop up the pasta, dripping wet, from its cooking water and toss it into a heat-proof bowl containing the room-temperature egg yolks and cheese mixture.  The residual heat from the hot pasta will set the raw eggs as the pasta is quickly tossed about the bowl.  It is, therefore, important to keep the pasta moving quickly during this process to avoid scrambled eggs.  This method keeps the pasta cleaner looking than if it was to be tossed into the pan, for example, in which the pork and onion were cooked.  And, by not draining the pasta, it does not dry out and get cooled before it is tossed with the egg sauce. The hot pasta is needed to cook the egg yolks off heat. Because the pasta is still wet, I find I usually need very little extra water in the sauce though I do retain the pasta water just in case.  If extra water is needed, I recommend adding it in very small amounts at a time – no more than a half tablespoon or slightly less – as it is very easy to go from a creamy, velvety sauce to a sloppy soupy mess. The pasta certainly needs to be moist with the sauce but just not soupy.

Creamy carbonara wound around tines of a fork with plate of carbonara and loaf of artisan bread in background
Creamy Carbonara

Pork is a key ingredient in carbonara.  Guanciale or pancetta are perhaps the most authentic to use but I often will use bacon, especially if I take a notion for carbonara and don’t want to make a special trip to the supermarket for guanciale or pancetta.  That’s the nice thing about carbonara – so long as you have long pasta, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, bacon, and eggs on hand, this dish can be whipped up quickly.  While it is not always included in carbonara recipes, I do add a bit of onion that has been sautéed in the pan with some smashed garlic cloves that are later removed.  I find these do add a layer of taste to the flavor profile of this dish.

Plate of carbonara garnished with red cherry tomatoes and green fiddleheads
Creamy Scallop Carbonara

Carbonara can be served on its own, of course; however, adding some seared scallops does take this dish to another level! I have designed this dish for two servings; however, it can be doubled or tripled if a greater number of servings is required.  It can also be halved to one serving if you have only yourself to please! And, it can easily be made gluten free by using gluten-free spaghetti or linguine.

Seared bay scallop on end of fork with plate of carbonara in background
Creamy Scallop Carbonara

Make sure you have warmed plates or pasta bowls ready as this dish cools quickly once plated. I like to add pops of color to my carbonara with red and green being my favorite options.  Cherry or grape tomatoes, chopped green onion, pea shoots, parsley, or even bright green fiddleheads make this dish very attractive and appetizing.

Close up of plate of carbonara with seared scallops, red cherry tomatoes, and green fiddleheads
Creamy Scallop Carbonara

If you employ good, logical organizational skills, and work efficiently, you can have this restaurant-quality dish on the table in less than 30 minutes.  This makes it a meal that is do-able on a weeknight after arriving home from work.

Plate of carbonara topped with seared scallops and pea shoots. Loaf of artisan bread, glass of white wine and cheese are in background
Creamy Scallop Carbonara

Here’s how I make this meal in less than 30 minutes.

  • Start boiling the pot of water for the pasta
  • Set out all ingredients. Prep any ingredients that need prep work – e.g., grate the cheese, chop the pork and onion, smash the garlic cloves.  Set out the pots, pans, and cooking utensils needed.
  • Mix the egg yolks, cheese, salt, and pepper in a heat-proof bowl.
  • Heat the oven to low “warming” temperature to have it ready to keep the scallops warm.
  • Sear the scallops and transfer them, loosely tented with tin foil, to the warm oven.
  • Fry the pork
  • Cook the pasta
  • While the pasta is cooking, sauté the onion and garlic; add the pork.
  • Warm the plates or pasta bowls
  • Transfer pasta to prepared egg-cheese mixture in the bowl. Add some butter. Toss to set the egg.  Add the onion and pork.
  • Plate the pasta, add the scallops, garnish as desired, and enjoy.

