If you’ve ever worked in restaurants, there’s something special that often goes on before an evening’s shift begins: Family Meal.
It’s a time for all the workers - front of house and back of the house - to sit together and share food. The chef might come out and talk about the specials on the menu that evening. Or the manager or captain might talk about the reservations expected for that shift. It’s an opportunity to get everyone on the same page before the evening’s work begins. A chance for everyone to feel like they’re supported and on the same team.
The actual meal might consist of repurposed ingredients from the night before, or it could center around produce or protein that needs to be eaten up before new deliveries come in.
Often times, when I’m in higher-end restaurants I’ll ask my server what was served for the family meal. Because I’m a personal chef and I cook dinner for families nearly every day, I’m always interested in what other people had for dinner.
As the daughter of a football coach and an elementary school teacher in Missouri, our lives didn’t accommodate many weekday family meals. My sister and I would pick out a frozen dinner, a can of Spaghettios or (my favorite,) a Swanson’s chicken pot pie from the grocery store aisles. Our mom would have a Weight Watcher’s entree, and the three girls would sit down with homework and a stack of papers to be graded while we ate. Or we’d breeze past a drive-thru window of some fast food place on our way to after-school lessons or meetings. Dad was at football practice - I’m not even sure what he would eat. This was our Monday-Friday routine.
On the weekends we were rewarded with sit down dinners - a variety of our mother’s Mexican food specialties, a recipe for something exotic our dad would concoct, or a whole roasted chicken nestled into a bed of Rice-A-Roni. (I'm gonna buy some Rice-A-Roni this week!)
Sundays provided an opportunity for a true family meal. A big garden salad, garlic bread, grilled steaks, and grilled onions filled with bacon and topped with ranch dressing. (Have you done this?! Score a whole onion with a deep crosscut. Put a piece of bacon in each of the crosshairs, wrap in foil, grill or roast in the oven until it’s melting and nearly falling apart. Unwrap the foil and top with Ranch dressing!)
Nearly every Sunday, from being a tiny little girl to my last year of high school, Mom would bring out the ‘leaves’ for the table - the expanders. We would make room for a line up of football players, or kids that were having trouble at home, or kids who might not have the chance to fill their bellies with a homemade steak dinner. Family Meal.
Living in New York, many of us are far away from the families we were born into. We don’t have the luxury of regularly sitting down to a family meal with brothers, sisters, moms, and dads. So we choose a new family - the husbands, wives, partners, friends, the nears and dears, the loved and bests - with whom we share our lives and our family meals.
One of my chosen family members, one of my loved and bests, is Destan Owens. (If you are a performer looking for a new voice teacher or audition coach go here! http://www.destanowensvocalstudio.com/ or if you just wanna hear some crazy amazing singing, also go there.) Destan and I have created our own weekend family meal ritual. We scramble all week long working and eating meals on the fly. The weekend is a time we come together over food and download our week. It’s an opportunity to make sure we’re on the same page, to feel supported, and to invest some time into our mighty team of two. Family meal.
Whomever makes up your family - born or chosen - carve out some time for a family meal this week. Look each other in the eyes. Be present. Be seen and heard. Support and love one another.
I made summertime on a plate for my family meal with Destan this week. I have been combining these very same ingredients for almost 20 years. I learned about corn salad with the family I cooked and nannied for during one of our summers in Maine. Corn and tomatoes are pretty much best friends and they compliment lobster, shrimp, chicken, grilled tofu... or you can even toss this salad into pasta. Back in Maine, we did it with scallops. It’s going to be a summertime staple, I guarantee.
This week I’m recording a podcast episode with Marshall Dunn of Straight From The Sources Mouth. We’re going to talk about food for the soul and the importance of family meals. (Check my Facebook page or Instagram this week for info on when my episode will air.)
Corn Salad With Scallops
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 9 ears of corn, cut off the cob, (approximately 7 cups) I use my bundt pan to hold the ear as I slice and the kernels don't go flying everywhere, they just drop into the pan - see photos above.
- 3 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup scallions, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar - if for some crazy reason you can't find white balsamic, use rice wine vinegar or red wine vinegar with a tiny bit of honey. Don't use dark balsamic.
- salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 10 dry sea scallops, seasoned with salt and pepper on each side
In a very large skillet, melt the butter. Add the corn to the pan and stir until all the kernels touch the butter as well as touch the heat of the pan. After about 30 seconds turn off the heat. Add in the tomatoes, basil, and scallions. Generously season with salt and pepper. Toss with the vinegar right before serving.
In a smaller skillet, melt the remaining tablespoon of butter. Add the scallops, cook for one minute, turn them over cook for another minute. Remove from heat. Let them rest in the pan for another minute. Serve over the corn salad.
This makes enough corn salad to bring to a picnic or a potluck or to eat all week long!