The Cooking Hack a Top Chef Swears By for Next-Level Seafood

Updated 06/07/18
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Despite the seemingly endless traffic on Highway 27, there's something oddly calming about being in the Hamptons in the summer. The weekend escape of choice for New Yorkers promises carefree beach days, picturesque small towns lined with shingled cottages and rows of hydrangeas, quaint farmers market stands, and—naturally—unapologetically fresh seafood.

This is something chef David Standridge understood all too well when he made the decision to leave the crushing city heat behind in favor of calm, quiet, and fresh local produce. The renowned chef, who helms the popular West Village staple, Café Clover, is a surprisingly natural fit for the Hamptons and its residents' craving for fresh healthy simple food. After all, he made his culinary mark with the promise of delicious, health-conscious food at Clover. So when the newly reopened Maidstone Hotel approached him to take over the iconic institution's restaurant on East Hampton's main street, he had one simple vision: to cook what his city clients would eat while on a summer vacation.

The Maidstone Hotel has an undeniable appeal. The historic buildings large wraparound porch overlooks one of the town's best views: a quiet pond lined with weeping willows and home to a family of majestic white swans (it's no surprise Gwyneth Paltrow is a fan). On a quiet July morning, we invited one of our favorite Hamptonites—local resident, home chef, and entertaining expert Athena Calderone of EyeSwoon—for a cooking lesson with chef Standridge. With a series of swoon-worthy dinner parties under her belt and her highly anticipated cookbook on the way, there was no better match for the culinary master class about to take place.

On the menu: seared diver scallops with turmeric, lime butter, black lentils, and ginger chives.

After an informative (and slightly gory) cooking lesson—who knew shucking scallops was so slimy and messy?—we sat down on the scenic deck with the food-loving pair to chat cooking secrets and seafood tricks over a glass of chilled rosé. Think you knew everything about cooking the perfect seafood dish? Think again—this duo has a few must-know tips in their cooking arsenal.

Athena Calderone and Chef David Standridge at the Maidstone
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Diver Scallop Recipe — By Chef David Standridge
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Athena Calderone — The Maidstone Restaurant
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The Maidstone Hotel — East Hampton
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Athena Calderone and Chef David Standridge at The Maidstone Restaurant
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Diver Scallop Recipe — The Maidstone Restaurant
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Chef David Standridge’s Roasted Diver Scallop With Turmeric Lime Butter and Black Lentils

And now, the number one cooking hack Mario Batali swears by for next-level pasta.

PHOTOGRAPHY: Winnie Au; PRODUCTION: Hillary Comstock; PHOTOGRAPHY ASSISTANT: Samantha Dong; GRAPHIC DESIGN: Stephanie DeAngelis

MYDOMAINE: Can you tell us the story of how you two met?

ATHENA CALDERONE: It was right when Café Clover opened. I’m friends with Kyle [Hotchkiss Carone], who is one of the owners at Café Clover, and Ilana [Alperstein], who does their PR. I think it was only a couple of days after the opening.

DAVID STANDRIDGE: It was right at the beginning—I definitely remember that.

AC: We didn’t know one another at all. That’s what I love about what I do—I can walk into a chef’s kitchen and I don’t know you at all, and then through cooking and chopping and engaging, I feel like it’s the most authentic way to get to know someone.

DS: Totally. I think it’s a great experience, and it was really fun. I’ve done other photo shoots, and it’s never as congenial and conducive to making friends.

AC: And oddly enough, it’s not that easy to find out here! I feel like a lot of the mainstay, classic East Hampton restaurants are really heavy. You’ll order a fish and you’ll get it with a cream sauce and mash potatoes, and I’m like, What? That makes no sense! It’s summer: I want herbs and brightness and citrus. So yeah—thank you! [Laughs.]

DS: It’s what I want to eat. When I create a menu, it all comes down to the kind of food that I want to eat. I just like clean—I don’t like to have a lot of food on the plate. If I’m ordering a grilled fish, I also want some vegetables, but I don’t want this whole production around it. The ocean is right there—the fish is perfect. You don’t need to do a lot to it.

MD: Chef David, what made you want to expand to the Hamptons this summer?

DS: I always thought it would be a good fit, and then we just got the opportunity. I think the kind of food we do at Clover—health focus and a little lighter—lends itself well here. You’re only out here during the summer, which is why we wanted to go light anyway, so it was just a perfect mix of concepts.

MD: How does the menu at The Maidstone differ from the menu at Café Clover?

DS: Originally, I was talking about it in terms of what our clientele at Café Clover would want to eat while on vacation and not watching what they eat. So it’s kind of vacation food, but healthy-ish.

MD: What dish did you cook today?

DS: We did seared diver scallops with turmeric, lime butter, and black lentils.

MD: And let’s say you had to make a dessert to pair with the dish you prepared today—what would it be?

AC: I don’t know why, but in my mind, I’m thinking of something really bright and clean, like some sort of sorbet.

DS: For me, the whole atmosphere of the Hamptons is very kind of old-school and rustic—so I just want pie. [Laughs.]

AC: Pie, yum.

DS: It’s the first thing I decided to put on the dessert menu. I was like, We’re going to have really good pies. I just love a slice of peach pie.

AC: It’s kind of my go-to as well. I mean, I like to make a crostata instead of a pie, but it’s still a pie, right?

DS: It is. It’s in the pie family.

AC: I triple my recipe sometimes for my dough, and I just have it ready in the refrigerator or freezer. So I’m with you there!

DS: Something kind of clean and simple, like a nice sort of fruit thing.

MD: What kind of fruit are you thinking?

DS: Peach.

AC: I was thinking strawberry, but that’s because they’re so good right now.

DS: Strawberries don’t make the best pie. They make good crostata, though.