[Printable recipe follows at end of post]

Creamy Scallop Carbonara

 
Ingredients:

2 large egg yolks, room temperature
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Salt and Pepper, to taste

1 – 2 tsp olive oil
1 – 2 tbsp butter
12 – 14 large bay scallops, seasoned with salt and pepper

2 – 3 oz pancetta or guanciale or 2 slices bacon, chopped into small pieces

4 – 6 oz dry linguine or spaghetti pasta (wheat-based or gluten-free)

1 – 1½ tbsp olive oil
2-3 tbsp onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, smashed (but each left in one piece)

1 tbsp butter

Freshly cracked black pepper
Additional Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, if desired

Optional Garnishes:
Cherry or grape tomatoes
Fresh parsley or pea shoots
Green onion, sliced

Method:

Bring large pot of salted water to a boil in preparation for cooking the pasta.

In heat-proof mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks together and stir in one-quarter cup of the cheese along with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Heat oven to low “warming” temperature.

Melt 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil in small sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Add butter.  When butter has melted, add scallops and sear for about 2-3 minutes each side, until lightly browned.  Remove from heat and transfer to small tinfoil-lined baking sheet and loosely tent scallops with tin foil to keep them from drying out. Place in oven to keep scallops warm.

In small skillet, over medium heat, fry pancetta, guanciale, or bacon until the fat has been rendered out.  Remove pork with slotted spoon and drain on paper towel. Set aside.

Add the pasta to the boiling salted water and cook pasta al dente according to package directions.

While the pasta is cooking, discard about half the pork fat and add 1-1½ tablespoons of olive oil to the remaining fat in the skillet. Heat over medium heat then reduce heat to medium-low and add the onion and garlic, stirring and cooking until onion is almost transparent. Remove the skillet from the heat, discard the two smashed garlic cloves, and add the crumbled pork to the pan. Stir.

Using tongs, scoop the dripping wet pasta from its cooking water and add it to the egg-cheese mixture in bowl. Reserve pasta water. Add a tablespoon of butter.  Working quickly, toss pasta with tongs until eggs are set and sauce is thickened.  If mixture appears a bit dry, add enough pasta water, about one-half tablespoon at a time, to make the sauce creamy and pliable, but not soupy. Toss the onion and pork into the pasta.

Divide pasta mixture between two warmed plates or pasta bowls. Add some freshly cracked black pepper. Sprinkle remaining cheese over the pasta. Place 6-7 scallops on top of the pasta on each plate. Garnish with cherry or grape tomatoes, parsley or pea shoots, and/or green onion slices, if desired. Serve immediately.

Creamy Scallop Carbonara

On the table in less than 30 minutes, this restaurant quality creamy Scallop Carbonara is a super tasty pasta and scallop dish.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword carbonara, scallop carbonara
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 2
Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 2 large egg yolks room temperature
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1-2 tsp olive oil
  • 1-2 tbsp butter
  • 12 – 14 large bay scallops seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 2 – 3 oz pancetta or guanciale or 2 slices bacon chopped into small pieces
  • 4 – 6 oz dry linguine or spaghetti pasta wheat-based or gluten-free
  • 1 - 1½ tbsp olive oil
  • 2-3 tbsp onion finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic smashed (but each left in one piece)
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • Additional Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese if desired

Optional Garnishes:

  • Cherry or grape tomatoes
  • Fresh parsley or pea shoots
  • Green onion sliced

Instructions

  1. Bring large pot of salted water to a boil in preparation for cooking the pasta.
  2. In heat-proof mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks together and stir in one-quarter cup of the cheese along with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  3. Heat oven to low “warming” temperature.
  4. Melt 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil in small sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add butter. When butter has melted, add scallops and sear for about 2-3 minutes each side, until lightly browned. Remove from heat and transfer to small tinfoil-lined baking sheet and loosely tent scallops with tin foil to keep them from drying out. Place in oven to keep scallops warm.
  5. In small skillet, over medium heat, fry pancetta, guanciale, or bacon until the fat has been rendered out. Remove pork with slotted spoon and drain on paper towel. Set aside.
  6. Add the pasta to the boiling salted water and cook pasta al dente according to package directions.
  7. While the pasta is cooking, discard about half the pork fat and add 1-1½ tablespoons of olive oil to the remaining fat in the skillet. Heat over medium heat then reduce heat to medium-low and add the onion and garlic, stirring and cooking until onion is almost transparent. Remove the skillet from the heat, discard the two smashed garlic cloves, and add the crumbled pork to the pan. Stir.
  8. Using tongs, scoop the dripping wet pasta from its cooking water and add it to the egg-cheese mixture in bowl. Reserve pasta water. Add a tablespoon of butter. Working quickly, toss pasta with tongs until eggs are set and sauce is thickened. If mixture appears a bit dry, add enough pasta water, about one-half tablespoon at a time, to make the sauce creamy and pliable, but not soupy. Toss the onion and pork into the pasta.
  9. Divide pasta mixture between two warmed plates or pasta bowls. Add some freshly cracked black pepper. Sprinkle remaining cheese over the pasta. Place 6-7 scallops on top of the pasta on each plate. Garnish with cherry or grape tomatoes, parsley or pea shoots, and/or green onion slices, if desired. Serve immediately.

