It's February, which means the Season of Love is about to begin.
Every year around this time, Tony and I sit down to plan our Valentine's Day menu for Sarello's, and we love to include as many aphrodisiac foods as possible, just to help out those couples seeking some added romance with their loved ones.
Our menu changes often throughout the year, and on special occasions we create a new menu just for that evening. We love the opportunity this presents to be creative by featuring dishes that are not normally in our repertoire. However, we have learned over the past 12 years that there are just some dishes too beloved to ever leave off our menu (lest a mutiny ensue). This week's Thai-inspired Red Curry Scallops are right at the top of that list.
Before continuing, I must disclose that I am highly allergic to all shellfish, so I have never actually tried this specialty. But that doesn't mean I don't still enjoy it. In addition to being one of the prettiest food presentations I have ever seen, I love the briny, fragrant aroma of the scallops and the curry blending together. In fact, it looks and smells so good that sometimes I think I wouldn't mind a visit to the emergency room just to give it a try. But what does it taste like?
To answer this question, we sent an email to all of our customers, asking them to provide a brief description of what they love about our Red Curry Scallops. The response was great, and we are grateful to everyone who shared their thoughts with us. While many of the comments included a reference to the texture and "doneness" of the scallops, it became clear that the red curry sauce is the star of this dish.
"The sauce is richly flavored, with a nice texture. It is a bold dish with the complex flavors of seafood, onions and curry, all in a velvety sauce. A chilled glass of Riesling is perfect with it," wrote Sam Wai, Moorhead.
Bernie Erickson of Fargo said, "I've learned there's a difference between spicy and complex. While this dish certainly has kick and a little heat, the complexity of flavors blending together make it like no other."
One of the best surprises among the comments came from Tom and Becky Ihringer of Fargo, who had previously requested a copy of this recipe after enjoying the dish at Sarello's.
"I cooked the Red Curry Scallops for the first time yesterday. ... The colors and texture of the carrots and mushrooms with the basil were the real surprise."
We love the versatility of this dish, which can be altered to accommodate many different tastes. Shrimp or chicken are nice substitutes for scallops, but you can also create a delicious vegetarian dish by adding more vegetables to the sauce and serving it over rice. You can even make a gluten-free version by omitting the roux from the sauce and letting it reduce longer to thicken. The spicy heat, which is a medium-heat in this recipe, can be controlled by adjusting the amount of curry paste. And all of the ingredients can be easily found in our local grocery stores.
So play with this recipe and alter it as you desire. And be sure to have some good bread on hand because Tony says that the best part of this dish is mopping up the sauce at the end.
Sarello's Red Curry Scallops
4 to 6 appetizer servings
All ingredients for this recipe are available at the Hornbacher's on 32nd Avenue South.
Red Curry Sauce
1 small can or jar of red curry paste
16 ounces coconut milk
2 ounces fish sauce
2 ounces clam juice
1 ounces heavy cream
1 ounces lime juice
¼ cup sugar
Using a medium-sized sauce pan, combine all ingredients over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer. Add a half-cup of the roux (flour and butter mixture for thickening), and whisk until the roux is incorporated and the sauce has thickened. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
½ cup butter, shortening, lard or vegetable oil (the more flavorful the fat, the better the roux)
½ cup flour
Melt the butter in a medium sauce pan and stir in the flour. Cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring constantly until a light straw color is achieved. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
12-15 sea scallops
1 red onion, cut into half-inch thick slices
1 cup shiitake mushrooms, quartered (any mushroom will work)
1 cup carrots, julienne (sliced into thin strips)
1 cup sugar snap peas, whole
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chiffonade (cut into thin strips)
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
Using a large sauté pan over medium heat, pour in the vegetable oil and add the red onions. Cook for two minutes. Add the scallops, and cook for another two minutes. Add the red curry sauce and cook for 3-4 minutes. Finish by adding the vegetables and basil, stirring to ensure all ingredients are hot, and cook for another two minutes. When done, the sauce should be velvety smooth; not as thick as a cream sauce, but thicker than a broth. Pour into serving bowls, serve and enjoy!
To make sure that all the vegetables are crunchy, or al dente, add any vegetables that may take longer to cook, like carrots and onions, first. More delicate ingredients, like mushrooms and sugar snap peas, or shrimp (if using instead of scallops) should be added toward the end because they will cook faster.
This column was written exclusively for The Forum.
Home with the Lost Italian is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owns Sarello's restaurant in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 8-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at or .