When my mom was a little girl living on Long Island, summers meant vacationing out the island’s North Fork, on a little strip of smooth-stoned beach along Peconic Bay called Breezy Shores. Facing the waterfront were dollhouse cottages, white-washed clapboards with dark blue trim, each cottage hand built and a little different from one another.
Some had screened porches, perfect for starlit sleeping; others had small flowerbeds where scrappy rosebushes ambled up their windswept trellises; most had blue painted wood chairs, cracked and peeling, placed out front overlooking the bay.
You could see fishermen in the early morning make their stealth way in small boats, on their quest for a good catch. You could see Shelter Island and watch the ferries make their hourly chugs from the mainland and back. You could watch weather.
I know all this, because when I was a little girl living on Long Island, summers, too, meant vacationing at Breezy Shores. Often, we would stay in the same cottage that mom had. My sister and I would collect smooth stones on the strip of beach, hunt hermit crabs in little sand mounds, rig cryptic messages in bottles and clumsily launch them into the bay.
Breezy, in 1965, was not very different from Breezy in 1935.
After we moved to Nashville, visits to that charmed spot became infrequent.
I went a couple of times in my teens and later brought my daughter–ten months old at the time–for her first salt water and beach experience. Not far from Breezy we discovered a little seafood restaurant. It was near the legendary Soundview, but it was more of a shack. It might have even been called The Shack–thirty plus years ago, memory is not clear on that detail.
No matter, the food memory is everclear! For five dollars, you could get bay scallops, sweet, small as the tip of your pinky, broiled in a buttery broth, served in an oval gratin. It came with slaw, steamed local corn on the cob, and a soft roll to mop up all that buttery broth. It was simple and fresh, gently sea-perfumed and bursting with sweetness.
I was reminded of that place, and that sumptuous dish, over the Labor Day weekend. Something about the crisp quality of the September air–at last no humidity–the end of summer conjures memories, and I saw some bay scallops, wild caught, for sale at the market.
That little seafood place doesn’t exist anymore, but miraculously, Breezy Shores does…in much the same way as it always has…and holds many stories for future posts….
MY NORTH FORK BAY SCALLOP GRATIN
with thanks to Joseph and LeCreuset for the Enameled Fish Gratin
2 T. Butter
1/4 cup diced Onion
1 clove minced Garlic
1 T. Flour
1/2 c. White Wine
1 cup Milk
1 lb. Bay Scallops
Salt ‘n Pepper
handful of soft Breadcrumbs
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Coat the bottom and sides of a gratin dish (or small casserole, baking dish) with soft butter. Place uncooked scallops in the gratin.
In a saucepan or small skillet, melt the butter. Saute onions and garlic until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add white wine, a little sea salt, a few grindings of black pepper, and simmer for 5 minutes.
Mix flour into milk until well blended, and pour the slurry into the saucepan. Stir until mixed well with the wine and onions. Add snipped chives and a few pinches of paprika. Taste for seasoning. Remove from heat when slightly thickened, and pour over scallops in the gratin.
Sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top, dust with paprika, and place into the hot oven. Bake for about 8 minutes–the top will get brown and bubbly.
Do not overcook–you want the scallops to stay tender.
Get out your best bread to mop up the rich goodness.