 

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Plate of carbonara with seared scallops, cherry tomatoes, and green fiddleheads

Plate of Carbonara with seared scallops and pea shoots

 

Cooking Classes at The Table Culinary Studio in PEI

"Bounty of the Sea" Cooking Class at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI
“Bounty of the Sea” Cooking Class at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI

Tucked away on the Graham’s Road (Route 8), in the picturesque rural community of New London, Prince Edward Island, you will find The Table Culinary Studio that offers short (between 3.5 and 4.5 hours) cooking classes that focus primarily on cooking with fresh, local Island foods.  This experience is a great way to learn about the Island food culture.

The Gently Rolling Hills of New London, PEI
The Gently Rolling Hills of New London, PEI

The rural setting is quintessential PEI. Fields in shades of green contrasted with the Island’s iconic red soil take visitors to the heart of some of the Island’s most fertile farm land.

Field of Potatoes in PEI's Red Soil
Field of Potatoes in PEI’s Red Soil

Just down the road is New London Harbour, home to a small lobster fishing fleet and the grounds for other seafood like oysters, quahogs, and mussels.  Not far away, quality food can be sourced from dairy and beef farms, organic farmers, beekeepers, cheesemakers, and garlic growers. Could there be a more authentic location for a PEI culinary studio!

New London Harbour
Lobster Boats at New London Harbour, PEI, Canada

While it is no secret that PEI has lovely scenery to enjoy, spectacular beaches and golf courses, and many attractions to keep visitors busy exploring our Island, many come to the Island knowing that PEI offers great food from the land and sea.

Cavendish Beach, PEI
Cavendish Beach, PEI

Our potatoes, oysters, mussels, and lobster, in particular, are shipped all over the world and these Island products are well known, respected, and sought after for their high quality.

PEI Potatoes
PEI Potatoes

So, what better way to experience the Island foods first hand than to take a short cooking class to learn more about them and how they can be prepared.

The Table Culinary Studio (formerly Annie’s Table) has been in operation since 2012, offering an array of short cooking classes on a myriad of topics.  Under new ownership in 2016, The Table, with owner/chef Derrick Hoare at the helm, continues with the tradition of engaging culinary aficionados in ways to prepare local Island foods such as lobster, oysters, mussels, scallops, beef, cheese, and so forth.  The focus is very much on using fresh local ingredients that are in season and, by extension, acquainting participants with the rich Island food culture.

The Table offers a number of hands-on cooking classes that include (at the time of writing) Bounty of the Sea, Black Gold (cured garlic), Farm to Table, Marilla’s Table, Hive to Table, Let Them Eat Beef, Oyster Obsession, Say Cheese, Vivacious Vegan, Applelicious, Artisan Bread, Gluten Free Gourmet, and Helping Hands.  The Table operates seasonally from May to October to coincide with the Island’s tourism season.  Several of the cooking classes involve field trips to farms and other local food producers to see, first-hand, how food is grown or produced and to pick up some local ingredients to bring back to The Table to be used in the class that follows.  This form of experiential tourism provides the opportunity for the learners to create wonderful memories of their vacation time in PEI, connect directly with PEI food producers, and to learn more about the Island’s food culture and the role that farming, fishing, and other food production play in the Island’s economy and way of life.

