Mighty Truck’s great adventure and Margaret’s best-ever baked scallops

Baked scallops with sherry – simple, fairly rich, very tasty

Scallops waiting for your magic. (Ned White photo)

Scallops washed and waiting for your magic. (Ned White photo)

Margaret treats us to her baked scallop recipe, after the journey, below.

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Truckers…

When you log a lot of miles cavorting about the country, you get to know certain trucking lines by where they are and how they drive. Roadway, J.B. Hunt., Werner, Schneider, Covenant, Swift, Conway seem to be everywhere. Old Dominion and some others tend to be more regional. From my own observations, and from what a couple of other truckers ventured to me, J.B. Hunt has the best, most careful drivers.

In a lot of the emptier places in this country, we exchange the two-finger wave to other drivers, mostly truckers – a small flick of the forefinger and index finger off the steering wheel – as we drive toward each other. It’s the simplest of hellos, and seems to happen most often on the western plains on the smaller roads. It might be a pickup or a hay truck, but it can also be J.B. Hunt taking a shortcut. The two-finger wave doesn’t happen much in the East, from what I’ve seen.

We have a pretty good sense about truckers, how badly they’re often portrayed in movies (Thelma and Louise, anyone?), which seems to me both unfair and untrue. Sure, there are the occasional mindless misogynistic troglodyte rednecks here and there, but I think they’re a dying breed.

…and Mighty Truck on a big roadie

My wife has good evidence of this via a cross-country trip back in late December of ’97. She was headed from Brattleboro, Vermont 2,100 miles to Taos, New Mexico, solo, in my 1952 Ford F1 pickup truck, towing an 8′ U-Haul trailer. The truck was fitted out with a Chevy small block, probably a 327, a halfway decent Holley four-barrel carburetor, dual pipes, and a three-speed turbo automatic transmission. For these reasons her nickname was Mighty Truck, or simply MT.

Mighty in power, but Sketchy in mechanical reliability and short on comfort. Vacuum windshield wipers. A drooping trailer hitch. A distributor prone to shorts on humid days and plug wires with fraying insulation. A brake pedal that used to engage, quite dramatically, with the gas pedal (high excitement!!), but we managed to fix that ahead of time. A brake fluid leak somewhere that we think we’d fixed. A “heater” with a rattling tiny fan, cracked glass everywhere, fiberglass fenders that weren’t all that well bolted to the frame. Plus old lightly-treaded tires, and rear-wheel drive with precious little weight in the rear, even with the trailer.

A twin to Mighty Truck, my 1952 Ford F1. I'm still hunting for photos I know I have...

A twin to Mighty Truck, my 1952 Ford F1. I’m still hunting for photos I know I have…

And no speedometer, gas gauge, radio or cell phone. Just a cassette player for entertainment.

Off she went, alone, on a rainy morning that turned to snow in Troy, New York and a full-on blizzard in Pennsylvania. The next morning, with the snow still raging, she inched forward a few miles to a diner filled with truckers. When they saw this young woman, quite physically fit but of relatively modest stature, emerge from this raggedy old pickup, you could almost hear their eyebrows arching. They told her what the weather was like headed south. Did she need anything? Are you really driving the whole way by yourself – in that?

2100 miles in that? C’mon!

She was glad for their concern, but confident she’d make it just fine. She wasn’t exactly hauling a semi, but she was a truck driver just the same, and truckers tend to look out for one another.

Suffice it to say she did make it to Taos after four nights and five days, but it wasn’t anything close to easy. Tennessee – all 500 miles of it on I-40 – proved to be surprisingly creepy. People didn’t smile at her or the truck, they stared. To some, Tennessee may be the friendliest southern sweetheart of a state in the country, but that was not her experience (nor mine either, actually), until she ignored it all with a hearty dinner at Loretta Lyn’s Kitchen west of Nashville.

Good food on I-40 west of Nashville, and fewer stares.

Good food on I-40 west of Nashville, and fewer stares.

Arkansas? Fine. Heavy rain in Oklahoma at ten o’clock at night, MT started to sputter and cough, and so she found a motel. In the morning, though rain had given way to sun, MT just wouldn’t start. She called me, I called my cousin and mechanical advisor for advice, and then called her back with a remedy: spray WD-40 inside the distributor and on the plug wires, mop everything down with a rag, and try her again.

Vroom, she was off again on I-40 and not long after ran out of gas. A woman pulled her car over to help (I saw you doin’ 85 in that little old thing, I thought, who is that?), and after some schlepping to a gas station my wife was off again, across the Texas panhandle through Amarillo, toward Albuquerque, short-cutting from Cline’s Corners up to Santa Fe when more snow hit, at about eight at night. And MT started to strain and sputter again, not from humidity, but from altitude. Her carb jets were tuned to sea level, not 7000 feet.

