If you’ve been reading this for quite some time, you may remember the February when M.’s friend Elizabeth came to town. She had a memoir she was promoting, something called Lunch in Paris.
I was very much looking forward to meeting her.
Here was a published food memoirist (it’s a thing, trust me)…
Here was one of M.’s dearest, oldest friends…
Here was a woman living the dream — the married-to-a-Frenchman, living-in-Paris dream….
But I was apprehensive, too. M. and I had been together only a year. I was seven years younger than them, possibly foolish, definitely not as accomplished. What would she think of me?
Turns out I needn’t have worried. I’ve met few women as generous with their support and easy warmth as Elizabeth. I’ve even come to love her.
There was one moment of weirdness, though.
On the way to Elizabeth’s book party, I picked up M.’s ex-girlfriend (we’re modern like that). As we arrived, it seemed like all of Elizabeth’s family and friends were fawning over her.
“You’re famous! You’re in the book!”
She’s in the book?
I was caught off guard, to say the least.
Turns out, she’s in the book.
So is M.
It’s a heart-breaking, beautiful chapter. Ostensibly a chapter about New Yorkers in Paris — but really, a chapter about grace, survival, and love in the face of unthinkable tragedy.
If you’ve read it — and I know many of you have — you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about (though you may not have realized it was him’til now).
If you haven’t — you should.
To be honest, it took me a long while to come to terms with that chapter.
It took me a long while to come to terms with the life M. lived just before he met me.
I am here to say it was all worth it.
Tonight, when he returned from Maine with lobster and saucer-sized scallions and announced that he was “making one of my published recipes!” and then he showed me our copy of Lunch in Paris, cracked open to his chapter, I didn’t even wince.
I rejoiced in this familia putativa we’ve created.
Herewith, a recipe. Adapted with love.
Scallops with Champagne Custard
Adapted from Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard
… who got it from some guy named Mayur.
12 scallops, in their shells (or 4 gigantic Maine ones)
1/4 cup champagne (or wine-like, mead-y beer, such as Dogfish Head’s Noble Rot. It was what we had on hand, and if anyone can experiment with this recipe, I’m pretty sure it’s M….)
1/4 cup seafood stock
1/4 cup heavy cream
3 egg yolks
Shell and thoroughly rinse the scallops; set aside in a bowl on the counter. Line 1-2 baking sheets with aluminum foil. Rinse the top half of each shell and set aside for baking and serving.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, reduce the champagne/beer by half, then set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, in a second small saucepan, combine the fish stock and any scallop juice collected at the bottom of the bowl; reduce by half. Lower the heat and add the cream. Bring just to a boil and then take off the heat.
Transfer the cooled champagne to a medium mixing bowl, add the egg yolks, and whisky until foamy. Slowly add the hot cream mixture, whisking continuously. This is the beginning of your custard. Transfer it back to the saucepan.
Over low heat, whisk the custard until it coats the back of a wooden spoon. This will take a good 10-15 minutes. Don’t attempt to rush it by turning up the heat, or your custard will separate.
Preheat the broiler.
Optional: cut each scallop in half horizontally, so you have two even coins. If they are especially thick, you might want to cut them in thirds. (Note: ours were huge and we chose not to cut them at all; it’s a matter of how well-done you like your scallops.)
Arrange scallop shells on the baking sheets. Arrange the scallops/scallop slices in each shell. Top with a tablespoon or two of custard.
Put pan under the broiler for 1-2 minutes; serve immediately. Repeat with remaining pan of scallops, if you have one.
Elizabeth’s note: “Prepared this way, the scallops will remain almost raw, like a lightly poached carpaccio. I love them, but if you prefer you can sear the scallops in a small frying pan and spoon over warm custard just before serving. The custard almost makes a superb sauce for pasta.”
Yield: 3-4 as an appetizer.