I recently participated in the “Bounty of the Sea” cooking class at The Table which is located within walking distance to the house in which famed Island authoress Lucy Maud Montgomery was born and not far by vehicle to the resort municipality of Cavendish.

Birthplace of authoress Lucy Maud Montgomery, New London, PEI
Birthplace of authoress Lucy Maud Montgomery, New London, PEI

But, before I take you on the adventure with me, here is a brief description of the venue and what a cooking class is like at The Table.

The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI
The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI

What makes this culinary studio unique is its venue.  It is located in a small white repurposed country church, very typical of so many seen in several Island communities.  Inside the church, the pews have been removed and, in their place, is a large harvest table where, in a few hours time, class participants will gather to enjoy the lavish spread of the morning’s cooking. The church’s altar has been elevated to a loft setting and the building is tastefully furnished.

Students Gather at the Harvest Table Following a Cooking Class at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI
Students Gather at the Harvest Table Following a Cooking Class at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI

The original altar and choir loft locations have been transformed into an open teaching kitchen.

The Kitchen at The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI
The Kitchen at The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI

Class size is small and intimate – only a maximum of 10 participants per cooking class.  This ensures that each person has a front row view as the culinary team teaches the cooking or baking techniques in the open-style kitchen. It also allows for participants to be actively engaged and participating in the cooking or baking activities.

The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI
The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI

The culinary team consists of owner/chef Derrick Hoare, Executive Chef Michael Bradley, and Events Coordinator Christine Morgan. The atmosphere is unhurried and very sociable. Strangers become friends over the commonality of food. With a growing hunger for knowledge about where one’s food comes from and how it is grown, produced, or harvested, cooking classes appeal to most age demographics and skill levels. No need to worry if you are not an experienced or accomplished cook – the classes offer something for everyone, including a scrumptious meal after the class in the beautifully appointed old country church.

So, now on to my adventure as a participant in The Table’s “Bounty of the Sea” cooking class.  After morning coffee upon arrival, everyone got suited up with their aprons and side towels.

At The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI
At The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI

The class began with Chef Derrick giving a brief talk on lobster fishing on PEI, recounting his own experiences going out on a fishing boat to learn, first-hand, about lobster fishing on the Island.  Chef Michael then gave a short biology lesson on how to identify the gender of a lobster.

Executive Chef Michael Bradley at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI
Executive Chef Michael Bradley at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI

It’s a good thing those lobsters were banded because, if you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of having a finger caught in the claws of one, you are likely to end up with a broken finger – they’re strong!

Lobsters
Fiesty Lobsters

Everyone was given a lobster and instructed on how to carefully de-band them before placing them in hot water to be cooked. Chef Michael explained how much salt was needed in the water to boil the lobsters and how long they needed to cook.

Cooking Lobsters at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI
Cooking Lobsters at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI

Chef Derrick kept a watchful eye on the lobsters so they were removed from the pot at just the right time.

Derrick Hoare, Owner/Chef at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI
Derrick Hoare, Owner/Chef at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI

Next came the lesson on how to crack open a lobster.

Cooked Lobster
Cooked Lobster

Chef Michael capably gave instructions as each student cracked open a lobster to reveal the succulent meat inside.

Meat from the Lobster
Meat from the Lobster

Yes, a basic table knife will do the trick!

Cracking Open Lobsters
Cracking Open Lobsters

Having never made homemade pasta before, I was particularly interested in the procedure.

Making Homemade Pasta at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI
Making Homemade Pasta at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI

The Table is very accommodating to class participants who have dietary restrictions.  On this day, there were two participants who were gluten-intolerant so a separate station on an adjacent workspace was set up for them to make the gluten-free pasta and Chef Michael alternated between the two groups giving information and instruction on pasta making.

Making Gluten-Free Pasta at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI
Making Gluten-Free Pasta at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI

Black garlic from nearby Eureka Garlic, not far from Kensington, was used in the pasta to give a unique flavour.  If you have never tasted black garlic, it’s not nearly as garlicky as you might think – I personally think it tastes like a cross between a fig and a prune.  You can check out my story here on Eureka Garlic.