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MD: What would you say is your secret to making next-level seafood?

DS: Well, I think the mistake that people make is doing too much. The whole mentality of I have to do all this stuff to make it good really should be more like you want to do the least amount possible to make it good.

AC: What would you say are three tenants of flavor for a simple seafood?

DS: I think you need acid, so definitely some brightness, and then just the freshest vegetables you can find. That’s what you should serve with good seafood. That’s really the key.

MD: Athena, I love your series The Chefs' on EyeSwoon. What is the most surprising cooking trick you learned throughout the series?

AC: Every time I step into a kitchen with a chef, my knife skills get better. I’m told how to hold my knife better, how to relax my wrist more. I feel like I’m such a curious creature, and I’m always wanting to learn, grow, and expand. Maybe I have a little bit of insecurity that I haven’t gone to culinary school, so I feel like through my chefs series, I’m having my own private culinary education. Also, I said it before, but I love walking into a stranger’s kitchen and maybe being a little intimidated by somebody I hold so high on this pedestal and walking away feeling like I’ve not only learned but also developed a friendship, a camaraderie, and a shared love of food and cooking.

MD: Have you guys learned any cooking tips from each other today?

AC: We learned not to chew when we’re being photographed.

DS: How to fake-eat a little bit.

AC: How to look at each other but not really look at each other, so we’re cheating our faces to the camera. Oh! I learned how to shuck a scallop—which I’ve never done before—and pull away its guts, which was gory and awesome at once. And we learned that we both like to get kooky and slurp our oyster shells.

DS: Yes, and that scallops for breakfast is perfectly acceptable.

AC: Oh, they’re not oysters. They’re scallops! And I learned that I confuse oysters and scallops when I drink rosé at 10 in the morning. [Laughs.]

MD: Tell me what are the essentials that everyone should have in their pantry?

AC: Kosher salt!

DS: Yeah, for sure! Definitely Kosher salt. When I shop, I always shop daily. My fridge is always empty until the moment I want to cook something, so in my pantry, I always keep some nice oils—like the right fats to cook with—I always have cooking oil and olive oil.

AC: For pantry items, I think it’s always nice to have a really good mustard, capers—

DS: For sure, those are two really good staples. Anchovies is a good one.

AC: Always lemons or lime—that’s not really a pantry item.

DS: I always feel like citrus and garlic is important to have.

AC: Fresh herbs.

DS: For spices, I use chilies a lot. So my first choice is always to have Italian dried chilies—they’re amazing.

AC: I like fresh chilies! Everyone thinks I’m a little psychotic for using habañeros when I cook, but I like them.

DS: You get used to it after a while! It’s a tolerance thing.

MD: What do you guys cook when you’re short on time?

AC: Pesto. Last night I made an arugula and basil pesto because I didn’t have enough basil, and I didn’t have garlic, so I used spring onions and it was so good and so easy. If you have an herb garden, it’s just the perfect thing to cook in a pinch.

DS: For me, it’s eggs because that’s what I always have in my fridge. I always cook breakfast. That’s my one meal that I cook every day. So eggs get transformed into a late midnight snack regularly.

MD: What’s your go-to egg recipe?

DS: Egg in a hole with parsley butter. It’s on the menu here because I just like to eat it.

AC: My go-to egg is so basic, but I love ham and eggs. I will sauté ham and eggs and put fresh toppings on it—maybe a little crème fraîche if I’m feeling a little fancy. It was my craving when I was pregnant and it was all I ate, and when I went into labor, I had my husband make them for me before I went to the birthing center. And it’s my son’s favorite egg dish too, so I swear I passed it on. [Laughs.]

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MD: What are some unexpected ingredient pairings that you’re loving right now?

AC: I’ve been pickling rhubarb a lot, which is kind of crazy because it’s already so bitter and sour and tart, but I’m just making it inherently more bitter and sour and tart. I use it in savory salads.

DS: That’s a good one.

AC: I’m surprised I pulled that one out of my pocket. I’m usually stumped with this question.

DS: We’re doing some fun things with orange blossom water. We use it in a few things—we actually use it with rhubarb; we do poached rhubarb in orange blossom water. The orange blossom brings out the floral in the rhubarb, which is kind of lost sometimes in the tartness. And I also use it in French toast. It adds a little kick to certain things. Actually, we’re also starting it in ice cream sandwiches tomorrow.

AC: Really? I was just in Marrakech, and they give you like almond milk that has orange blossom in it when you check into a hotel—it’s so good!

Servings: 2

Ingredients

6 scallops (preferably live and in the shell)
3 tbsp. unsalted butter
3 tbsp. virgin coconut oil
1/4 tsp. turmeric powder
1 tsp. ginger, finely chopped
1 tbsp. nori, chopped
1 tsp. lime zest
1 cup dried black lentils, cooked in salted water
2 tsp. herbs (tarragon, chives, dill, parsley), chopped

Directions:

Shuck each scallop by running a knife along the inside of the flat part of the shell, opening the scallop, and pulling the gills and liver off of the scallop. Then slide the knife under the scallop to release from the shell. Remove the side mussel from the scallop. Season the scallops with salt and pepper.

Boil the curved sides of the shells in water with a lot of vinegar and salt, cool, scrub clean, and wash and sanitize.

Warm the lentils in a little olive oil, and add the chopped herbs.

In a medium saucepan over high heat, sear the scallops in grape-seed oil. When well colored on one side, reduce heat to medium and add 2 tablespoons of the turmeric lime butter.

Spoon the foaming butter over the uncooked side of the scallops until medium rare.

Place a little of the lentils in each of the shells and place a scallop on top. Spoon a little of the butter mixture over each scallop, and serve with a wedge of lime.

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