It was that kind of night. I’d spent hours the night before making a proper Cino De Mayo celebration dinner, complete with homemade sauces and condiments, long simmered shredded pork and more so I was in no mood to chop, prep and spend hours in the kitchen again.
And he wanted seafood.
Of course he did. Still, I am nothing if not creative and frugal so I pulled out the fresh shrimp we had along with frozen salmon fillets and frozen scallops. What to do, what to do…
I scrounged around the fridge for leftover condiments and pulled a jar that contained one lonely roasted, jarred red pepper. That would form the basis of my homemade Romesco sauce which I make in the blender, freestyle. I simply toss in the red pepper with a bit of the pickling juice from the jar, a small fistful of almonds, the end slice to the current loaf of sliced white bread, a generous splash of red wine vinegar, salt, pepper and enough olive oil to form a delicious paste. The leftovers are fantastic on pasta or veggies by the way.
Confession time, we adore scallops but man are they pricy. We finally decided that the frozen scallops we get at the grocery store can be converted into something amazing with a little patience and technique. I sear them off in hot browned butter after I have dried them and seasoned them well with salt and pepper. Don’t forget to dry them well as they tend to be very moist after defrosting. I cook them about three minutes on each side and remove them from the pan, deglazing the browned butter bits with lemon juice, lemon zest, capers and a splash of heavy cream. Sour cream would do in a pinch. I whisk vigorously and that’s my pan sauce. The salmon could not be easier. After defrosting, I pat the salmon fillets down with paper towels to dry while the oven preheats to 400F-deg. I line a baking sheet with parchment paper, spray that down with cooking spray and baste my fillets with a mixture of French mustard and honey, equal amounts, before laying the fillets skin side down. I then bake the fillets for exactly ten minutes in the oven. Don’t touch them. Once the come out, I baste again and now it is time to plate. The fillets tend to be very tender and come apart so I pile the chunks of fillet up as best I can and garnish with paper thin slices of lemon and some shredded fresh herbs direct from my garden. Italian parsley does the trick. A grinding of fresh pepper over the scallops and fillets and we are nearly ready to serve.
This meal has a lot of white and pale food so it screams for a very green vegetable. I use whatever I can find in my vegetable crisper, Brussel sprouts hold up surprisingly well to this plate. I simply microwave the trimmed sprouts until tender crisp in a bit of water, drain and season well with salt and pepper before drizzling with pomegranate molasses. And viola, the perfect seafood meal for very little cost.
Granted, this meal is based in no small part on frozen seafood and that is mostly where the cost savings comes from using thoughtfully purchased, reasonably priced frozen seafood. We splurge on the fresh shrimp from time to time but the rest is bought on sale, frozen. And it is very cheap, considering the cost of fresh seafood. I like this meal after a time consuming meal from the night before because it feels and tastes like it took a long time when it actually did not. The sauce comes together in 90 seconds and uses everything I tend to have lying around in the fridge and pantry. The scallops are the only thing that needs tending because the sprouts are microwaved and the salmon is oven baked, both are essentially no fuss elements.
So, when you have spent hours on a celebratory meal, try adding a frugal seafood meal to the menu the next time and save while you continue to celebrate.