Black Garlic from Eureka Garlic near Kensington, PEI
Black Garlic from Eureka Garlic near Kensington, PEI

The chopped black garlic was kneaded into the pasta dough.

Adding Black Garlic to Pasta Dough
Adding Black Garlic to Pasta Dough

The pasta dough was cut and gathered into circles ready to be dropped into the cooking pot.

Cutting the Pasta Dough
Cutting the Pasta Dough
Homemade Pasta Ready for Cooking
Homemade Pasta Ready for Cooking

With the pasta made, we took a brief break from the food prep to listen to Christine explain how mussels are grown and harvested on PEI.

Christine Morgan Explains How PEI Mussels are Grown and Harvested
Christine Morgan Explains How PEI Mussels are Grown and Harvested

PEI mussels are world famous and they are shipped all over the world.   Mussels are a common food to serve at many events, year-round, on PEI. They are easy to prepare and ever-so-tasty dipped in melted butter!

Steamed PEI Mussels at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI
Christine Morgan Serves Up Steamed PEI Mussels at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI

Chef Michael then guided the group in making Lobster Bisque.  Once the Mirepoix started cooking, you can only imagine how tantalizing the scent was as it wafted through the old church building.

Stirring the Mirepoix for the Lobster Bisque at The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI
Stirring the Mirepoix for the Lobster Bisque at The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI

Ohhhh, that lobster is going to make a dandy lunch – can’t you just taste it!

Lobster Bisque in the Making at The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI
Lobster Bisque in the Making at The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI

The third seafood that we learned to cook was scallops, those tasty little morsels!

Cooking Scallops at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI
Cooking Scallops at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI

The morning went super fast and, before we knew it, it was time for lunch to be served by the culinary team.

Chef Michael Bradley of The Table Culinary Studio Preparing the Lobster Bisque for Serving
Chef Michael Bradley of The Table Culinary Studio Preparing the Bowls of Lobster Bisque for Serving

The table was beautifully set (those of you who follow my food blog regularly know how I love well-set tables).  The napkin at each place setting had either a small lobster trap or lobster napkin ring.

Place Setting at The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI
Place Setting at The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI

These napkin rings tied in well with the theme of the morning’s class – “Bounty of the Sea”.

Place Setting at The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI
Place Setting at The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI

How inviting does this look! Wouldn’t you love to sit in at this table!

At The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI
At The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI

Fresh homemade sourdough bread was on the table.

Homemade Sourdough Bread
Homemade Sourdough Bread

The landing at the top of the spiral staircase in the church provided a great vantage point for photography.

Spiral Staircase at The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI
Spiral Staircase at The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI

The group assembled at the big harvest table which is the focal point in the middle of the studio. This 12’ table was hand-crafted from old attic boards extracted from the house which The Table’s former owner restored just up the road at New London corner.

Class Lunch at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI
Class Lunch at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI

How great does this lobster bisque look with that succulent lobster claw!  It tasted even better!

Lobster Bisque
Lobster Bisque

We were very anxious to taste the homemade pasta and it did not disappoint! The pasta in the photo below is gluten-free.

Homemade Pasta Topped with Lobster and Scallops at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI
Homemade Pasta Topped with Lobster and Scallops at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI

This was accompanied by big bowls of PEI mussels with squeaky cheese topping melting down through the mussels.  If you are a mussel lover, these are hard to resist!

PEI Mussels with Butter at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI
PEI Mussels with Butter at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI

And as if we weren’t stuffed enough, out came dessert. The dessert in the photo below is a chocolate beet cake.

Chocolate Beet Cake at The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI
Chocolate Beet Cake at The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI

And, for the gluten-free dessert, it was a deconstructed blueberry pie which I can attest was simply yummy!

Gluten-free Deconstructed Blueberry Pie - The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI
Gluten-free Deconstructed Blueberry Pie – The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI

The Table is set with the right ingredients – small class size, fresh local Island foods, quality instruction, hands-on cooking, a shared meal, and a charming venue with a history of its own.  If you are looking for an authentic and affordable cooking experience to allow you to more deeply engage with the local food scene and pick up some cooking tips and skills, check out course offerings at The Table.  With the short half-day classes, visitors can have the best of both worlds – a cooking experience to learn more about local PEI foods in the morning followed by a delicious lunch and then the rest of the day free to explore other Island adventures and sights. For more information on cooking classes and prices, visit The Table Culinary Studio website at: http://www.thetablepei.ca/classes

The Table also offers fine dining in the evening (reservations required).  Click here to read my recent story on The Table’s North Shore Surf and Turf Dinner.

