Simple but elegant, not to mention a breeze to prepare, this is one of my favorite go-to dishes for any number of occasions, be it a dinner party, date night, or even just a weeknight I feel like pampering myself. With the exception of the scallops and brandy, it's composed mostly of pantry staples. It's also fun to make, especially if you have an audience, as there is flaming involved. This particular version was inspired by some fresh lemon and black pepper fettuccine I bought at D.C.'s Eastern Market yesterday. And it was, in fact, date night, so the recipe is written here as I prepared it for myself and my lady friend. You can easily scale the recipe to feed more than just you and your boo, though. —Chris Hagan
unsalted butter, divided
scallions, sliced thinly crosswise (enough to make about a 1/2 cup); plus extra for garnish
fresno chile or red jalapeno, seeded, and sliced in thin rounds or half-moons, or red pepper flakes to taste
Italian parsley, finely chopped, divided, plus extra for garnish
finely grated zest of 1/2 a lemon, or more to taste
dryest possible sea scallops, sliced into half-inch rounds
flour for dredging
fish stock or clam juice
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
lemon juice, to taste (start with half a lemon and adjust from there)
fresh fettuccine (I used a lemon-black pepper one)
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it generously, so it tastes like the sea. Melt 2 tbsp of the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat and add the scallions. Season with salt and pepper. Saute a minute or two until they start to get soft and golden. Add the chile, half the parsley, and the lemon zest, and continue sauteing another minute or so.
Raise the heat to medium-high. Dredge the scallops lightly in flour and shake off the excess, then add them to the pan, tossing to coat them in the butter and aromatics. Saute about a minute, then add the brandy. Flame. (Or don't, and just let the alcohol cook off without the pyrotechnics. But the pyrotechnics are a lot more fun. Just sayin'.)
When the flames subside, add the fish stock or clam juice and simmer a minute or two more. Cut in the remaining tbsp of butter and stir in the cream. Let simmer over medium-low heat while you cook the pasta, which should only take about two minutes if using fresh. (If using dried, drop the pasta first, and then start the sauce.)
Drain the pasta, reserving 1/4-1/2 cup of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the scallops along with the remaining parsley, the lemon juice, and some of the cooking water. Toss to combine. Let simmer together briefly. Adjust for salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Serve with additional parsley, sliced scallions (the green parts), slivered nori (if using), and lemon wedges for garnish.