B. Smith’s Swamp Thang with Deep Fried Julienne Vegetables

The Late Barbara Smith (1949-2020), was a famed fashion model and was the first African American woman to appear on the cover of Mademoiselle magazine. She went on to build an empire that included television shows, restaurants, her own furniture line (another first for an African American woman), and other lifestyle products from rugs to kitchenware. Called “one of the most formidable rivals of Martha Stewart” by The Wall Street Journal, Barbara Smith not only shattered glass ceilings, she also brought America a casual, elegant, easy style that is all her own. This recipe is from “B. Smith Cooks Southern-Style”, published in 2009. This cookbook focuses solely on the food – no table settings, no party plans – and gives readers more than 200 recipes and colourful tales from her incomparable career. Readers and home cooks alike will find a number of mouthwatering dishes based on Southern cuisine. One of her most popular dishes, The Swamp Thang ,was created at her Union Station restaurant in Washington D.C. The list of ingredients include shrimp, scallops, crawfish that are combined in a creamy light Dijon mustard sauce and napped over collard greens. The dish is finally dressed with deep fried julienne vegetables.
I would order this signature dish every time I visited her establishments in both D.C. and New York. And even though it always tasted slightly different every time I had it, I was never disappointed. The dish is Southern comfort food that has been elevated. The food always reflects the soul of the person who cooks it. And as a cook, I get the feeling that the dish was spontaneously created by whatever items were left in the pantry. It has a feel of a kitchen sink kind of recipe, which in my opinion are the best kind, because it leaves so much room for interpretation and the imagination of the cook. So as one who like to experiment, I added my own spin to the dish, by searing the scallops rather than adding them to the mustard sauce. It makes the dish all the more visually appealing.
Adapted from
“B. Smith Cooks Southern Style”
2009
Serves 6 to 8 Ingredients: For the Seafood Mustard Sauce:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided               
1 cup white onion, finely
1 cup red onion, finely diced
1/2 cup finely diced green bell pepper                  
1/2 cup finely diced celery          
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound medium scallops 
1 cup white wine                      
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves        
1 bay leaf                                  
2 cups fish stock                        
1 tablespoon lemon juice              
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce           
1 cup heavy cream                     
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard 
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
1 pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 pound crawfish tails, peeled
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
Cooked Collard Greens,for serving
Deep-Fried Julienne Vegetables, for garnish (Recipe Follows)
Fresh chopped parsley, for garnish
Directions: In a medium Dutch oven, heat 3 tablespoons of butter over medium high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic and saute for 5 minutes, until vegetables are soft and the onion is transparent. Add the wine, thyme and bay leaf. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes. Add the stock, lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce and return to a boil. Stir in the heavy cream, mustard and the Old Bay Seasoning. Reduce the heat to medium low. Add the shrimp and crawfish tails. Cook for 5 minutes or until the shrimp are pink. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove the bay leaf from the sauce and discard. For the Scallops: Pat the scallops dry with paper towels. Season generously all over with salt and pepper. In a separate skillet heat the 1 tablespoon of butter over medium-high heat. Place the scallops in the skillet in a single layer, spaced about an inch apart. The first scallop should sizzle on contact. If it doesn’t, wait a few seconds to let the pan heat before adding the rest. Do not crowd the pan; work in batches if necessary. Cook the scallops undisturbed for 2 minutes. If the scallop doesn’t release easily from the pan, let it cook for another few seconds until it does. Flip the scallops over. Cook the scallops on the second side undisturbed for 2 to 3 minutes more. Both sides of the scallop should be seared golden-brown and the sides should look opaque all the way through. The scallops should feel firm to the touch, but still slightly soft, like well-set Jell-O; do not overcook or the scallops become tough and chewy. To serve, place a helping of collard greens to the center of a plate. Nap the seafood mustard sauce over the collard greens. Garnish with the deep-fried julienne vegetables. To finish the dish, add the seared scallops and sprinkle with parsley. Enjoy this classic signature dish from B. Smith. For the Deep-Fried Julienne Vegetables: Ingredients:
1 cup 1/4-inch julienne zucchini            
1 cup 1/4-inch julienne yellow squash       
1 cup 1/4-inch julienne carrot              
1 cup 1/5-inch julienne sweet potato        
1 small julienne shallot
1 cup whole milk    
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Vegetable oil, for frying
Directions: Add the vegetables an milk to a 1 gallon resealable plastic bag. Place the bag in a bowl and refrigerate for 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 200 o F. In a deep Dutch oven or caste iron skillet, add enough oil to reach a depth of 1 inch. Heat the oil over medium high heat to 350 o F. In a shallow dish, combine flour, salt and pepper. Using a colander, drain the vegetables and toss them into the seasoned flour. Transfer the vegetables to a large sieve and shake off the excess flour. Working batch, deep fry large handfuls of the vegetables in the hot oil for 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden brown. Using a wire spyder or skimmer, or slotted spoon, remove the vegetable from the oil and drain on paper towels. Keep warm in the oven until ready to serve.
Photo Credit: Tangie Holifield, 2020
Photo Credit: Tangie Holifield, 2020
Cook’s Notes: Shrimp or even chicken broth will  work well in this recipe. If you cannot find fresh crawfish, you can substitute frozen crawfish tail, just make sure that you defrost them before using. Remove the side muscles from the scallops if needed. The side muscle is a little tag of muscle tissue on the side of the scallop that secures it to the shell and may still be on the scallops. It will feel a bit tough and its fibers run opposite the rest of the scallop. Just pinch it with your thumb and first finger and pull it away. If you miss one, don’t worry; they’re a little tough to chew, but are safe to eat. Cook the scallops as the last thing you do before serving dinner. Prepare everything else so that the scallops can be served immediately after cooking, while they are at their best.