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Cooking Classes in PEI
Cooking Classes at The Table Culinary Studio in PEI
Cooking Classes in PEI
Cooking Classes at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI
Cooking Classes in Prince Edward Island
Cooking Class at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI

Connect with My Island Bistro Kitchen through the following social media channels:

Facebook – “My Island Bistro Kitchen”
Twitter – “PEIBistro”
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My thanks to The Table Culinary Studio for the opportunity to experience their “Bounty of the Sea” cooking class and for the fine hospitality. My participation in the class was complimentary for the purpose of conducting a review of the “Bounty of the Sea” cooking class. However, this in no way influenced my opinions of the class experience. All opinions expressed in this review are purely my own.

Black Garlic – Garlic’s New Cavier?

Scallops with Black Garlic
Scallops with Black Garlic

Ever heard of black garlic?  What do you think of when you hear the term?

Black Garlic Bulbs
Fermented Black Garlic Bulbs

Black garlic is not a variety of garlic grown.  Rather, it is regular garlic bulbs that have gone through a fermentation process.  Fermenting garlic to turn it into black garlic is truly food transformation.  I say that because black garlic in no way tastes, looks like, or has the same consistency as the traditional hard white garlic we use to give garlic flavour to dishes.

To find out more about black garlic, I travelled to Kensington, PEI, where I paid a visit to garlic grower, Al Picketts, of Eureka Garlic.

Eureka Garlic, Kensington, PEI

Al has been growing garlic for 12 years.  In 2012, he grew 42,000 plants and this year, with the cloves already in the ground since October, Al has increased his crop to 46,380 plants which will be harvested in July-August, 2013.  He grows eight types of garlic and 78 varieties in those types.  Yes, Al knows a thing or two about garlic!

Garlic Bulbs Drying
Garlic Bulbs Drying

Al’s main business is in selling seed garlic but, in November, 2011, he began the fermentation process to turn garlic into black garlic.  Al has been working with the Bio Food Tech Center in Charlottetown as he perfects his fermentation process and product.  While Al keeps his exact fermentation process a carefully-guarded secret, he did show me a recycled refrigerator that he insulates well, heats with a water heater, and uses as an incubator of sorts for the fermentation process.

Incubator for Fermenting Black Garlic
Incubator for Fermenting Black Garlic

Inside this incubator are stacks of covered plastic storage boxes containing hundreds of garlic bulbs fermenting.  He tells me it takes about three weeks in controlled temperature for the fermentation to occur.  The top right photo below shows a garlic bulb in the early stages of fermentation and the one in the lower right photo is a completely fermented bulb.  The photo on the left below shows different colored bulbs in the plastic containers; these are bulbs at different stages of the fermentation process as they change and deepen in color.

Black Garlic in Various Stages of Fermentation
Black Garlic in Various Stages of Fermentation

When fermented, the cloves will be a dark chocolate brown color – almost black — and very soft.  This is not the kind of garlic you could put through a garlic press and it does not mince well.  But, oh, it does have its own unique flavour!  The cloves can be carefully sliced or mashed with a fork and added to recipes.

Black Garlic Bulb and Clove
Black Garlic Bulb and Clove

When Al offered me a taste of the black garlic, straight up, I must admit I was trying to prepare my tastebuds for a somewhat pungent, strong garlic flavour.  But, one of the most surprising things about black garlic is the taste.  I would describe it as somewhat sweet, no discernible garlic taste, and being a cross between a prune and a fig in taste, color, and texture.  So, if you are looking to use it as you would regular garlic, don’t expect any garlic flavour in the dish as black garlic has a sweet, fruity taste.  Black garlic, however, brings its own unique subtle flavour to dishes like soups, sauces, and seafood and is often used in Asian cooking.  The black color does not change when cooked so you need to prepare for that color in your dish.  There are not a lot of black foods and some might suggest they would not be appetizing.  However, I find the contrast of the black garlic on white fish, for example, to be quite dynamic and appealing.

