Everything was at stake.
I looked down at my phone, then back up. Over and over I played the steps through my head. I had one chance, and I couldn’t mess this up. Otherwise, $14 were down the drain, and two dinners. To a college student on a budget, this was gold.
Besides the monetary value, there was something more. I wanted to succeed. I wanted to bite into that first ball of tender, slightly crisp goodness, and feel it melt in my mouth. The way that they do when you buy them at a restaurant for $30, and you savor every bite of the four pieces on the plate. My roommates had to cook their dinners, too, and I had a meeting to attend. I knew it was time to start the scallops.
I got the sauce ready ahead of time. I chopped up a few garlic cloves, poured a couple tablespoons of olive oil, and squeezed a full lemon into a bowl (then proceeded to dip my hand in it to pick out the seeds). Of course I had a cut on my finger where the lemon juice stung–but warriors don’t cry. I put the mixture aside, and continued with my mission.
I washed the scallops and patted them dry. I peeled off the little white flaps on their sides. Then, I said goodbye to the squishy, white, saltwater clams before me, and turned up the heat. To the pan, I added a couple more tablespoons of olive oil. I waited, and placed a droplet of water on its surface. The oil jumped a bit, so I put the scallops on. It was crowded, much like Disney World during spring break. In a panic, I picked up a scallop with my finger seconds after it hit the pan, and moved it to a plate. There was more room, but it was still too crowded. I followed this pattern two more times, all in a matter of seconds.
“Salt and pepper!” The part of my mind responsible for remembering the steps was panicked.
I almost forgot. Frantically, I ground up the two simple spices which make all the difference. Phew. I caught my breath while the scallops sizzled on the pan; the three I temporarily saved from the flame were watching idly by. They wouldn’t be safe for very long.
How was I supposed to know when scallops were ready to flip? Different Internet sources said anywhere from one to four minutes, or when the scallops didn’t stick to the pan. I waited until the bottoms were a light golden brown. Using a spatula, I poked at the creatures a few times, testing their mobility. I finally felt one move smoothly across the pan. I didn’t watch the clock, but trusted my instincts. I flipped them all. Waiting another several minutes, I finished cooking the batch and moved them to a deep plate. I poured some more oil on the pan, and added the remaining three squishy whites.
This round, I didn’t waste any time. I ground salt and pepper like it was my duty. I was getting nervous; it wasn’t over. I still had the lemon garlic sauce. I was to remove the scallops, and pour my mixture over the flame while scraping up any remaining pieces in the pan. Then I was to add a quarter-cup of vegetable broth (I wasn’t going to use white wine; I’m a student and that’s a highly valued commodity), then let the mixture simmer.
I looked down. The three remaining scallops on the pan were nearly ready. It was time. Suddenly my ears were ringing.
“You should always turn the fan on while cooking! Open the window! Shake a towel under the alarm!” My roommate was yelling.
This would happen to me.
Little did my roommate know there was no way in hell I was going to abandon my scallops in attempt to make the fire alarm turn off. I had already come so far.
“One second!” I shouted back.
I removed the remaining scallops from the pan, opened the window, poured in my concoction, and turned the fan on. Still, there was beeping chaos. I added the vegetable broth and moved the dial to simmer. Then, grabbing the dirty blue dish towel next to me, I ran to the alarm, and started waving my hand around. After what felt like an hour–in reality it was actually fifteen seconds–the alarm stopped. I darted back to my pan.
I was ready for this process to be over. I turned off the flame and combined the scallops with the pan’s contents. I tossed them around so they could soak up the garlicy, lemony, oily goodness. I placed the farrow and sauteed spinach (which I’d been simultaneously preparing) in a bowl, topping them with the scallops and lemon sauce so that the hulled wheat and veggies could soak up the flavor as well. I pierced my fork into a scallop.
The scallops may have been evil for the trouble they put me through, but at that moment I didn’t care. I didn’t care that I was late for my meeting, or that my roommates were annoyed with me. A tired smile took over my face; it was delicious. I even had my roommate (a fellow foodie) try a bite. She didn’t mind the alarm after that.
“Wow, this is better than scallops I’ve had in restaurants where you get three for thirty bucks.”
Then I started beaming, because I didn’t have just three restaurant-level scallops. I had eleven. I planned to separate them into two meals, only putting five on my plate for dinner. Instead, I ate seven scallops, and after my meeting (for which I ran late) I came home and ate the remaining four. I couldn’t get them out of my mind. Slightly crispy on the outside, and tender, buttery goodness on the inside. I was rich.