The Shackleford Wild Ponies
A nap was in order during the calm before the storm, Hurricane Earl, caused a mandatory evacuation of the Cape Lookout area. That meant that all four sailboats anchored in the bight, and folks like us, out for a sunny, calm day cruise, today would be scooted away by the Coast Guard. And the wild horses? I'm sure they'll endure the high winds and possible overwash. They seem to be hearty souls.
I'm grateful to have been there a few days ago to enjoy a picnic of freshly steamed Pamlico brown shrimp, with cantaloupe that tasted of the Carteret County black soil, and cool off with a float in crystal clear and smooth waters. That area of the Southern Outer Banks does call itself "The Crystal Coast."
Just south of Ocracoke along the chain of "Outer Banks," Cape Lookout is also part of the "Graveyard of the Atlantic" that extends down from its northerly neighbor, Cape Hatteras. Decades ago, I observed short, stout cement-block buildings that were bunkers used during World War II, when German subs were sunk within a couple of miles of the shore. Here, over a century ago, there was also a "processing plant" for porpoises, or bottle-nose dolphins, to gather the oil from their carcasses to use in lamps and crude machines. Oh my.
This trip, we witnessed a half-mile long pod of these graceful, gentle beauties as they fed on bluefish right along the cape. I had to wonder if they knew a storm was coming, and were filling up while they could.
A BEVY OF SEAFOOD
On the way to Atlantic Beach, we stopped at a favorite fishmonger, B & J Seafood in New Bern, where they clean and pack fresh blue crabs from the Pamlico Sound. We netted a beautiful, pulled from the water that day Southern flounder, which we stuffed with lump crabmeat and laced with lemon juice, melted butter and a sprinkle of Old Bay. Another delightful, memorable meal was jumbo lumps of crabmeat that I panned in butter, and paired with a buttery, smooth California pinot grigio from Mirrasou.
But my man loves scallops, and we had scored some big boys that were dry-packed and fresh from cooler waters than ours.
Fresh corn from home - well, I had cut it from the cob, flash-boiled, then frozen for this trip - and some tasty heirloom tomatoes made a pretty and tasty plate. He loved it.
The recipe follows.
SEARED SCALLOPS WITH CORN VELOUTE AND TOMATO CONCASSE
1 pound sea scallops
2 cups or so of freshly cut corn
1 large heirloom tomato, seeded and finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped sweet onion
olive oil for cooking
salt and pepper
fresh chives or parsley, minced, if desired
1. Wash and pat scallops dry.
2. Heat corn in just enough water to almost cover the corn. Scoop out about one cup into a blender with just a bit of the cooking water. Puree until smooth. Heat veloute in a small pan if needed. Season both corn and veloute with salt and pepper.
3. Heat chopped tomatoes and onions just until warm. Season.
4. Add just enough oil to a large saute pan to coat the bottom. Heat until very hot. Add just a few scallops - NEVER over crowd when sauteeing scallops, or else you get rubbery discs. Brown on both sides - it should take just about two or three minutes per side. Remove to a plate, and continue to brown the remaining scallops.
5. To plate, place the tomato concasse in the middle of each plate. Pour the veloute around the edge. Scatter the scallops evenly. Ladle the drained corn over the scallops and veloute. Scatter herbs if desired. Eat immediately!