Black Garlic Color and Texture
Black Garlic Color and Texture

Black garlic is a relatively new local food item and the jury is still out as to whether it is a food fad or if it may well become a food trend.  Could it be garlic’s new cavier?  Promoters claim it may be the next superfood, citing its health benefits — it reportedly boasts twice as many antioxidants as raw garlic.  That said, I couldn’t find any scientific research studies completed on black garlic that would state conclusively what its specific health benefits are.

So, if it doesn’t taste like garlic why, then, use it?  I would say because it offers another flavouring and complexity to many dishes.  I have used it on pizza and in seafood dishes and I plan to try it next with pork.

Al tells me that black garlic can be stored at room temperature – no refrigeration required – for several months.  He says it can also be stored in the freezer and, when you want to use it, just remove as many cloves as needed and mash them with a fork or slice them with a knife – there is no need to thaw them first.

Al sells his black garlic for $30/pound.  On Prince Edward Island, it is available directly from Al at his farm “Eureka Garlic” on the corner of Routes 2 and 233 in Kensington (902)836-5180.

Black Garlic Packaged for Sale
Black Garlic Packaged for Sale

As you know, when I visit a local producer, I bring home their product and make a recipe featuring the food item.  The recipe below, for scallops, is how I used black garlic with seafood and I found the result really tasty (yes, I’ve made this dish more than once already!).  The black garlic does not mask the scallop flavour and yet it accents the seafood well.  This recipe serves two.

Black Garlic on Fresh Scallops
Black Garlic on Fresh Scallops

Scallops in Black Garlic

14 scallops

3 T butter

Fresh ground pepper

4 cloves black garlic, sliced

¼ cup white wine

½ T balsamic vinegar

1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tsp dried chives

Pinch dillweed

1 tsp parsley

 

Ingrediets
Ingredients

Melt 2 T butter in small skillet.  Over medium-high heat, sear the scallops 2-3 minutes per side until lightly golden in color.  Transfer scallops to plate and keep warmed.

Searing Scallops
Searing Scallops
Black Garlic
Black Garlic

Add 1 additional tablespoon of butter to skillet.  Add the black garlic and sauté for 30-45 seconds.  Add pepper to taste.  Add white wine, balsamic vinegar, and lemon juice.  Stir over medium-low heat 1-2 minutes until sauce reduces.  Add herbs and heat for about 30 seconds.

Adding Black Garlic
Adding Black Garlic

To serve, plate the warm scallops and spoon the black garlic sauce over the seafood.  Serve with potato or rice and a side of vegetables.

Serves 2

Scallops with Black Garlic Served with Potato Cake and Vegetables
Scallops with Black Garlic Served with Potato Cake and Vegetables

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Champagne Scallops & Asparagus

Champagne Scallops & Asparagus

One of the best things about living on Canada’s East Coast is the abundance of fresh seafood we have available.  This winter, the sea scallops have been particularly good, so good in fact that a few weeks ago I bought a large supply and froze them in portion sizes.  Scallops freeze well and do not lose their freshness, taste, or texture when frozen.

Most often, my favorite way to cook scallops is to simply pan-sear them in a bit of butter.  I like the uninhibited natural taste of scallops.  Sometimes, however, I like to experiment a little and go outside my comfort zone with the cooking.  A lot of times, I take a scan of the refrigerator to see what’s there and then I go in search of a recipe to use up those ingredients.  Yesterday, I discovered some asparagus and baby carrots and I noticed some champagne left over from Valentine’s Day so I went on the hunt for a recipe that would combine these ingredients and use scallops.  I found a recipe that is called Champagne  Scallops & Asparagus.

This recipe is found on the website “My Recipes” and is attributed to “I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter” spread.  I found the recipe simple to prepare and not lengthy (scallops don’t take very long to cook).  The ingredients did not diminish the taste of the scallops which so often happens to a primary ingredient when so many other ingredients are added to the dish.  This is a recipe I would make again.