Summerhouse Scallops with Roasted Pears in Wine-Butter Sauce
It's getting harder and harder to get away from it all in this world, but earlier this month we found a welcome respite from cell phones, Internet and war only ten miles off the Maine coast on Monhegan Island. A little rock, 1.7 miles long and half as wide, with a few houses, no cars, and spotty cell service, it's mostly owned by a private preservation organization (Monhegan Associates, Inc.) and mostly occupied by a few artists and a lot of pine trees, rocks, weeds, birds, flowers and an abiding quiet. There's nothing to do there except visit the artists' studios (usually open a couple of hours one or two days a week), hike the primitive trails, read, sleep...and, of course, cook and eat! We had a great time, and came back nicely refreshed and recharged.
Summerhouse cooking is a vexing little subset of real cooking that is characterized by dull knives, unfamiliar and hard-to-control stoves, strange water and, of course, the absence of all your tools and everything you have in your pantry in the way of seasonings and staples. We rented a tiny cabin on Monhegan -- a bedroom, a kitchen with a table, and a bathroom, with a deck -- and the kitchen was pretty much the standard you can expect. There was salt and pepper and some previous guest had left a small bottle of canola oil. Propane stove, the dull knives (and there's NEVER a sharpening steel), half a roll of paper towels, a few pots and dishes. Of course, everything you need costs about double at the little island market.
The first night we ate out (at the Island Inn) but it was at the same time too much like civilization and not civilized enough to justify the island-premium price of the meal. And, to be honest, sitting on the deck at the cabin was better by far than eating in any restaurant. So, of course, I cooked...
We had brought a bag of food with us -- mostly fruit and fixings for trailside sandwiches -- and I quickly made friends with the island fish market, next to the town wharf, where diver scallops and fresh, line-caught swordfish, cod and halibut came in off the boats every afternoon. I had wine and a couple of pears we had brought over and I found a huge patch of chives in the side yard, so seared scallops with roasted pears and a wine-butter sauce seemed to be just the right way to go...and the simplicity of the dish was perfectly matched to the simplicity and timelessness of Monhegan.
Summerhouse Scallops with Roasted Pears and Wine-Butter Sauce
2 bosc pears, firm-ripe
1 lb diver scallops
1/2 med onion, chopped
2 C white wine
2 T canola oil
4 T butter
4 T chives, minced
Quarter and core the pears, toss in a little oil, and roast about 40 minutes at 350º, until tender and starting to brown at the edges.
Wash and dry the scallops thoroughly. Salt them lightly and sear in very hot oil about 60 seconds on one side only. Keep warm.
Add 2 tablespoons of the butter to the pan and cook the onions slowly until just starting to brown, stirring occasionally. Add the wine, raise the heat to high, and reduce the liquid to a syrupy consistency. Stir in remaining butter and half the chives. Season to taste. Return the scallops to the pan, toss to coat with sauce. Arrange the pears in a pinwheel on the serving plate and mound the scallops in the middle. Drizzle remaining sauce over the plate. Scatter on the rest of the minced chives and garnish with some additional chive stalks if desired.