Saturday, October 27, 2012

Recipe: Scallops Newburg in Toast Cups

Do not overcook this dish. Most seafoods...should be simply threatened with heat and then celebrated with joy. – Jeff Smith

I love Newburg – scallops, shrimp, lobster...

Here’s a relatively quick recipe that serves as a light lunch or as a main dish with a salad on the side.

The most difficult part of this recipe? Making the toast cups. I always have a fight when I try to press a piece of square bread into a round muffin tin. If anyone has a technique to end my suffering please let me know.

I find that pinching the sides together seems to work. Kind of… But the end result makes “all that stress” worthwhile. You can serve on buttered flat toast, but it’s not as dramatic.

There are many variations of “Newburg” with different seafood ingredients. The most common are scallops, shrimp and lobster.

Photo: Renée S., Flickr CCL
History of Seafood Newburg
Abridged from
Lobster Newburg first appeared at Delmonico’s in New York in the 1870s. Its was among the most popular dishes served in the American Pavilion at the Paris Exposition of 1900 and the Columbian Exposition in Chicago 1893. 

There are several versions of how the dish got its name. Most agree on two important points: the restaurant that made this dish famous was Delmonico's in New York, and it was named for Ben Wenberg. It appeared on Delmonico’s menu as Lobster a la Wenberg

The story of how the name changed from "Wenberg" to "Newburg" is fuzzy. One story has that Mr. Delmonico and Mr. Wenberg had a bit of a falling out. In a fit of pique Mr. Delmonico wanted it removed from the menu, but it was so popular he couldn’t. So he switched the first three letters from “Wen” to “New” and Newburg was born.

Another story has the argument, but from Mr. Wenburg’s side. He didn't want his name used with it. But who in their right mind would not want their name associated with a recipe so delicious?

From Delmonico's the dish gained a life of its own. The first print reference can be found published in 1884. From there the variations – and names – began to accumulate. A Good Way To Prepare Lobster (1883), Lobster Newburg (1887), Creamed Lobster (1883), Newburg Sauce (1938)…

I tend to agree with the first name actually. This is a good way to prepare lobster, or shrimp, or scallops. The originals never had onion or mushrooms. Those are my additions and help stretch a little scallop meat into enough to feed four.

There’s something about the richness of seafood that pairs beautifully with cream, cayenne and liquor. I have written “optional” by the cognac, but you really should include it.

If like most of us you seem to be out of cognac, a perfectly acceptable alternative is either brandy or vermouth.

Delicious either in toast cups or plain toast, with a side salad or not, this recipe takes very little effort to bring together. I’m sure if your family likes scallops they’ll love them served this way!

So many people don't know how to cook scallops.
At their best they are simply seared on both sides and
sprinkled with salt and pepper. Never overcrowd the pan,
or they will steam. Photo: rory k mccharg, Flickr ccl
Scallops Newburg in Toast Cups
Prep: 5 min  |  Cook: 15-20 min  |  Serves 4
1 lb scallops
3 tbsp butter
200g mushrooms, sliced
1/4 medium onion, diced
2 tbsp flour
1-3/4 cups milk
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp dried tarragon, or 2 tsp fresh
1 tbsp cognac, brandy or vermouth, optional
1/2 tsp salt
8 toast cups

Make the toast cups by pressing slices of bread into muffin tins. Place in a 350°F oven until browned. Set aide. (These can be made while you make the sauce.)

Heat one tablespoon of butter in a sauté pan. Once hot, add the scallops. Do not crowd them in the pan.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper and let sear on one side. Then turn – only once – and repeat on the other side. A little on the raw side is best.

Remove the scallops to a pan, and if the scallops are large either quarter or halve them.

Add the remaining butter to the pan. Add the mushrooms and onion and let cook until the mushrooms begin to brown. Add the flour and mix in well. Then slowly add the milk.

Stir until the mixture has thickened. Then add the pepper, cayenne and tarragon. Add the scallops and cognac and let cook long enough to just heat through.

Taste for salt and adjust.

Divide the Newburg between the eight cups. Serve with a simple green salad if you wish.


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