A few years ago, my wife and I happened to have the good fortune to be in Paris for a few days. We had attended a wedding of a colleague in Brittany and had some time before I needed to be back in London for work. We had an amazing time. It was about this time of year when the sun sets at about 11 and the streets are filled with everyone basking in the Joie de vivre.
I have been to Paris sporadically over the years and love to explore, but I always return to a few favorite spots. Unlike many cities, Paris is one of those places that you can fall into a restaurant because it looks good and 99% of the time it will be mind-blowingly great. These meals stay with you. I experienced a little place on the left bank once and have returned many times and also sent friends who now also return on every one of their visits. I took my wife to this place one evening. Just steps from where Julia Child lived is Au 35 Rue Jacob. It is a tiny hole in the wall with a handful of tables inside and – on beautiful evenings such as the one we had – there are a few tables on the sidewalk.
That night we sat outside enjoying an amazing meal, great people watching and a renewed hope for the world. The restaurant was not busy, in fact there were only a couple in the back and a single man reading his book a few feet from us. We didn’t exchange words with him, we were enjoying each other and fairly oblivious to others. We were the last to leave. We asked for the bill and the waitress just looked at us: “The gentleman, he pay.”
A perfect stranger paid for our dinner without a word. He wanted nothing from us, other than maybe to remember the moment and possibly pass it on. I was stunned but my wife said that those things happen sometimes. Now, my wife is a beautiful, tall blonde with stunning features, a smile the size of Kansas (from where she hails) and an openness that has prompted busboys to spill their entire life stories after the request for a glass of water. I was not surprised that this may have happened to her – but she was with me? Whatever his motivation, he felt the desire to be generous. I have never forgotten and neither has my wife. We have since made similar gestures (when we can). It’s easy and it reverberates. The next time you get a bonus or work some overtime or win the lottery, buy the person’s groceries behind you in line; pay for the gas at the pump next to you; buy someone a drink at a bar just as you are leaving. We don’t only need to help the less fortunate, we also need to be nice to one another. It’s not the money, it’s the gesture. You never know how much you may have changed that person’s day.
- 6-8 Scallops
- 1 Lemon
- Zest from that Lemon
- 2 Thin Slices Prosciutto, cubed
- 1 Shallot, minced
- Really Good Sea Salt
- Olive Oil
- 1 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
- Dry White Wine
- Pinch Fresh Thyme
- Sauté Pan
- Chef’s Knife
- Wash and pat dry the scallops.
- Place them in a shallow bowl or plate.
- Salt, pepper and squeeze some lemon.
- Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in the sauté pan.
- When it’s hot add the prosciutto. Cook until it starts to get crispy. The idea of the prosciutto is that it should end up being flakes so cube it accordingly.
- Add the shallots, red pepper flakes and a pat of butter. Be careful not to burn the shallots.
- Add about a teaspoon of zest to the pan.
- Add the thyme, pinching off little bits from the stems. In this dish a little thyme goes a long way.
- Gently sauté the ingredients together for a few minutes.
- Add the scallops and cook on one side for about 5 minutes, no longer.
- Flip and add a glug of white wine.
- Sauté for another 5 minutes.
- Remove scallops and add another pat of butter and the rest of the lemon zest.
- Turn the heat up and reduce by half.
- Serve the sauce over the scallops.