This is an old column I’m reprinting, because someone recently asked me for the recipe. For the record, it is hands-down delicious, my daughter’s favorite meal. Serve it hot or room temperature. It can dress up or dress down. Take it to the picnic or serve a warm wedge for an anniversary dinner, although in that case you should probably call it something different, not a time to revisit old boyfriends.
I was nineteen, wearing Laura Ashley dresses, red cowboy boots, and studying literature. John, twenty, drove a small black pick-up truck and was studying architecture. We were adorable.
We both loved old houses, beautiful sweaters, and good food. I conquered him with homemade croissants, because those were the days I had nothing better to do but challenge myself with chilled butter and flour. He made homemade ice cream, and collected antique ice cream molds. For a few years John drove a tomato-red, 1930’s ambulance. He took a photo of it, which he sent to me as that year’s valentine.
John and I broke up (a few times), but we ended up living down the street from each other in the North End of Boston for while, a time in which some of our best meals were initiated with a phone call:
“Hey, Heather, watcha’ got? I’ve got two avocados, some mozzarella that better get eaten today, and farfalle. And a beer.”
He would arrive at my apartment with said ingredients, and we’d put something together with the olive oil, escarole, shallot and figs that were my only provisions, embryonic moments of the Iron Chef.
Our shared aesthetic has never dulled. We talk on the phone now, and he tells me how his espaliered pear trees are doing and I tell him about my asparagus bed and husk cherries. We both named our daughters Isabelle. One day, after not seeing each other for years, I ran into him on a Boston street and we were wearing the same Irish knit sweater.
When I told him I was writing a food column, he said, “Hey, I’ve got a great recipe!”
“Can you mail it to me?” For some reason I can’t imagine cyber-correspondence with John. He’s written my address on a seashell, put a stamp on it and mailed it successfully around the world. I couldn’t imagine emailing him.
“No, I’ll just tell you -” and I think John’s got it right again, because isn’t that how a recipe should truly be, right there in your mind ready to make, or to teach someone else, not something deep in the pages of a book or lost in a manila file folder?
Yes, there should be a scallop, not a fish carved into this pie; as usual I was rushing.
Old Boyfriend Pie
1.5 pounds scallops
About 8 small round potatoes – 1 inch to 1/5 inches in diameter
2 large onions chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons dried thyme
A good pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper
1.5 cups of cheddar cheese
½ (one half cup) cup cream or milk
1 double pie crust
(These are my proportions for a double crust, but you can use your own. It should be made with butter.)
2 cups of flour
5-6 tablespoons ice water
1.5 sticks unsalted butter cut into pieces
Put flour, salt and butter in a food processor and pulse until it is like meal. Add five tablespoons of ice water, and pulse again, fairly aggressively. If it doesn’t come nicely into a ball, add the last tablespoon of water. Divide dough in two, wrap in saran wrap, and chill for a 1/2 hour.
Keep potatoes whole but parboil them in lightly salted water for about 12 minutes, or until a fork inserts into them, but they do not yet crumble.
Saute onions in the olive oil until clear, about 5 minutes, with the thyme, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper. (Be more generous with the spices if you want.)
When done, toss potatoes and onions together in the pan. Roll out the first pie dough, and lay it into a 10 inch pie pan. Put the potatoes and onions into the bottom pie crust. Press the scallops into the curves in the potatoes, pressing all down. Sprinkle the cheese over the top. Pour the milk or cream over all.
Roll out the second pie crust, and place on top, crimping together the edges. Cut attractive slits to release the steam. John says a fish is nice, but a simple hatching like petals of a flower is lovely, too.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, or until the crust is browned. Allow to sit for at least 20 minutes before cutting as there is a lot of delicious sauce that runs out otherwise.