The last few miles up to Taos from Santa Fe feature a steady climb of about 2000 feet to Taos Mesa. On this night, late December 1997, the snow was piling up and Mighty Truck crawled ever upward, tires spinning and trailer starting to fishtail, at about 10 miles an hour. My wife had Mahalia Jackson on her boom box the whole way and somehow, almost miraculously, they all made it to the top.

In the end, another fifteen miles down the road or so, she had a friend waiting at her bed-and-breakfast establishment with a tall glass of wine.

She made it! MT next to the old Sube at our house in Taos, early 1998.

She made it! MT next to the old Sube at our house in Taos, early 1998.

My cousin and mechanical advisor thought we were both crazy to undertake such a trip in that truck. In winter, no less. “How could you let her do that?” Well, you don’t “let” my wife do anything. She does what she does.

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Baked scallops with sherry, and rice in the background. A fine supper dish.

Baked scallops with sherry, and rice in the background. A fine supper dish.

We’ve heard from Margaret who has a fine recipe for baked scallops, with a splash of sherry and some grated cheese. I made it two nights ago for four hungry people, and it was a grand slam of a hit, so thanks, Margaret. She writes:

Henry&MargaretI love scallops, but I have to say my eardrums get in a twist if I hear people in the fish market calling them something like “skellips.” You hear this more in the summer, when people are here from away, and they just don’t know the word quite right. Comes from not knowing. So when I was writing this for you, I asked Henry for his help.

“Henry, I’m writing about scallops and how to say it right. What’s a good word that rhymes with it?”

Polyps.”

“Maybe something less medical. Give me another.”

Wallops. He wallops the ball into -”

“Henry, isn’t there a food rhyme? Must be.”

He thought for a second and told me, “Dollops, of mayonnaise.”

“That’s good.”

So scallops, said properly, rhymes with dollops. I say, anything that costs $15 a pound should be treated with respect and spoken right. Here’s the recipe I have to feed 4, like Henry and I and Sadie and Joey when we’re all hungry:

Have ready -

  • 2 1/2 lbs. scallops (rhymes with dollops)
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice or a lemon slice
  • 2 tbsp. chopped parsley
  • 2 tbsp. chopped onion
  • about 7 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 lb. mushrooms, sliced (optional)
  • 4 tbsp. flour
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/3 cup dry sherry
  • 1/2 cup buttered panko bread crumbs
  • about 1/3 cup grated sharp cheddar

Preheat your oven to 375, and have ready a casserole that’s well buttered inside.

A good pile of scallops, with the ones on the left slice in half.

A good pile of scallops, with the ones on the left sliced in half.

First, slice the larger scallops in half, then rinse them all in cold water and put aside.  Now put about a tbsp. of butter in a pan, melt it, stir in the bread crumbs and stir till well toasted. Put those aside, too. Now, in a large skillet, put in all the scallops, the lemon juice or slice, and the parsley, cover with cold water, then bring to a boil and cook for 1 1/2 minutes. (This way the scallops heat up slowly and don’t toughen much). Pour the water from the pan into a bowl – it’ll be used again in the sauce.

Now melt some butter in the same pan and cook the onions, and mushrooms if you want. The mushrooms make this dish very rich, so sometimes I omit them. But if you’re cooking both onions and mushrooms, use about 4 tbsp. of butter. If just onions, 1 tbsp. should do it. When done, put these aside.

Now make the sauce with 4 tbsp. butter and 4 tbsp. flour. Melt the butter, whisk in the flour, stir still smooth, and now slowly add the cooking broth from the scallops, stirring all the time. You don’t have to put in all the broth, just enough to get a nice thick roux that’s not too soupy. Also add dashes of Worcestershire and some salt and pepper if you want. When it’s creamy smooth, add the scallops, onions (and mushrooms) and the dry sherry and stir till blended with the burner off.

Pour all this into the casserole, sprinkle with the bread crumbs and the grated cheddar, and bake uncovered about 15-18 minutes till it’s hot and bubbly. It’s pretty simple but very tasty.

I serve this over rice, preferably brown or wild. But you can use white or Basmati, either way. It’s quite delicious and if there’s any left over it’ll keep for awhile, so don’t worry. And as I always say, buy local, know your fishmonger or at least the store where he (or she) sells his product.

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Next time, I’m pretty sure, off to the Cheyenne River Reservation in central South Dakota and I’ll try to impart what I think I know that’s special about that area, and its people.

There you have it, for now.

 

 

 

 

 

Ned White

About Ned White

Ned White is an author, photographer, crossword constructor, humorist, traveler through 49 states, and an avid cook. He lives with his wife in South Thomaston.