A Worldly Dish – Cajun Bay Scallops over Spicy Spanish Rice

Hot, hot, hot! Feel it . . . hot, hot, hot. I don’t know which sizzles more, the bay scallops or the spicy rice. Put the two together and you’ve got one incredibly spicy dish. While so many dishes feature the Sea Scallops (those are the bigger scallops – 20 or so per pound), this recipe centers around the Bay Scallops (their smaller cousin – 70 or so per pound). Bay Scallops are naturally sweeter, which helps to offset the intense heat of this scorching hot dish.

Anyway you cook them, scallops are considered to be a delicacy in many circles. As with many delicacies, many stories and traditions have grown up around the scallop. If you are familiar with the Way of Saint James, then you know the story and significance of bringing a scallop shell with you to signify that you are on a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Saint James the Greater. Saint James, the patron Saint of Spain, was a disciple of Jesus.  Tradition holds that Saint James is actually buried at the site of his shrine in the city of the city of Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain. Scallop shells were found in abundance along the sea of Galilee. They are the perfect size to carry on a pilgrimage as they are used to scoop up water to drink and serve as a makeshift bowl for food. Pilgrims traveling to his shrine carried a scallop shell with them to signify that they were making a pilgrimage.  At stops along the way on his pilgrimage, the pilgrim was once offered what food he could scoop up in his shell. Today there are taverns and small eateries that draw in the pilgrim, where they can dine on more than a shell-full of food. Still, the pilgrim carries his shell to symbolize his journey and the way is marked with images of this beautiful shell.

Although the dish is Cajun, the Spanish influence in the spicy-hot rice is undeniable.

Cajun Bay Scallops & Spicy Rice
Ingredients – Bay Scallops:
2 lbs Bay Scallops
3 Teaspoons Cajun Seasoning
2 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
3 Teaspoons olive Oil
Dash of freshly ground pepper
For Frying: 1 tablespoon butter with 2 teaspoons olive oil

To Make Cajun Bay Scallops: Rinse scallops and pat dry with paper towels. In a large bowl, combine seasonings with olive oil. Stir to create a thick mixture. Add scallops, toss by hand until all the scallops are well coated. Pour scallops into a resealable plastic bag. Spread out inside bag, seal and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.

To Cook Scallops: Heat 1 tablespoon butter with 2 teaspoons olive oil in a large skillet. Cook scallops over high heat until done, 2-3 minutes per side. Scallops should be firm to the touch and nicely browned.

Ingredients – Spicy Rice
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ Spanish Onion, diced
1/4 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1 Cup Long Grain White Rice
1 Can Chopped Tomatoes
1 Roasted Jalapeno Pepper, seeds optional*
2 Cans Chicken Broth
Salt & Pepper to Taste

To Make Spicy Spanish Rice: Peel and chop onion, set aside until ready to use.

Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium-heat. Saute onions until translucent, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle onions with cayenne pepper. Add rice, brown slightly.

Add Diced tomatoes with juices, chicken broth, jalapenos, salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a rolling boil.

Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until liquid has evaporated and rice is soft, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and keep warm.

To Assemble: Pour scallops over rice, juices and all. Garnish with Roma Tomatoes, if desired, and serve.

* To Roast Jalapeno Peppers: Line a baking sheet with foil. Split Jalapeno Peppers in half, place cut side down on baking sheet. Broil Jalapeno Peppers 3-4 inches from heat source for about 3-5 minutes or until skin is blistered.

Remove from oven, place a glass bowl over peppers to trap steam as peppers cool. The steam will loosen the skin. Steam peppers for about 15 minutes.

Let peppers cool enough to handle. Gently peel away charred skins. Peppers can then be used as desired. Store any unused peppers in a zip-lock bag in the freezer. Warning: these peppers get even hotter after they have been frozen. The oils accumulate and become more intense.

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