On April 6, 1983, I drove into New York City in my beat-up Ford van with a big Zarela Cetering sign emblazoned on the sides. Because it was a cargo van with no regular seats, my seven-year old twin boys, Rodrigo and Aaron Sanchez, had ridden the distance sitting on a Louis XIV love seat with goose down filled cushions covered in silvery brocade.It had taken three 13-hour days of driving with nights spent at cheesy Motel 6s along the way to get here. My mother had advised me to pull up at the first truck stop and find out f anyone was going my way and ask if we could drive right behind them to take advantage of the wind tunnel and it was a good thing I paid attention. We drove through dust storms and tumbleweeds in Texas, heavy rain in Arkansas, and fog in Virginia, but when we drove through the George Washington Bridge the shining sun greeted us and I felt it that it presaged a bright future
Two weeks (March 21, 1983) before my arrival, Barbara Costikyan, New York Magazine reporter, had included me in an article titled Hot New Caterers after attending a party hosted by Harley Baldwin in his railroad flat in the Dakota where I introduced my food to the press who loved my home-style cooking. Beth Rudin de Woody, who is now a renowned art collector and curator, was a budding socialite at the time and booked my first of many parti when she read the piece. She was my first patron and I often wonder if I had been able to make it here without hers and Barbara’s help.
But what does it have to do with my scallops with roasted garlic and toasted almonds that we often ran as a special in my restaurant Zarela under the name Scallops Sonora though it has nothing to do with my birth place? Barbara gave me this wonderful recipe.
1 pound fresh or bay scallops
12 cloves whole peeled garlic
1 cup chicken stock, preferably home-made
1/3 or 1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds
2 tablespoons butter
1 or 2 jalapeño chilse, stems, seeds and veins removed, cut in thin slices
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 cup white wine
Pat the scallops dry with paper towels. Set aside.
Place the garlic cloves in a small saucepan and cover with the chicken stock. Bring to a boil and cook over medium -high heat until the stock is consumed and the garlic is soft and golden. Set aside.
Heat the butter until slightly sizzling, and add the chile, almonds, and garlic and cook for 1 minute, Add the scallops and cook for another minute. Add the lime juice and cook for a minute. Immediately remove the scallops from the pan and add the optional white wine to deglaze the pan, boil rapidly until slightly thickened and pour over the sauce. Serve immediately.