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Seared Scallops with Bacon in Garlic Lemon Butter Chardonnay Sauce

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Serves 4

Ingredients:
5 strips bacon
1 pound scallops
Kosher salt, to taste
Ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
2 tablespoons Chardonnay or any type of white wine
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened but not melted
Fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish
Fresh chives, snipped, for garnish

Directions:
Heat a large cast iron skillet to medium high. add the bacon and cook until golden brown. Remove the bacon and drain on paper towels. All is to cook before crumbling into bits. Set aside.

Pat dry scallops with paper towels. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. set aside.

Pour of the bacon fat and wipe the skillet clean with paper towels. Heat the skillet to medium high. Add of olive oil and heat until the oil is shimmering. Add the garlic. Add the scallop and sear on high heat, about 3 minutes on each side. Remove the scallops from the skillet and drain on paper towels.

To the skillet, add the lemon juice and the Chardonnay (or other white wine) Scrape the bottom of the skillet to release the fond.

Remove the skillet briefly from the heat and add the butter to the lemon Chardonnay sauce, and stir, to create a creamy sauce. Add the crumbled bacon bits and scallops back to the skillet.

To serve, ladle a small amount of the lemon sauce onto a plate add 2 to 3 scallops to the plate and garnish with chopped parsley and snipped chives.

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Scallops with Orzo, Tomatoes and Ginger

Recipe Adapted from Eric Ripert

DSC07358

Serves 4
Ingredients:
1 cup orzo or other tiny pasta
One 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled, coarsely chopped
1 large stalk of fresh lemongrass, tender inner core of  bottom third only, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/4 pounds cherry tomatoes
3 Tablespoons chopped basil
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 1/2 pounds large sea scallops

Directions:
In a saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the orzo, stirring occasionally, until al dente, about 5 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, in a mini processor, mince the ginger with the lemongrass. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a medium skillet. Add the ginger and lemongrass and cook over moderately high until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add 2 tablespoons of the basil and the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.

In a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil until shimmering. Add the scallops, season with salt and pepper and cook over high heat until browned on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Turn and cook for 1 minute longer.

Mound the orzo in shallow bowls or on plates and top with the tomatoes and scallops. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of basil and serve.